Talented Nelson Mandela University cricketers Tian Koekemoer and Lutho Sipamla will be aiming to use their recognition at a national varsity level as a springboard to higher honours this season.
The Madibaz pair were named in the University Sport South Africa squad after standout performances during the recent tournament in Pretoria.
While their top priority at the event was to clinch the title, Koekemoer said their selection did make up somewhat for the disappointment of losing to Pretoria University by five runs in the final.
“As a team, we were really focused on trying to win the final and that is what motivated me as a player,” the 24-year-old allrounder said.
“When you look back, there were some things that just did not go our way, but that’s how it happens in cricket sometimes.”
Instead Koekemoer and Sipamla, a 19-year-old fast bowler, will be looking to continue their upward curve when they play for the USSA team next year.
“As far as I know we will be playing in the CSA Future Cup in Kimberley in April, which includes the SA Rural and SA Colts teams,” said Koekemoer.
In the meantime, the pair will be hoping to make an impact for the Eastern Province team who compete in the Sunfoil three-day and one-day domestic competitions.
Koekemoer, who is in his final year of a media and communications degree, hails from Tzaneen where he attended Merensky High, the same school that produced Proteas fast bowling icon Dale Steyn.
He sees the current season as one of major opportunities, with his initial goal being to establish himself in the EP team.
“This is going to be a big season and there are going to be some openings for young players,” he said.
“My big goal is to do well for EP. We have set ourselves team goals and I will be focused on those and just try to get recognition through good performances.”
Koekemoer, who will continue to study next year, said one area he would be aiming to improve was his strike rate as a batsman.
“It came together very nicely at the USSA week, so I just want to continue to play positive cricket. It does take you a bit out of your comfort zone, but eventually it becomes the norm.”
Sipamla, a business management student, said he wanted to use the opportunity in the national team to showcase his skills at a higher level.
“Making the USSA side is very important for me because it gives me further opportunities,” said the Port Elizabethan, who attended Grey Junior and Grey High in the city.
“I felt I had a good USSA week, but I really just want to keep improving, with a goal of playing at a franchise level, and perhaps even higher.”
With fast bowling legends such as West Indian Michael Holding and Proteas stars Steyn and Makhaya Ntini as his role models, Sipamla said there were a number of areas of his game he wanted to develop.
“I just think I need to work on my consistency and aggression, as well as my match awareness. Even though I believe that it (match awareness) is high, there’s always room for improvement.”