Warriors’ coach Malibongwe Maketa has been appointed Ottis Gibson’s assistant, pipping Lions’ coach Geoffrey Toyana to the post in a shake-up of South Africa’s support staff. Former Natal and Durham batsman Dale Benkenstein will take over as batting coach from Neil McKenzie while Justin Ontong, the Cobras’ senior statesman, has been appointed fielding coach.
Only Claude Henderson, the spin bowling consultant and Greg King, the fitness trainer have been retained from Russell Domingo’s technical team while Prasanna Agoram remains in place as the analyst. Physiotherapist Brandon Jackson has been replaced by Craig Govender. Team manager and doctor Mohammed Moosajee’s contract has been extended until April 2018 – the end of the South African summer – after which CSA’s board will appoint two successors, one in a managerial role and one in a medical role. That will increase the number of backroom staff to 12, from its current 11.
Gibson, who was appointed in September, worked with Domingo’s support staff for his first assignment, a home series against Bangladesh. On its successful completion, Gibson said he had spoken to CSA about his choices for a backroom staff and had given them a list of name, “some from overseas, some local,” and would wait on the board to make the appointments. Who he had nominated from abroad is not known but only local candidates have made the cut, in what appears to be an exercise in cost-cutting.
While Gibson had previously said he would perform the bowling coach duties himself, meaning one fewer member of his support staff, the batting coach Benkenstein is going to be shared with a local school. Benkenstein, who left Hampshire in July last year to return home for family reasons, has been working at Hilton College, a prestigious school in the Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands and will continue there while also working with the national team. CSA have made an agreement with the school that Benkenstein will accompany the national team on tours and will be around the camp when they play home matches but will also work for Hilton College.
Maketa, the new assistant and Ontong, both come from within the current system and would not have been as expensive to hire as a foreigner. CSA’s financial position has been weakened following the postponement of the T20 Global League, on which they had spent millions organising, marketing and on upgrading stadiums, and their situation may worsen once a player-payout has been agreed. The South African Cricketers’ Association and CSA will undergo mediation to determine how to resolve the contractual fallout from the T20 Global League.
In the meanwhile, attention will turn to Gibson’s sidekicks.
Maketa has been with the Warriors since February 2015. He took over mid-season when Piet Botha stepped down and though he has not won any trophies, Maketa has had to work without many national players in his ranks and at a franchise without a sponsor. He has led the Warriors to two limited-overs finals – the one-day and twenty-over tournament last season – and has also worked with the national academy and the South African A side. Maketa was preferred over Toyana, who has won four trophies in five seasons with the Lions and was thought to be the favourite for the head coach’s role, will remain with the Warriors for the current Ram Slam before linking up with Gibson. It is not yet known who will succeed Maketa at the Warriors.
Ontong will have a similar time-frame. He is still an active player for the Cobras and played in all five of their first-class fixtures this summer (and scored a century and three fifties) but a CSA spokesperson said he “will have to,” retire in order to take up his coaching duties.
This will be his first coaching role and he will become South Africa’s first fielding coach since Rob Walter left the post after the Champions Trophy in 2013. Though South Africa have a reputation as a top-fielding side, standards have slipped on occasion in the recent past and it must have been something Gibson noted when compiling his staff.
“My first six weeks as head coach gave me a good indication of the areas and resources needed for me to take the team forward,” Gibson said. “I’m confident with the coaching support staff we have put together and believe we share the same vision and understanding required to achieve success in our environment.
“The coaches are experienced experts in their respective fields and will add value and energy to an already high-performing environment. The Proteas have a well-run and professional setup and I have no doubt that these additions will further enhance that element during my tenure.”
South Africa’s players are currently engaged in the Ram Slam domestic tournament, which will run until December 16. Ten days later, they will begin the first of eight home Tests, a four-day, day-night fixture against Zimbabwe. South Africa host India for three Tests, six ODIs and three T20s and Australia for four Tests in March in their busiest home season to date.