East London’s two South Africa U19 cricket stars Akhona Mnyaka and Jason Niemand are fired up and ready for the 2018 ICC U19 Cricket World Cup taking place in New Zealand next month.
The competition will take place from January 13 to February 3 and will see the world’s best emerging cricket talent battling it out for top honours.
Mnyaka and Niemand are both coming off a solid 2017 Coca-Cola Khaya Majola week in Johannesburg with the Border team where they reached the final match before going down to the hosts in the end.
“I am really looking forward to it. I think we (Border) had a great Coke week and I think it was really good preparation for the coming World Cup,” said Mnyaka.
The SA U19 team also played against England and Namibia in a Tri-Series just before the Coke week and, despite losing to England twice in the pool stages, the side rebounded well to beat them in the final.
“England were very strong so it was the perfect challenge to have before the World Cup, and it gives us an idea of what to expect from them should we meet them during the latter stages,” said Niemand.
“The series also gave us an idea of the standard that we will be facing at the World Cup, so I am very happy that we had that experience.”
Mnyaka is no stranger to the SA U19 set-up, having played for the team since last year, when he went on tour to Sri Lanka with the SA team and followed that up with two home series this year against Sri Lanka again and England.
He will now be looking to take that experience from playing outside of the country into the coming World Cup.
“The conditions between Sri Lanka and New Zealand are obviously very different, but the experience of playing in another country will certainly help me when we get to New Zealand,” said Mnyaka.
“I also know what conditions to expect in New Zealand and I think we should favour ourselves to do well.”
The current SA U19 squad is a strong group of players, with a number who have already featured at semi-pro level, including both Niemand and Mnyaka.
This experience should benefit the squad, with Niemand admitting that they are a close-knit group of players who he believes could go all the way.
“I think this squad is good enough to win the World Cup,” said Niemand.
“If we play to our strengths and don’t over complicate things, play the way we played against England in the latter part of that series, I think we will have a very good chance.
“We are a tight-knit group, especially after this last tour in Potchefstroom.
“There isn’t much to do in Potch so it really helped us to bond and get to know each other a lot better and that has made for a really good mood in the camp.”
The team leaves for New Zealand next week in an effort to acclimatise and get used to the conditions ahead of the start of the competition.