Cape Town - The South Africa under-19s will gather in Durban on Friday for a week-long training camp ahead of their Youth One-Day International (ODI) series against Pakistan, running from June 22-July 7 in Chatsworth and Pietermaritzburg.
The seven-match tour forms an important part of the youngsters' schedule in preparation for the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup, taking place in South Africa between January 17 and February 9 next year.
Home fixtures against India, New Zealand and Zimbabwe in December and January have also been arranged to provide the team enough match practice before the global tournament kicks off.
Speaking on the eve of day one of the training camp, SA U19s head coach, Lawrence Mahatlane shared his reasoning for the camp.
"The role of the camp is getting the guys to be cricket-fit," he stated.
"A lot of players haven't really had access to turf nets and Durban is the perfect place to go and prepare at this time of the year. It should stand us in good stead for the upcoming tour. We know how strong Pakistan is at age-group level and they have just been on a tour of Sri Lanka. Hopefully, we can do a bit of catch-up during that period."
The 15-man squad, which was announced in April following the U19 Talent Acceleration Programme (TAP) national camp, will be put through their paces in a rigorous fitness test before they focus on the three respective disciplines, fielding, bowling and batting. The future stars will then take on the KwaZulu-Natal Academy in a warm-up encounter on Monday, June 17 at the Chatsworth Oval.
Mahatlane, along with his management staff that includes assistant coach, Siya Sibiya, and bowling coach, Chris van Noordwyk, has made regular trips around the country, hosting group and individual coaching clinics with the players in the squad. Their respective provincial coaches have also provided weekly reports on the players' development and preparations.
"The squad is very exciting," Mahatlane added. "I am excited about this group of players. We've got nine guys coming back from India and we've got a few new and exciting characters. We've got a guy like Akeem Minnaar, who plays at Boland, Andrew Louw, who comes from the Northern Cape and young Khanya Cotani, who plays his cricket at North West now, having previously been with Boland.
"They bring so many different views, expertise and different characters to the group. I look forward to watching them gel," he continued.
"Looking at the tour coming up against Pakistan, the process has several important objectives. The one is having the guys playing together and the second is giving opportunities throughout the tour to see where the guys are, cricket-wise. It's crucial we start giving as many opportunities as possible prior to the World Cup," Mahatlane concluded.
In the spirit of Youth Day, June 16, the SA U19s will be visiting the Lakehaven Child and Youth Care Centre in Durban, where the players and management will spend the afternoon bringing smiles to the kids' faces while enjoying a fun match of backyard cricket.
The opening match of the series against Pakistan gets underway on Saturday, June 22 at the Chatsworth Oval.
South Africa U19s squad:
Bryce Parsons (captain, Gauteng), Luke Beaufort (Eastern Province), Jonathan Bird (Western Province), Achille Cloete (Boland), Gerald Coetzee (Free State), Khanya Cotani (North West), Michael Copeland (Gauteng), Andrew Louw (Free State), Akeem Minaar (Boland), Lifa Ntanzi (KZN Coastal), Imraan Philander (Western Province), Siya Plaatjie (Western Province), Ruan Terblanche (Boland), Tiaan van Vuuren (Eastern Province), Nonelela Yika (Border)
June 19, Warm Up Match - KZN Academy v Pakistan U19 at Varsity Oval, Durban
June 22, 1st Youth ODI - South Africa U19 v Pakistan U19 at Chatsworth Cricket Oval, Durban
June 25, 2nd Youth ODI - South Africa U19 v Pakistan U19 at Pietermaritzburg Oval, Pietermaritzburg
June 27, 3rd Youth ODI - South Africa U19 v Pakistan U19 at Pietermaritzburg Oval, Pietermaritzburg
June 30, 4th Youth ODI - South Africa U19 v Pakistan U19 at Pietermaritzburg Oval, Pietermaritzburg
July 2, 5th Youth ODI - South Africa U19 v Pakistan U19 at Pietermaritzburg Oval, Pietermaritzburg
July 5, 6th Youth ODI - South Africa U19 v Pakistan U19 at Chatsworth Cricket Oval, Durban
July 7, 7th Youth ODI - South Africa U19 v Pakistan U19 at Chatsworth Cricket Oval, Durban