Johannesburg: To appreciate the true value of Standard Bank’s sponsorship of Cricket South Africa (CSA) over the past four years, one has to do no more than examine the case history of a 25-year-old youngster from the Hammanskraal region just north of Pretoria.
Standard Bank’s sponsorship of the Proteas men’s national team is one of the highest profiles and most successful in the South African sporting industry but they have also made an enormous contribution at grassroots and pathway level through the Standard Bank Regional Performance Centre (RPC) programme.
For, if the Standard Bank Proteas are our stars of today, then certainly the RPC conveyor belt stands ready to produce the cricket stars of tomorrow.
“Standard Bank has been a remarkable commercial partner to Cricket South Africa. Their presence in South African cricket will be sorely missed, not because we have become accustomed to see that mighty Standard Bank shield on the chests of our Proteas Men, but because that shield is much of the very reason that CSA has been able to nurture young talent, from every part of South Africa, into mighty cricketers through our Regional Performance Centre Programme. We cannot stress enough the impact of the Standard Bank investment into developmental cricket and for this, we will forever be grateful to them as should every fan that raises our flag with pride. Our hope is that, as financial institutions around the world experience the tumultuous conditions of the market, Standard Bank will endure as the powerful giant that it is. Thank you, Standard Bank – we will miss you beyond measure,” remarked CSA’s Chief Commercial Officer, Ms Kugandrie Govender.
To illustrate the achievements of this partnership we bring up the name of Gregory Mahlokwana. He is one of less than half-a-dozen first-class cricketers in the history of the game who has brought his ambidextrous skills to the highest domestic or international level with his ability to bowl left-arm and right-arm finger spin with equal skill and dexterity.
The richness he brings to the game – not to mention the tactical value – was underlined during the most recent Mzansi Super League (MSL) when, playing for the Cape Town Blitz against the Durban Heat, he first dismissed Sarel Erwee and then Dane Vilas, bowling with alternate arms.
Gregory first came to light in 2007 when he was chosen to represent Northerns at the under-13 interprovincial week which was then also under the Standard Bank umbrella during a previous sponsorship contract. What is particularly significant is that he never went to an elite cricket school or even a focus cricket school but attended Chipa-Tabane High School and became part of the Mamelodi RPC programme and represented the Mamelodi Cricket Club.
From there he came under the mentorship of Johan Muller, the then Northerns Cricket Operations Manager, who facilitated a CSA bursary for him. Gregory now has a Momentum Multiply Titans contract as a franchise regular and the sky is literally the limit with South Africa A and the Proteas assuredly on his radar.
And there has been a flood of other RPC players starting to make an impact, particularly at youth level and also at semi-professional level for the provinces.
Another notable success is Tyrece Karelse who first represented the South Western Districts senior provincial team at the age of 17 and gained selection for the under-19 Proteas for the recent ICC under-19 World Cup which was played on home soil. Nathan Jacobs from the Boland, who was chosen for SA Schools Colts at the end of last year, falls into the same category.
What has become a regular trend is for players to be award bursaries to attend elite cricket schools whose talents would not have been identified had they not gone through the RPC structures.
The burgeoning list of players in this category who have all gone on to gain national colours at either SA Schools or SA under-19 level includes Emanuel Motswiri, Levert Manje (both Gauteng), Odirile Modimokoane (North West), Pheko Moletsane (Free State) and Emihle Mgoqi (Border).
“The Standard Bank Proteas have produced many heart-warming moments over the past four years,” commented CSA Acting Chief Executive Dr. Jacques Faul, “and these are too numerous for me to dwell on here and they hardly need repeating.
“But what is even more heart-warming is to witness players like Gregory and Tyrece who have managed to flatten the barriers that our history has placed in their path. It tells us a great deal about their character and it also tells us a great deal about Standard Bank’s commitment to be more than one of our most successful corporates but an organisation that changes people’s lives for the better.
“We are extremely grateful to Standard Bank for everything they have done over the past four years and also in their previous sponsorship period which dates back to 1998 and lasted for a decade. They have been part of the CSA family for a long time and we have valued the support and friendship they have given us,” concluded Dr Faul.