Mark Boucher is back at the helm of the Tshwane Spartans

Tshwane  Spartans coach Mark Boucher

Tshwane Spartans coach Mark Boucher

There is no point in dwelling on what happened in last year’s first edition of the Mzansi Super League. Looking back is not something head coach Mark Boucher likes doing anyway, so the ‘MSL 2.0’ – as this year’s tournament has been labelled – provides Boucher and the Tshwane Spartans with a chance at redemption.

For one there are new faces; both on the coaching front and amongst the players. The Spartans have acquired Englishman Tom Curran as their marquee international signing, while franchises like the Jozi Stars – with Donovan Miller – and Durban Heat – with Gary Kirsten – will have new coaches.

Boucher is looking forward meeting up and then butting heads with Kirsten. “It’s always a pleasure being in Gary’s company, whether as a player with him, whether batting with him or whether he was my coach as was the case at the end of my career. It will be nice to have a coffee with him, check how things are going, catch up with his family,” said the Spartans coach.

“He’ll be excited to get involved in this league and I’m sure we’ll have some nice competitive chats while we play against each other, which is the way it should be, it’s a very good thing for South African cricket that he is involved in this competition.”

That the MSL has returned is indeed a good thing for South African cricket. As the recently debunked Euro T20 League showed, getting competitions up and running is not easy. “There are so many different competitions around the world at the moment. It’s almost that you felt South Africa had to have its own competition as well,” said Boucher.

“We had some teething problems last year and hopefully we learned from those and we can move on and make it even bigger and better. There are so many competitions, that have done really well; the IPL, the Big Bash, but those have got their problems as well, so we just need to manage things well and hopefully the competition goes from strength to strength.”

His wider views on the competition aside, Boucher also hopes the Spartans will give a better account of themselves in ‘MSL 2.0.’ Last year wasn’t so much a disaster as a disappointment; just four wins from the 10 matches, meaning they finished six points out of a play-off spot.

That will be an immediate source of motivation for some of the players who’ve been retained including the maestro AB de Villiers, Theunis de Bruyn, Tony De Zorzi and the young star of last year’s tournament, Lutho Sipamla. He burst onto the scene in the 2018 competition finishing as the joint second highest wicket-taker with 16 wickets and then rode that wave straight into the Standard Bank Proteas team by the end of the season.

“They’ve all done well in the domestic season, they’re quality players, guys who we are backing to perform once again. A guy like Lutho comes in to the equation, he had a fantastic season with the Warriors and a great season last time for us at the Spartans. It’s a reward for guys doing well, but also mixed with a bit of talent that we see, that we can work in this environment that can take their game a step forwards.”

Another returnee, will almost be like a new signing. Lungi Ngidi played no part in last year’s MSL, after injuring his knee while playing for the Proteas in Australia.

“We lost Lungi at the beginning of the competition. He was our first pick – that happens you have guys who get injured which put us on the back foot straight away. Hopefully this year we keep all our players on the field and we can be more prepared on the field as well.”

Curran is a player Boucher is excited about working with. The 24 year old from Surrey, was part of England’s World Cup winning squad and Boucher hopes he will bring some of the expertise and energy he gained from being part of that campaign to the MSL.

“He’s come from an environment in which England just won a World Cup, so that can only be good. He’s been in that side for a while. He’s been a performer at county level and for England, I’m looking forward to great things from him over here. He brings a wealth of experience but he sounds like a nice team man as well.”

Boucher will also be looking forward to having a better draft, although he understands that all he’s best laid plans for 3 September could be scuppered.

“We’ll see how the draft goes, it’s not a perfect science; some guys you want, some you get, some you don’t get.”

Ultimately, the outlook for Boucher, is optimistic – for both MSL 2.0 and the Spartans.

“We’ve got a wealth of experience here, the guys want to come play here, it’s a nice place to tour, and to get international players into this environment. We’ve got good grounds, at times the crowds come in and really support this competition. It is exciting.”

TSHWANE SPARTANS SUPPORT STAFF (FROM): Mark Boucher (Head Coach), Mandla Mashimbyi (Assistant Head Coach), Tumi Masekela (Strength and Conditioning Coach), Sizwe Hadebe (Physiotherapist), Karen Smithies (Team Manager) and Lucy Davey (Media Officer).