Su­per­star in wait­ing Fuzile wait is over

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

EARN­ING points for a draw, some slug­gish early sea­son pitches, a dodgy set of new Kook­aburra balls and the lack of high qual­ity fast bowl­ing has all played a part in no team be­ing able to win a match af­ter three rounds of this sea­son’s Sun­foil Se­ries.

Brows have been left fur­rowed as the early match-ups in the coun­try’s premier first class com­pe­ti­tion have pro­duced only draws. There have been 10 to­tals of 400 runs or more, in­clud­ing the Cape Co­bras’s 567/6 in the third in­nings of their match against the Knights in Bloem­fontein in the first round. Co­bras coach Ash­well Prince de­scribed the pitch used at the Man­gaung Oval for that match as be­ing bad for South African cricket.

A to­tal of 23 hun­dreds have been scored through those first three rounds. In the en­tire com­pe­ti­tion last sea­son there were 40 hun­dreds.

“It’s a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors; the ball plays a part, maybe 5 per­cent,” said Highveld Lions cap­tain Stephen Cook.

The batch of Kook­aburra balls utilised this sea­son have not been to the bowlers’ lik­ing and Lions coach Ge­of­frey Toy­ana has not been im­pressed: “I have a the­ory about the balls, they have not been great this sea­son.

“The mark­ings stay on the ball, it’s tough to shine it, the seam is too nar­row, even flat ... you try to shine it and it doesn’t swing,” Toy­ana added.

Toy­ana and his cap­tain are more firmer in their agree­ment about the im­pact the new points scor­ing sys­tem has had on play in the Sun­foil Se­ries this sea­son, say­ing the six points earned for a draw – be­ing used for the first time – are mak­ing teams less likely to fold if they fall too far be­hind in the match.

“The six points for draws has made teams more ea­ger to fight. In the past, teams would get un­der pres­sure and just give up,” said Toy­ana.

Cook be­lieves that de­sire to fight harder would breed a tougher set of crick­eters do­mes­ti­cally: “In terms of what we are try­ing to cre­ate as a cul­ture for the Proteas in Test cricket, this is good be­cause it’s cre­at­ing that fight. “In the last two years there have been con­cerns about the ab­sence of re­silience, a lot of games were not go­ing the dis­tance in 4-day cricket. I think we will see a lot of char­ac­ter with guys more will­ing to fight now.”

Wor­ry­ingly there’s been a dearth of qual­ity fast bowl­ing in the open­ing rounds of the com­pe­ti­tion, a re­sult - Cook felt of a knock on ef­fect of the in­juries that have side­lined the coun­try’s top fast bowlers.

Said Cook: “On good wick­ets, it’s straight out pace that can knock teams over, we saw that with (Kagiso) Rabada and (Duanne) Olivier against Bangladesh.”

“We are strug­gling to get quick men ... guys who can con­sis­tently bowl 140 (km/h), to scare sides out,” said Toy­ana. “It’s an is­sue coun­try­wide, a prob­lem we need to ad­dress, we must look to the pipe­line, what Un­der-19 guys are com­ing through or even in the am­a­teur struc­ture.” SA FEATH­ER­WEIGHT cham­pion Azinga Fuzile,

who is just 21 and still a high school learner, will be mak­ing his de­but in Gauteng when he fights in the first round of the Su­per Four against bat­tle-hard­ened Tshifhiwa Mun­yai at Em­per­ors Palace next week­end.

Fuzile’s trainer is very con­fi­dent ahead of the clash.

“Mun­yai is in trou­ble,” said trainer Mlan­deli Tengim­fene. “Azinga is com­ing for him. The Su­per Four will be his launch pad.”

Any­one who saw Fuzile take apart Macbute Sinyabi last year will at­test to his skills. He was fast and ac­cu­rate, his awk­ward south­paw­style com­pletely neu­tral­is­ing Sinyabi’s of­fence. The only sur­prise was that the fight wasn’t mer­ci­fully called off in the later rounds.

Re­mark­ably, he’s had just eight pro bouts, but what that record doesn’t in­di­cate is his ex­cel­lence as an am­a­teur. In his fi­nal fight, he won gold at the African cham­pi­onships – hence the “Golden Boy” moniker – cap­ping an ex­cel­lent run in the un­paid ranks.

That he was des­tined for big­ger and bet­ter things was ap­par­ent, even though his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Su­per Four was ini­tially in doubt due to the fact that he has ex­ams to pre­pare for, but Tengim­fene, who used to train Xolani Ndon­geni, as­sures that his pro­tégé has time for both.

“He loves school; there’s no par­ty­ing or girls. He’s very ded­i­cated – he gets up early for road work and is back at home by six to get ready for school. Af­ter school, it’s home­work and then gym from five to seven af­ter which he is back in the books.”

If he seems like a smart young man, the 21-year-old is just as ded­i­cated a fighter. Tengim­fene says he works tremen­dously hard in their Mdantsane gym, hun­gry to break into the in­ter­na­tional scene.

He laughs off the sus­pi­cion that Fuzile may be in over his head against the for­mer Com­mon­wealth cham­pion next week­end.

He points out that in Fuzile’s pro de­but he boxed some­one (Sibu­siso Khu­malo) with 17 pro bouts. And that’s been the story of his ca­reer; he’s never fought any­one with a lesser record.

“The only ab­sent names,” says his trainer, “are Mun­yai and Simpiwe Ve­tyeka ... and we’re com­ing for them.”

The team in­tends to travel early to Jo­han­nes­burg this week­end, to en­sure they ac­cli­ma­tise and get used to the con­di­tions well in time.

Fuzile has never fought beyond the East­ern Cape, but Tengim­fene is un­con­cerned. He sees the re­ward in show­cas­ing a po­ten­tial su­per­star to a ma­jor au­di­ence in Gauteng and on live tele­vi­sion.

“We’re very ex­cited,” he says of the loom­ing chal­lenge. “Peo­ple in Joburg will love this guy. He’s a su­per­star-in-wait­ing.” – ANA

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