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Back You are here: Home Sports Cricket Western Cape Cricket: Battle of the Cape Coaches - Friendly But Fierce
Monday, 30 September 2013 10:44

Cricket: Battle of the Cape Coaches - Friendly But Fierce

Written by  Jaco Zeeman

They may be perceived as arch enemies, coaching cricket at two of Cape Town’s top rival cricket schools, but off the pitch they often share a joke or two and engage in idle chatter.

 Healthy yet intense competition between Rob Dalrymple coach of the Rondebosch Boys’ High’s first team and Eric Lefson, the man behind Wynberg Boys’ High’s first side has brought excellence to school cricket in Cape Town’s southern suburbs.

At the helm of cricket at these prestigious schools, Rob and Eric, two of the Western Cape’s most touted and respected cricket coaches, have developed healthy rivalry between them as their teams are in constant competition to be the best in the Cape in all formats of the game.

Southern suburb schools have dominated the provincial selection at age-group level in the Western Cape. In 2012, Rondebosch dominated the various A and B WP team selections and had five Coke week selections. In 2011, Wynberg Boys’ had six boys in the Coke week side.

THE LAWYER WHO BECAME THE ENGLISH TEACHER rob

Rob, 41, a Bosch old boy, teaches English at his alma mater, coaches and manages the 1st team, and is master in charge of cricket. Rob is also the master in charge of golf at the school and is the Grade head for Grade 9. He matriculated in 1989 and went on to complete a BA and a BProc at Stellenbosch University. After a successful Coke week he kept his cricket on track by playing for the Maties 1st team as well as first class cricket for Boland. He started out pursuing a career as an attorney, but soon realized that the teaching profession is his passion and made the switch. Rob is a well-respected English teacher and is described by one of his past scholars as “a man with high moral values, clear priorities, who does not sweat the small stuff”.

JACK OF ALL TRADES

ericAlthough Eric, a Bishop’s old boy, started coaching cricket after high school, he did not play cricket for Maties like fellow student Rob. Instead he took up soccer, table tennis and golf. Eric completed a BA majoring in Mathematics and Psychology. Joking about not doing a BSc he said, “Physics was on a Friday afternoon, so I avoided a BSc so I could play golf!” Eric started taking his golf seriously at university, playing for Maties, and going on to provincial level from 1994 to 1996. Soon after he completed a Higher Ed diploma and went on to become one of the top Maths teachers at Wynberg Boys, before leaving teaching to follow in the footsteps of his parents and pursue a career in the golfing world.

At Wynberg, however, the then Master in Charge of Cricket, Keith Richardson, commandeered him to coach cricket and his golf took a backseat, yet Lefson went on to play competitive golf for the WP Mid-Amateur Team (over 35s) in 2008 and 2009. He left teaching in 2007 and took a position as Director of Golf for the WP Golf Union where he still runs all aspects of amateur golf in the province, his love for cricket however kept him at the school, as first team coach.

Eric went on to become a decorated school cricket coach, with his Wynberg Boys High 1st team statistics which reads: Played 597, Won 479, Lost 62, and Drawn 56. This 83% winning ratio is one of the reasons why he is regarded as a top cricket coach at school level.

ROB’S WINNING RECIPE

Despite his composed, relaxed manner Rob is a firm master with a clear sense of direction and strong decision-making ability. He is exceptionally knowledgeable and his general knowledge of top cricketers around the country is remarkable. Combine this with his technical expertise of the game and his ability to share his skills with his players and you have a world class cricket coach.

Rob’s other personal attribute is the calming effect he has on his players, which encourages them to perform on the pitch. His positive and supportive approach motivates the players, who do not fear losing their place in the team if they fail on the day. This boosts their confidence and psyche, making it easier to perform.

In Rob’s approach, “reading the game” and “tactical prowess” along with his ability to remain impartial when selecting his side, has given him the edge over his counterparts. He has formed a very strong partnership with his pro-coach and second-in-command Peter Harold. This formidable duo has together contributed significantly to the success of cricket at Rondebosch. Rob’s biggest impact has come in the dynamic shift made by players, each in the understanding of their own game, confidence in their ability and the added technical knowledge that empowers them to self-assess their own game with bat or ball.

A typical prototype Rondebosch player, who had the privilege of being developed under the leadership of Rob, will have the necessary confidence, the self-belief and a mind-set which will allow them to go on and make a success of more than just cricket. Rob’s holistic approach to the game and life in general, allow for an experience which will not be easily forgotten by the players and there is no doubt in my mind that these players will go on to approach life with a clear perception of their own strengths and a focus which will take them right to the top. Rob develops leadership in his captains by providing them with the scope to make their own choices. This has ultimately provided his captains with opportunities to learn from their mistakes and develop their own strategic style, to ensure that the team function as a unit at all times.

NO MEAN FEAT

Rob has not had it easy. When he first took the reigns as first team coach in 2008, he adopted a modest squad and had to deal with some internal issues. But, by 2010, he turned the sport around for the school by resolving the problems, recruiting better players and fellow coaches, securing sponsorships and changing the cricket mindset as a whole at Bosch.

As far as cultivating professionals, Rob has moulded young ‘chinaman’ Michael Rippon, currently playing his trade in the English first class game, together with many former Bosch first team players knocking on the door of or already performing at club level.

A phenomenal achievement under Rob’s belt has to be the 19 Bosch players that represented Western Province at the various age group tournaments in 2012. It will, however, be narrow-minded to judge Rob’s impact on Bosch cricket and his ability as a cricket coach, only in terms of his winning record or players making it through the ranks. One would definitely have to acknowledge the huge turnaround of Bosch cricket, especially the bold approach of the new strategies he has implemented.

Rob’s recent success in February 2013, going on to win the National Schools T20 Coca-Cola knock-out and becoming the national champions speaks volumes about the tenacity of the man. From the regional final in 2011, where they lost to Wynberg, to the provincial final in 2012, where they lost to Paarl Boys, in 2013 the team went all the way and became the proud champions of this much coveted event.

DIFFERENT STYLES

Although vastly different in their approach to the game, with their outstanding credentials both these men have had a huge impact on cricket, not only in the Western Cape, but across the country and abroad. They do indeed have one common denominator, namely success. Comparing Eric and Rob’s coaching methodology, they are complete opposites. Rob’s off-field personality is similar to his attitude as a cricket coach; cool, calm and collected. Eric on the other hand, can be described as sharp and witty, possibly a tad unforgiving, yet he remains humble and realistic.

ERIC’S BAG OF TRICKS

Eric’s coaching style is one of in-your-face tough love and he does not suffer fools gladly. He adopts an authoritarian approach which does not always leave his players happy. On the upside, this prepares players to deal with the pressures of the game higher up the ranks.

Eric is hard on his players. He believes that it serves as motivation for players, to develop and grow as cricketers, by challenging them in their attempts to prove him wrong from time to time. Credit must be given to him for producing top cricketers and fantastic results over the last 14 years.

What makes Eric such a special coach is that he is always open minded and not afraid to try something new. An example of this innovative approach that has brought him much success is a decision to deploy tail-enders as opening batsmen. This allows his top batsmen the best opportunity to score runs at the most favourable time of an innings.

ULTIMATE OBSERVER

Eric can be described as “the ultimate observer”. While mostly doing duty in the B team throughout high school, he remained a keen student of cricket and loved reading up about the game. Despite not playing any serious cricket, many hours of watching, specifically school boy cricket, taught him to make accurate observations, spot-on predictions and good tactical decisions regarding his team’s strategies, selections and ultimately, their performance.

He instinctively knows what will work, in specific circumstances, with a particular set of opponents. His knowledge of different cricket grounds, the supporters at these cricket grounds and just the general politics around the field, is remarkable and is highlighted by the phenomenal record he boasts as coach. One can only wonder if there is a cricket ground in South Africa, worth mentioning which Eric is yet to visit.

His tendency to pace around the field, whether his team is up or down, has developed a rhythm of its own, yet he misses absolutely nothing. Most notably, a dropped catch can be pinpointed down to the exact over, and the exact delivery of the over, and with quick calculations – he will pinpoint the exact turning point in the game, the number of extra runs scored by a batsman who should have been out and the minute at which the energy levels changed on the field. Eric is a statistician of note and as an ex-maths teacher, this should not come as any surprise.

ERIC’S HALL OF FAME

Eric has produced some fine cricketers, including Cape Cobras’ batsman Richard Levi, Chevrolet Knights’ duo Shadley van Schalkwyk and Molusi Siboto, and former first-class batsman Dominic Telo. With aspiring wannabe cricketers, from the Wynberg stable, playing A- league club cricket and WP amateur cricket, who knows where these players will end up.

WESTERN CAPE: THE REAL WINNER

The friendly rivalry between these two schools and the respective coaches can only be good for cricket in the Cape. The competitiveness between them when they do battle in the different formats and competitions of the game will definitely be something that the neutral will relish in. It is with great anticipation and excitement that we wait for future clashes between these schoolboy cricket giants. We look forward to seeing the finest talent being produced in the southern suburbs and specifically in these two top boys’ schools, under their guidance.

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