'Hope to play India in the final' - Jennings
The South Africa Under-19s are confident of making it to the final of the upcoming ICC Under-19 World Cup in the UAE and have their sights on meeting India in the last match of the tournament. South Africa, who finished third in the previous edition of the World Cup in 2012, are in Group C while defending champions India are placed in Group A of the tournament that begins on February 14.
"We've got West Indies in our group and Zimbabwe and Canada, but the tough games come in the quarter-finals where we will either pick up Australia or Bangladesh and then we'll hopefully play India in the final," coach Ray Jennings said before the team's departure for the UAE. "The Indian side is a very good side. In 2008, I saw the [Virat] Kohli side that beat the South African side in the final and this Indian side is better than the side in 2008, so we have a tough game but who knows what the South Africans can actually do."
According to Jennings, the current India side is stronger than the one of 2008 because they will be going into the World Cup with four series wins since the 2012 edition. South Africa and India last met in the final of the Quadrangular Series last October, which also featured Australia and Zimbabwe, in which India trounced South Africa by 201 runs.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Clyde Fortuin, the leading run-scorer for South Africa in that tournament in India, stated that the team has plans for strong sides like Australia and if they meet India in the final, their coach has thought well in advance for the clash.
"We have got our plans for Australia, coach has said he has got his plan for India so we'll just have to wait and see and get into the final to [play against] India," Fortuin said.
Left-arm pacer Ngazibini Sigwili, who also played four matches in the same series, conceded that the Quadrangular tournament in India was a "nervous" experience for him but also part of a learning curve for the entire team.
"I think going to India was a really nervous experience for everyone, not knowing what to expect," Sigwili said. "But most of the guys would have drawn a lot of positives from their failures in India to adapt quicker and faster to the conditions in Dubai. So that tour was a big positive for everyone."
Jennings said the junior team would draw inspiration from the performance of the senior team which has been the No. 1 side in Tests, and is in the top three in ODIs and T20s, too.
"I think the Proteas being No. 1 in the world for such a long period of time have started to make a statement in world cricket that the South Africans never give up and they have that staying power and that type of culture," Jennings said. "Hopefully we can instil [that culture] in the junior guys and hopefully it's going to come through during this World Cup."
South Africa will be led by Aiden Markram who holds Jennings and his coaching methods and skills in high regard. Markram said that the team's week-long training period before departing for the UAE helped them gel.
"He has his way of coaching and to me that definitely works as his way of how to motivate these players and he gets the best out of every player, which isn't an easy task as a coach as I can imagine," Markram said. "We have a lot of respect for him and his knowledge of the game is massive.
"This week has helped as a team to gel, it's been amazing. We've come together and that brotherhood formed within a couple of hours of just meeting up with everyone and I think it came naturally because it is a World Cup and it is a massive event. I think just the hunger and determination adds to that."
South Africa will kickstart the World Cup on February 14 against West Indies in Dubai.