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March 3, 2014
Less than 48 hours after winning the Under-19 World Cup, South Africa's coach Ray Jennings had to face up to an uncomfortable reality. His position, in its current form, will no longer exist because Cricket South Africa announced a restructure.
Instead of a one-man coaching job, the role will be split into two. One appointee will look after development cricket from U-13 to U-19 level while a second person will be in charge of high performance, which will include players from U-19 to semi-professional (those who play primarily in the provincial competition) level. Both will have input into the national U-19 side but the position of head coach, which Jennings has occupied since 2006, effectively falls away.
Applications for the two positions will open shortly and while Jennings can put his name into the hat, he has yet to decide on his future. "It does concern me," Jennings said at the team's reception at Newlands. "I also need to know where I am going. I have been loyal to South Africa but if people don't want you, you've got to pack up and move on."
Jennings has hinted he is not ready to do that just yet and credited the current team with reinvigorating his desire to coach cricket. "They really gave me a kickstart," Jennings said. "They were on the same wavelength as me and were a breath of fresh air. Sometimes as a coach, you lose faith in the younger generation but these guys were professional. I have a formula as a coach and these guys ticked that formula. They got up every day and did the right thing."
The close bonds formed between the current South African U-19 side were partly the result of a different living arrangement in the recent World Cup. The squad shared an four-bedroom apartment in the UAE and the management staff split themselves up in the rooms rather than hole up in one of them on their own and leave the players to their own devices.
"It was first occasion in which we really spent time like that and it helped us get really close to the players," Jennings said. "I don't think other squads had that experience. We were a team of people together and we were going to walk on water together."
The biblical reference may seem an exaggeration to some but Jennings is the only South African coach to win a World Cup at any level, making his achievement unprecedented in these parts. Combined with his record as U-19 coach - he has only lost four matches at World Cups in eight years - his position may have been considered more secure than it is now.
"It was my job when I started coaching to turn the side around because U-19 cricket is important," he said. "In the first year I took over, 2006, we finished in 11th place and we lost to Nepal in the quarter-finals. We've gone from that to winning."
Players such as Dean Elgar, Wayne Parnell and Quinton de Kock have passed through Jennings' hands and his combination of discipline and cricket knowledge have been credited with developing young cricketers.
This is the second bit of bad news Jennings has received this year. In January, he discovered he was no longer in charge of the Royal Challengers Bangalore franchise when Daniel Vettori was unveiled as their new head coach. Jennings had been in charge of the franchise since 2009 and took them to the final twice, in 2009 and 2011. His best finish at the CLT20 was in the finals in 2011.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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