South Africa news February 8, 2016

South Africa to expand domestic structure

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Kimberley could become the home city of a new South African franchise © Getty Images

East London and Kimberley are in a battle to become the home cities for one of two new South African franchises while Potchefstroom may be the base for the other, as CSA looks to expand its domestic structure. An insider revealed to ESPNcricinfo that there is talk of increasing the number of franchises from six to eight in order to deepen the talent pool and create a larger professional structure.

"It makes sense for Potchefstroom to have one of the franchises. They have such a good stadium there, all the facilities are within a small distance of each other and there's a population that's very interested in the game and all live just around the ground and university," the source said. "There is obviously the political considerations and with CSA's transformation agenda, putting a franchise in East London may be an option. With administrative issues there and between Kimberley and Bloemfontein, there may be a case for a separate franchise there too."

In 2004, South Africa revamped its domestic system in an attempt to create a strength versus strength structure, similar to Australia's. The 11 provincial teams were contracted into six franchises, with each retaining their identity in the second-tier amateur competition. The function of the provinces is to feed players into the franchise system. It has since become semi-professional and grown to 13 teams.

When the franchises were formed, not all the provincial sides were happy to merge. Border (based in East London), together with Eastern Province (Based in Port Elizabeth), became the Warriors, while Griquas (the Kimberley-based team) and Free State (in Bloemfontein) became the Eagles (now renamed the Knights). However, there as been history of infighting in both. At the Warriors, the argument was whether Port Elizabeth or East London would be considered the main host venue while Griquas initially refused to merge with Free State before agreeing to a joint shareholding of the franchise a season later.

Both East London and Kimberley are considered hotbeds of talent for players of colour. East London is the heartland of black African cricket and with an increased focus on speeding up the pace of transformation, there have long been calls for a team based in the city. Peter Kirsten is one of the people who have long championed the cause for a team there. Kimberley has a significant population of mixed race people so it would make transformation sense for a team there as well.

Potchefstroom, who are currently the second ground of the Johannesburg-based Lions, would not be able to offer those benefits but it does have some of the country's best sports facilities at its High Performance Centre. Touring international teams, most notably Australia, choose to start the stay in South Africa at this venue while in 2010, the Football World Cup winners, Spain, were based there. Potchefstroom recently hosted the Varsity Cup Cricket, a week-long tournament between the country's university teams. It is a venue known for jovial, student, sports-mad crowds, which may also work in its favour when CSA considers where to base a franchise.

The new structure could come into place as early as next season, which would not give the new franchise teams much time to contract players and would also significantly increase the running costs of domestic cricket. "CSA needs to be very careful about this because even though they might have the money for it at the moment with the Rand-Dollar exchange rate, it's a long-term decision," the source said. "And with all the criticism over the strength of the domestic game, maybe it will dilute that even more."

Recent results across the international level has put the domestic system under severe scrutiny; South Africa's Test team lost back to back series, the ODI side are two-nil down against England, the A team has lacked competitiveness and the Under-19s were booted out of the age-group World Cup in the first round. Everything, from the quality of coaches to the extent of the quota system which now requires franchise teams to field six players of colour including three black Africans, is currently being examined.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Homer007 on February 10, 2016, 18:08 GMT

    I love how Steven Cook is being touted as the poster boy of the domestic leagues. He had one of our best batting coaches as a father and a second life away from cricket (Law Degree) and went to a great cricketing school - AND it took him so long to get selected. I agree with BestBuddy - you need to get kids coming through the tops schools the way it worked in the past and like Temba, KG and Makhaya did - use the money to search for talent, and when you find it get the talented kids to top schools and we will thrive. It won't matter if we are green, pink or orange

  • Hendrik Bruwer on February 10, 2016, 17:51 GMT

    The system is perfect as it is. Just get rid of the stupid quotas and South African cricket will become a force again. Of course, that will never happen so we're just gonna continue down this politically correct road of mediocrity. At least the team will be representative in their losses. how lovely.

  • Dale_Pain on February 10, 2016, 11:08 GMT

    Steven Cook demonstrates that our Franchise system works - he was groomed by the domestic system. I know he has only played one Test, but he really looked at home.

    Kagiso Rabada and Quinton de Kock demonstrate that our youth system works.

    When we are top everyone is elated and praises the setup, but when we lose a couple of games we bash the setup. Let's be less fickle.

    A year ago the County system was being slated! Don't judge based on a poor run.

  •   John Rafferty on February 10, 2016, 8:47 GMT

    It is sad what is happening to Cricket in South Africa. The franchise system was meant to up the quality in cricket played. The standard at franchise level leaves much to be desired and many players are mere club players. I question why things like SA Schools tournaments are held to get the hopes of young players up. Young white players of talent should not play in hope of making a franchise team, but rather focus on playing elsewhere or rather to go and study and get a real job. Cricket is now run with social engineering agendas and not quality cricket. Good luck to the full stadiums.

  •   Andre Colling on February 9, 2016, 13:15 GMT

    Why stop there? Why not make it 50 franchises. Lets make sure SA cricket is really rubbish in 5 years time.

  • bestbuddy on February 9, 2016, 11:58 GMT

    Like a few others, this is just going to result in a watering down of franchise cricket, and its not going to stop the quota system in any way. The step up to international cricket will just be harder. Keep it the same, drop the quota's, and spend the extra money sending promising kids to cricketing schools; there is a reason why even recent black cricketers like Rabada, Bavuma and Ntini came through traditional cricketing schools. Cricket needs firm technical bases and only if the kids go to the right schools will they develop enough

  • Saffa222 on February 9, 2016, 9:07 GMT

    East London and Kimberly are both bad ideas, the Warriors and Knights already lose most of their talent to other franchises, splitting either of the two could have a seriously negative effect on the competitiveness of teams from the region

  • WaterfallFan on February 9, 2016, 7:45 GMT

    Makes sense, the Franchises are restricted to 30 white players amongst them. Many of the 30 players are older, experienced guys or Protea fringe players so young white guys are not getting a chance eg Dwaine Pretorius or Heinrich Klaasen - both of whom have excellent averages. There are some good players playing in the Semi-professional and Varsity competitions that can't get a game for the Franchises because of quotas. Eight teams will give more players opportunities.

  • TheProteasMan on February 9, 2016, 7:01 GMT

    This makes sense , Now transformation at domestic won't be keeping out some stars .. at the moment only 5 white players are playing per team which is only 30 to be selected at least now that will move to 40 more talent .. This move was necessary as a result of the transformation laws

  •   Richardson Mzaidume on February 9, 2016, 6:39 GMT

    Personally, I would prefer a 12 franchise league with two streams. We definitely need nine province based franchises based on nine existing provinces in the country. Gauteng keeps its two franchises i.e. Lions and Titans. I am sure we can squeeze second franchise out of Eastern Cape and somewhere else. Once we have those 12, we introduce relegation and promotion system. We would have six in top stream and six in second tier. Then competition would improve if players knew they would face relegation or promotion.

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