AB de Villiers has become the first big-name player to throw his weight behind South Africa's new T20 competition, which is set to launch in the 2017-18 summer. The tournament will comprise of eight privately-owned franchises and will aim to attract high-profile internationals in a model similar to the Indian Premier League, the Big Bash League and the Caribbean Premier League.
"I am so excited about it. It's going to be great. Lots of credit to Cricket South Africa for coming up with that. It's vital for our cricket. It will motivate some of the youngsters to stick around, to fight it through and to play for South Africa," de Villiers said.
"The domestic tournament is going to do wonders for our cricket and I think it can definitely come up [sic] an IPL when it comes to entertainment and quality of cricket. With some of the names that I have heard who are interested in coming over, it's going to be fantastic."
Cricket South Africa (CSA) put out a tender notice to invite bids for franchise ownership on Saturday and is in the process of securing sponsors - some international - to fund the event. Should foreign currency be behind the tournament, CSA will be able to match or even rival payments in leagues around the world - something that was identified as a major hurdle in luring internationals to the current domestic tournament, where they are paid in Rands.
The benefits will also extend to locally-based players. More money will mean big pay-days for South African cricketers too, which Haroon Lorgat explained was a consideration when the event was conceptualised.
Complete details of South Africa's tournament are yet to be revealed but CSA have identified a window in November-December for the competition, with a final pencilled in for December 16, a public holiday. The proposed dates are in the middle of the South African summer, which also means they will clash with the Australian summer - and potentially the BBL - and the Indian home season, and could create scheduling conflicts.
De Villiers, though, is hopeful South Africa will attract some of the best players from all over the world. "I think there are quite a few countries already available. I am not sure about India. I haven't heard anything from them yet," he said.
South Africa's current domestic T20 has had a smattering of internationals taking part. This season Kevin Pietersen (Dolphins) and Kieron Pollard (Cobras) were involved while in the past Andre Russell (Knights), Owais Shah (Cobras),Darren Sammy (Titans), Dwayne Bravo (Dolphins) , Sohail Tanvir (Lions), Craig Kieswetter (Warriors) and Chris Gayle (Dolphins and then Lions) had brief stints at the tournament. South Africa's internationals have only been briefly available for their franchises but with the new event, that is set to change.