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Moreeng claims South Africa women's dressing room is not divided

Players had asked for a change when his contract was extended, but coach says they've talked it out

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
25-Aug-2023
South Africa head coach Hilton Moreeng reacts before the game, Ireland vs South Africa, 1st women's T20I, Dublin, June 3, 2022

South Africa head coach Hilton Moreeng, who is in his 11th year in the post, had his contract extended until December 31  •  Sportsfile via Getty Images

Hilton Moreeng has denied a rift in the South African women's changeroom despite a group of players expressing their grievances with his continuing as the head coach.
Moreeng, who is in his 11th year in the post and has had his contract extended until December 31, went as far as to describe the environment as "not unhealthy," following a two-week camp where players were given the opportunity to air their views. He did not elaborate on what was discussed but indicated the squad is united on the eve of their departure to Pakistan for a six-match white-ball series starting September 1.
Asked how he is going to manage players who have written to Cricket South Africa to express their desire for a change in coach, Moreeng batted away any suggestion of a schism. "There are challenges here and there and these internal things we discuss. The landscape has changed. The country has become professional but regarding the changeroom being divided, it's not something that has happened," he said. "We are building as a team. Whatever challenges we encounter, which are in every changeroom, is one of those you discuss as you go along. Extended conversations have happened. We had a camp. We could speak and find out what the actual challenges are. We also need to stay focused on the job at hand. It's not an unhealthy situation. You need to have discussions."
Chief among those conversations is the one Moreeng had to have with Sune Luus, who opted to step down as South Africa captain earlier this week. The 27-year-old had served as a stand-in several times and had great success recently, taking them to the final of the T20 World Cup. At that tournament, she even opened up about making the team her own.
CSA initially did not provide a reason for Luus resigning but later said she chose to "to focus on her cricket." Moreeng echoed that line. "She decided to step down because she wants to contribute to the team and focus on her performances. In the beginning, it was tough but we had to accept that's how the player feels. She feels she can contribute more (not as captain)."
Laura Wolvaardt, who Moreeng praised for having a "very good cricket brain," has taken over in interim capacity for the Pakistan and New Zealand series, which close out South Africa's year. A decision on the permanent captain will be made towards the end of the year. That is also when a longer-term coaching appointment will be made with the board now accepting applications. Moreeng did not explicitly say if he will put his name in the hat again but confirmed that he still has ambitions for the national women's team. "I have enjoyed working with the players from the first day. When we started as a team, it's always been one of our visions to give ourselves a chance to win a World Cup and to have a professional league," he said.
Already one of those goals has been met. This week, CSA announced that the top-tier of women's domestic cricket will be made professional and that each of the six teams competing can contract 11 players and a full-time backroom staff.
Moreeng came close to achieving the second - winning a World Cup - when he oversaw South Africa's run to the T20 World Cup final earlier this year. "As a country, we can say, we are closing the gap slowly," he said. "When you look at the top three teams, we are closing the gap." Given that he has also taken the team to the last two ODI World Cup semi-finals, he called it "frustrating," to hear calls for his ouster but added "that is the country we live in." It is ESPNcricinfo's understanding that the players are not unhappy with Moreeng as a person, but are after a change of ideas.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent for South Africa and women's cricket