Our last week here in New Zealand was filled with a mixture of emotions. We were ecstatic when we beat India in the semifinals last Sunday. It gave us a full week to recharge our batteries and prepare for the final on Saturday, 9 February.

However, like when we first arrived here, the weather was determined to play a major role in the way the tournament was to proceed. The East coast of this region of the South island was hit by a huge storm and this meant that we were unable to train outdoors for three full days. It also meant that the semifinal match between Australia and the West Indies had to be postponed from the Wednesday to the Thursday which the Aussies won and only by Thursday evening did we know who our opponents for the final would be.

During this week we had to struggle against the threat of boredom. A planned golf day and a visit to the beach had to be cancelled due to the poor weather. Nevertheless we managed to see at least 2 good movies, do a fair amount of shopping and was forced to improvise and move our training to the indoor facilities here at Lincoln University.

Our squad of players was like a caged animal desperately trying to get out and run free. It was a long week for us, but finally Saturday arrived and we resigned ourselves to the fact that no more preparations could be done that would allow us to perform better. Despite the obstacles of this long week we did feel that in the end we were prepared as well as we could be for the challenge of competing in the Under 19 World Cup Final against the Aussies!

On the morning of the match the sun shone as bright as ever and any thoughts of the storm that had prevailed earlier in the week was now a distant memory. Things seemed to get even better when our captain Hashim Amla won the toss for the umpteenth time in this tournament and decided that we would bat.

We had a solid start to the match and at 12 overs we were cruising at just under five runs an over despite having lost two early wickets. From this point, things started going horribly wrong for us. We suffered two silly run-outs at crucial points of the match and was never really able to recover from this as we had lost two of our better batsmen. The fact that they were also our better players of spin was compounded by the fact that the Aussies were playing four spinners in their team. Things were going really badly until our wicket-keeper Zwelibansi "Bob" Homani came to our rescue and hit an unbeaten 53. Bob unfortunately ran out of overs an we ended with a score of 206, a remarkable feat considering the obstacles in the middle of the innings.

The rest of this match was something we would prefer to forget. despite our bowlers bowling very well and consistently beating the bat, we were unfortunate not to take wickets and somehow lady luck did not smile on us with any "lucky breaks". The Australians eventually beat us by seven wickets - a statistic we did not feel reflected our worth as a team - they were simply better than us on the day! To the credit of our players, they tried all the way to the end and should be commended for their efforts to have reached this stage of the tournament. No doubt many of our players will have learnt from their experiences at this World Cup and this can only bode well for our cricket.

Later that evening we attended the final dinner along with the other semifinalists of both the Super League and the Plate Championship. It was an opportunity to mix with players from the other countries without the tension of competition in the air. A good night was had by all and certainly by the end of the evening, the bitter taste of defeat was beginning to fade.

A lie-in on in the morning and an easy day of packing before the long flight home was our main activity as we awoke on our second last day in New Zealand. We were all bracing ourselves for the early start to our final day. We had to be up at 03h00 to allow us to leave for Christchurch airport at 04h15 to catch a connecting flight at 06h30 to Sydney and then on to Johannesburg. The only good thought that we had about all this travel was the knowledge that we will soon be back on South African soil.

The tour had flown by from the first day we met as a team on 4 January and I think that I speak on behalf of the entire squad when I say that it was a fantastic experience that will remain in our minds and hearts for the rest of our lives. Our only regret would be that we did not bring back the World Cup.

For myself and Anton Ferreira who accompanied us as a technical advisor, it is even harder to bear as it is the third Under 19 World Cup that we have had the pleasure of participating in without winning the big prize.

No doubt other South African Under 19 teams will compete at other world cups in the years to come. Maybe they will have the benefit of our experiences here to allow them to go one step better and have a little more success than we did. They will however never be the same team, as the Under 19 team of 2002 of which, I can honestly say, "I am proud to have been a member of".

Farewell, Shane Jabaar (fizzer)