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Focus on 2027 ODI WC and No. 1 Test spot as Conrad and Walter take charge of South Africa

The new coaches are on four-year contracts, starting February 1, with an interim arrangement to be made for the England ODIs later this month

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
16-Jan-2023
Qualifying for the 2023 ODI World Cup remains top priority for South Africa, but they are aiming for the title at home in 2027  •  Cricket South Africa

Qualifying for the 2023 ODI World Cup remains top priority for South Africa, but they are aiming for the title at home in 2027  •  Cricket South Africa

Shukri Conrad and Rob Walter will begin work as South Africa's red and white-ball coaches respectively on February 1, with an interim arrangement to be made for the World Cup Super League ODIs against England later this month.
As reported by ESPNcricinfo , Conrad and Walter were preferred from a shortlist that included interim coach Malibongwe Maketa, former West Indies director of cricket Richard Pybus, former national assistant coach Adrian Birrell, who applied for the Test role only, and Lance Klusener, who withdrew his interest in the white-ball job last week. Conrad and Walter have been appointed on four-year contracts with the aim of reaching a World Test Championship (WTC) final in that time and winning the ODI World Cup at home in 2027.
"It's a massive goal, a massive milestone for us as a country. It is a must-win. All the investment, all the energies, all the focus are going to be geared towards 2027," Enoch Nkwe, CSA's director of cricket (DOC), said. "We have opportunities along the way to build better systems to give us the best chance. We have opportunities at T20 World Cups, Champions Trophies and Test Championships but our focus is the 2027 World Cup."

South Africa face qualification challenge for 2023 ODI World Cup

Before that, South Africa have plenty to do, starting with securing their spots at the 2023 ODI World Cup. They remain out of the top eight and have only five matches remaining, having forfeited games in Australia to have the top players around for the inaugural SA20 league. Of those five, South Africa must win at least three to avoid travelling to Zimbabwe for the qualifiers in June.
CSA's leadership is understood to believe qualification for the 2023 World Cup is non-negotiable but, as long as South Africa get to the tournament, they will not place extra pressure or performance criteria on the new coaching staff at the tournament.
"We are not going to strictly judge them on the 2023 World Cup. We understand what has transpired before that and we complicated our journey to the 2023 World Cup," Nkwe said. "We want to ensure we can compete there but they are not going to be judged on that."
Instead, Nkwe outlined "two plans" for the national white-ball sides, which will run parallel to one another. "One plan is going to be what is required right now over the next eight months, and the second one is the medium to long-term plan for our white-ball team. Along the way, we are going to lose some big names. Some big names might not even get to 2027. I don't want to sit in a position as DOC where we are stuck 18 months before the World Cup and we haven't built enough depth for 2027."
"We are going to be having some very interesting conversations over the next couple of months to ensure we are all together and we build that stability. We don't want a situation of chopping and changing"
Enoch Nkwe on the future of senior players, like Dean Elgar and Temba Bavuma

CSA not sidelining Test cricket

The extreme focus on shorter formats comes as CSA has filled stadiums for the SA20, the first major cricket event in the country after Covid-19 restrictions were lifted, and against the backdrop of a dwindling Test schedule. South Africa only have three more Tests scheduled this year and are all but out of contention for the WTC final, but CSA CEO Pholetsi Moseki stressed on being committed to the longest format.
"We will always emphasise the value of Test cricket," Moseki said. "We are adding a number of Test games over the next four years. We are serious about being a Test-playing nation and we take the format very seriously. We have not relegated it to the margins because of T20 and we still see ourselves as a very serious Test-playing nation. We want to invest to get our Test team back to the standards we expect of them."
Nkwe has set aside the next 12 to 24 months to rebuild South Africa's Test-player base, which Conrad would be intricately involved in, with the goal of competing for the WTC finals in 2025 and 2027. "We want to be in the top three, but we are pushing for No. 1, even if it takes another three or four years to get there," Nkwe said. "Over the next two years, we are solidifying our position and building a bigger player pool."
Part of the process would be discussions around players' priorities at the next round of personal-development-plan meetings next month. For the first time, CSA is open to contracting players across selected formats only, if that emerges as a preference. "We are working with the South African Cricketers' Association," Nkwe said. "We don't want to be caught with our pants down. We are very open if a player just wants to commit to two formats, [but] then how do we contract them?"

Who next after Dean Elgar and Temba Bavuma?

The two key players who will come up for discussion early on are the captains - Dean Elgar and Temba Bavuma - neither of whom were involved in discussions over the hiring of the new coach and both of whom are under scrutiny. Their places are not yet secure, with Nkwe indicating CSA wants leaders for at least the next two years.
"I need to understand the coaches' ideas around the leadership. We need to give them an opportunity to sit down with the two captains and discuss how they see it going forward. It's going to be important that the decisions we make now, we commit to 100% for the next two years," Nkwe said. "If the captains feel strongly that they can contribute for the next two years and help with the transition and rebuilding phase, we commit to that. We are going to be having some very interesting conversations over the next couple of months to ensure we are all together and we build that stability. We don't want a situation of chopping and changing."
Conrad and Walter would also be involved in plotting a succession plan for Elgar and Bavuma, who are 35 and 32 respectively. "The reality is that these two captains are not going to be captains for the next five years. We need to identify who are going to be the next two captains and how much time we give to blood them," Nkwe said. "Those are some of the hard conversations we are going to be having over the next month so that everything is clear. We are not saying we are firing anyone but over the next month or three months, we need to build stability so by that time the season finishes it's very clear."
The coaches will also appoint their own support staff, which are unlikely to include any of the existing crop but will see a full-time "performance coach", as Nkwe termed it, in the backroom.
Nkwe confirmed that current bowling coach Charl Langeveldt would be stepping down to take up a role at the IPL, while it was not clear whether current batting coach Justin Sammons or fielding coach Justin Ontong would be retained.
South African cricket will also be without Neil McKenzie, who resigned as high-performance batting lead (a role that involved overseeing batters from age-group level to the national side) last week. Maketa, who was in the role of interim coach on South Africa's Test tour to Australia, was expected to move back to the South Africa A team and will have talks on his future with Nkwe later this week.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent