Cobus Roodt, coach of the all-conquering Western Province women’s team, provided a few insightful answers to the mystery and shared the winning formula behind one of the proudest records in world cricket.
Yet, one had to look beyond the star qualities in the team to find the correct answer.
Western Province was without their superb fast bowler Shabnim Ismail for the last season, while Bernadine Bezuidenhout immigrated to New Zealand, so it was not only the world-class stars that elevated them to champions. It was a very young squad that took care of all-comers.
Western Province won two of the three titles on offer the past season and only came a cropper in the semi-final of the national 50-over tournament in Bloemfontein where they were defeated by North West in the semi-finals, a defeat that Roodt attributes to a lack of clinical focus and perhaps a little bit of complacency.
Roodt said one of the most important qualities in a winning squad is the team culture and the family spirit. It is about team members achieving great feats for one another, playing for the star next to them in the trenches.
The annual team-building weekends away have done much to improve the bonds and friendships in the team.
Alexis le Breton and her vice-captain Robyn Appels have led the team well, made instinctive decisions on the field that aided the team’s dominance.
And Roodt has also been a meticulous planner. “I always say if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
Roodt is proud of the fact that many of the players in the squad are younger than 25, which makes their feats so much more noteworthy and extraordinary.
“Saarah Smith is 18, Laura Wolvaardt is 18, Lara Goodall is 21 and Tala Ross is 20, while Tatum le Roux is 24.
“Alexis is the eldest, but I want us to get away from the culture in the country where women retire in their mid-twenties. I feel that you must stir the passion so that the players stay excited and enthusiastic about playing,” he said.
Andrie Steyn was one of the standout players, averaging 57.33 in the 50-over competition, while Laura Wolvaardt averaged 44.4 in the same competition. The spinner Appels captured 15 wickets at an average of 17.60.
Steyn averaged 65 in the T20 campaign at a strike-rate of 102.36 and Goodall boasted an average of 53 while smashing it at a strike-rate of 126.19.
He is proud of the spinner Nadia Mbokotwana, who was the Western Province school player of the year in 2016/2017. He has been nurturing her the past three years and at national level there is a growing awareness that she is a special talent and evolving fast. She did not have the best of seasons after two previous sensational years, but he is not too concerned about that, Roodt said. “Things like that happen.”
Saarah Smith is an emerging middle-order batsman and averaged 33.50 the past season. He is excited about her batting and the fact that she bats around the experienced Le Breton is a bonus.
The 16-year-old Leah Jones is a bowling all-rounder and she is developing at the rate of knots.
“What is so amazing about this team is that in five years we have been virtually unbeatable and there are so many players who are not yet 20. The discipline in the team is something special, and we don’t enforce team rules. The team as a unit, make the rules, I don’t instil it, the team decides on those rules.
“Ultimately, the team deserves enormous credit for what they have achieved over five years of excellence,” he said.