Ottis Gibson believes there is “no reason” South Africa can’t win the 2019 World Cup and understands a major part of his mandate as the new head coach is to ensure they break their major tournament duck. He will start his tenure in mid-September and his contract runs until the end of 2019 tournament which will be held in England and is South Africa’s next opportunity to claim global silverware.
Gibson has only had one head coach position before but enjoyed success at an ICC event in that stint. He oversaw West Indies’ win at the World T20 in 2012 and aims to transfer some of the lessons from that experience to South Africa.
“Only one team can win the World Cup in 2019 and that’s been a massive part of how CSA pitched the job,” Gibson said on the eve of his final Test as England’s bowling coach against West Indies. “Every team wants to win a global tournament, South Africa has never won one and that’s obviously one of their big things. When I went back to the Caribbean, we had the makings of a great team, we had all the players, the IPL superstars and all that but we had never really won a T20 World Cup either. We were able to put a team together that went and won it in 2012 and that was fantastic,”
“You look at South Africa, you look at the players that they potentially put on the field and there’s no reason why they can’t win the fifty-over World Cup in 2019, here in England. That would be something great for me as a coach but more than that, great for the country. They have a very strong sporting culture in South Africa so to be able to do something like that would be amazing.”
South Africa have long been labelled one of the best teams to never become world champions and are set to field another gallery of stars in 2019. Though AB de Villiers has chosen to step down as ODI captain following an extended hiatus from Test cricket, he has made himself available across all formats from mid-October and remains committed to playing in the 2019 World Cup.
Faf du Plessis, who is expected to take over from de Villiers as he has done in Tests and T20s, has cited the tournament as a final event for himself and several others which could include Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Dale Steyn and Imran Tahir. Steyn will be a particularly interesting case as he returns to action this summer following 10 months on the sidelines after suffering a broken shoulder on South Africa’s tour to Australia last November.
Should South Africa’s senior core remain fit they will have several headliners at the 2019 tournament but concerns over a player drain remain. After South Africa’s senior side and A team lost series in all formats in England over the last few months questions over their depth are mounting, especially against the backdrop of further Kolpak signings which saw eight recently-capped Test players abandon their international careers for secure incomes in the UK. CSA has launched the Global T20 league – a privately-owned 20-over competition – with the aim of retaining players and Gibson is not too worried about the lack of resources he may face.
“When you think of South Africa, you think of the sort of immediate stuff of all the players that have left, that are Kolpaking and you can’t help but hear the rumours of other people that are considering Kolpaking,” he said. “Every player would say he is making a decision for his family. When people say that they don’t think they can get an opportunity and move on there’s not a lot that me as a coach can do and that’s something for CSA to look into. My job is to try and work with the players that are there, try and make sure they are ready to win matches for South Africa so if one person leaves then it gives an opportunity to someone else.”
Again, he cited West Indies as an example of a team that are leaning to perform despite challenges. “You might think it weakens the team but we also said that about West Indies at the start of this series. We also said because we didn’t see Lara, Ambrose, Walsh, we didn’t see the household names on the team sheet, we said this is the worst West Indies team in history but those players stuck together and believed in themselves and in what Stuart Law as a coach was instilling in them and then they went on to cause what some people are now calling one of the greatest upsets in sport.
“If the players that are on the outside think of it that way, that it gives me an opportunity and if I get an opportunity, I am going to go and stamp my authority on it and I can fill the void. Household names don’t always guarantee you success and that’s my message to the guys on the outside. If you get an opportunity, you should really make the most of it.”
Gibson also dismissed the other major challenge on the South African landscape: transformation. It was believed to have dissuaded other foreign coaching applicants and is an aspect Gibson knows he will have to learn to work with.
“Transformation was mentioned and it’s a government policy. There’s nothing I can do about it. I have to work with it. I know what it is so I can’t go in and say I want to change that. I know that it is there and I understand why it is here. Whether I like it or not is irrelevant because it’s there and we have to work with it.”
Since the start of the 2015-16 season, CSA requires the national team to field a minimum average of six players of colour, including two black Africans, over the course of a season. They exceeded that amount in the first season and are now into the second period of review.
It was initially thought CSA would also look to appoint its first home-grown black African coach following the end of Russell Domingo’s time in charge. Lions’ coach Geoffrey Toyana was thought to be the frontrunner and was interviewed for the position but was unsuccessful. Instead, CSA head-hunted Gibson, who was recommended by a five-man panel including two former national coaches, Gary Kirsten and Eric Simons.
“I believe when CSA did their search for a coach, they felt I could be a person that would come in there and take the team forward. I am absolutely looking forward to that, can’t wait to get over and get started,” Gibson said.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
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