‘I’m here to support Dean in every way’ – South Africa captain has coach Maketa’s backing

Relationship-building has not been Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) top skill over the last three years. There have been miscommunications aplenty in the hiring of senior staff and the ghosting of former players, including former captain Faf du Plessis. But at least one bond seems to be strong as they enter a new era.

“Our relationship is strong and is based on hard work, so we’re similar in what we’re looking for in terms of the team and the performance,” Maketa said in his first media engagement since being appointed in the role. “I’m here to support Dean in every way, to make sure that he not only gets what he wants but that he gets the guys onside in terms of performances.”

Elgar has used similar terminology to describe how he sees Maketa’s tenure. On departure to Australia last week, Elgar said Maketa “understands his role, which is going to be a supportive role,” and that Maketa “understands me as a cricketer, as a person and as a leader.”

Elgar also revealed how he approached CSA Director of Cricket Enoch Nkwe and asked for Maketa to be considered for the post of head coach following Mark Boucher‘s departure to Mumbai Indians earlier this year. Now, the pair are putting on a united front as they attempt to defeat Australia.
Both Elgar and Maketa have first-hand knowledge of how tense things can get against Australia “on and off the field”. Elgar through Dossiergate in 2012, Mintgate in 2016 and Sandpapergate in 2018, where Maketa was South Africa’s assistant coach. They both described the last of those sagas as “unfortunate” but not defining, albeit that for Australia, ball-tampering remains much talked about and has dominated the pre-series narrative.
Like Elgar, who told reporters on arrival that he holds “no animosity towards the players involved or CA,” Maketa also played down the impact Sandpapergate would have on the South African side of 2022.

“I know it changed people’s careers, but for us, on the other side of the spectrum, it was an unfortunate incident. And, where we are now, it’s way back,” he said. “We’re just looking forward to this opportunity to be here and to compete against a strong team.”

For South Africa, this series is crucial to their chances of qualifying for the World Test Championship final. They are currently second on the points table and have five Tests left to play. For Maketa, this series could also be crucial to his chances of taking over the Test team permanently.

ESPNcricinfo understands that he intends to apply for the job and that CSA will split the role between red and white-ball coaches. A strong showing in Australia could make Maketa impossible to ignore.

“The guys are not liking me at the moment in the sense that we’ve had some really hard sessions.”

Malibongwe Maketa

He promised to maintain a brand of “brave” cricket, and has been challenging the players in training. “The guys are not liking me at the moment in the sense that we’ve had some really hard sessions,” he said. “I’m more relaxed when the game starts. I’ll be comfortable that we’ve done all the work and everything else is down to the players.

“As a coaching staff, I encourage us not to get in the way of the players, but to trust the work that they’ve done and make sure the environment is conducive for them to perform.”

That clear separation of powers between coaching staff and players and the outlining of roles and responsibilities is something Elgar has always advocated as the team tried to block out the administrative upheaval of the last three years. Results have been mixed but Elgar anticipates they will start to curve upwards as the new set-up settles in and cricket can take centre-stage.

“For the first time in a couple of years, it’s at its most stable,” Elgar said. “We’ve had a lot of changes with regard to administrators in CSA. As players, those things can’t hinder us from performing. We’ve almost gotten used to those kinds of bad headlines. For now, it’s stabilising quite nicely.

“We’ve got a new CEO, we’ve had a new board come in and make good cricketing decisions, and we have a new director of cricket who’s really focusing hard on our Proteas brand. We need to do what we can do to try and get results on the board. That’s our currency as players.”

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