University of Johannesburg coach Richard Das Neves will be aiming to instil in his squad the lessons learnt from last year when the Varsity Cricket tournament takes place at the end of the month.

Semifinalists a year ago, UJ will join seven other teams in Potchefstroom as they vie for the title of Varsity Cricket Twenty20 champions, with a trip to the Red Bull Campus World Cricket finals one of the major incentives.

A year ago, UJ swept aside all before them in the preliminary games, before suffering a shock defeat at the hands of University of Western Cape in the semis.

Das Neves said he started planning for this year’s event immediately after last year’s week, but knew nothing could be taken for granted.

The tournament runs from January 30 to February 4 with the Joburg students opening their campaign against NMMU-Madibaz.

The UJ coach said they were not placing any special emphasis on that match.

“Every game is important,” he said.

“It is always good to start well and build momentum. But as we found out last year, it’s not how you start but how you finish.”

Das Neves said the Varsity Cricket tournament was a priority and they were busy preparing as best they could.

However, he said the registration of students was ongoing at this stage and that there was no clarity yet on their final squad for the tournament.

“We tried our best to have continuity from 2016, but some of last year’s team are ineligible or have completed their studies and we’ll most likely have a lot of first years.

“I will only know the full situation once everyone is registered.”

Besides these curveballs, Das Neves said some players were involved in provincial matches this month which would limit their preparations.

Despite the degree of uncertainty, the UJ mentor said key players would be skipper Neels Bergh and his deputy Ryan Rickleton, as well as Ndumiso Mvelase, Jayden Broodryk and Matt Varner.

UJ, he added, had been performing well in the Gauteng premier league, played over 50 overs, heading the log after five victories and two rained-out matches in their seven fixtures.

“We also played in a mini T20 competition, but unfortunately lost in the final to Wits.”

Das Neves did not feel the players would have any problems adjusting to the T20 format.

“This is the third Varsity Cricket tournament and they have all been in the T20 format.

“The players have probably played more T20 cricket than 50-overs cricket in their careers so they are accustomed to it.”

Neels Bergh (left) will captain University of Johannesburg in the Varsity Cricket tournament in Potchefstroom, starting on January 30. Photo: Saspa

Issued by: Full Stop Communications