Madibaz fast bowler Lutho Sipamla will look back on the inaugural Mzansi Super League as an event which altered his cricket career and delivered him on the path to potential stardom.

South African cricket’s answer to India’s IPL and Australia’s Big Bash was still-born when the T20 Global League failed to get off the ground in 2017.

This outcome, however, spawned a second attempt and in the last two months of 2018 the Mzansi Super League came to life, providing a chance for rookies like the 20-year-old Nelson Mandela University student to get up close and personal with a host of established international stars.

It’s likely that the talented Sipamla would have made it to the top anyway after ticking all the right boxes as he progressed through several age-group representative teams.

On the fast track

But the Mzansi Super League provided the fast track for the Madibaz speedster to stake his claim for a place in the national side.

Chosen as the rookie player for the Tshwane Spartans, Sipamla enjoyed the special experience of sharing a changing-room with South African batting icon AB de Villiers.

“Being in the same environment as AB really meant a lot to me,” recalls Sipamla.

“The way he goes about his cricket helps to calm you because he speaks to you and gives you plans.

“I learnt a lot from that experience because at times he allowed me to set the field myself, according to what I wanted.”

The frenetic nature of the shortened Twenty20 format means a player needs to learn fast. There is little opportunity to settle into your role.

Thanks to the guidance he received from players such as De Villiers, among others, Sipamla quickly made his mark. He clocked up deliveries as quick as 145km/h, but also performed well up front and during the death.

His composure under pressure saw him become the third highest wicket-taker in the competition – bagging 16 wickets in 10 matches.

Natural progression

Being selected for the national side seemed a natural progression, although the second-year business management student reacted with “shock and surprise” when the call came from selection convener Linda Zondi.

He became Nelson Mandela University’s latest national cricket representative when he took the field at the Wanderers for the second Twenty20 international against Pakistan on February 3 this year.

It was an occasion he will not forget and he even managed to rein in his nerves as he delivered a typically efficient performance to finish with 0/23 in his four overs.

Recalling his debut, Sipamla says it was all about “controlling my emotions and letting it all soak in”.

“Walking onto the pitch to a full house and knowing that I am realising a childhood dream was an impeccable moment,” he says.

“The nerves were definitely there. I guess anyone will be nervous on the day of making a debut for the Proteas. It was about controlling the emotions and soaking everything in.”

A Grey past

Born Lubabalo Lutho Sipamla on May 12, 1998, the young sportsman, like many before him, came through the cricketing ranks at Grey Junior and Grey High to make his mark at an Eastern Province representative level.

He turned out for the provincial U15 and U19 teams and gained national selection for the U17 and U19 squads.

As a youngster he had thoughts of becoming a chartered accountant, but his cricketing potential was too rich to ignore and he ended up in the Eastern Province Cricket Academy.

After playing for the EP semi-pro outfit, Sipamla graduated to the Warriors franchise team at the start of the 2018-19 season, where he suddenly realised how much he still had to learn.

“When you play franchise cricket you have to be good and on point and I had to work a lot on my execution and my consistency,” he says.

“Concentrating on that helped me to improve my overall game and become a better player, I guess.”

The Mzansi Super League delivered Madibaz bowler Lutho Sipamla into the big time.

The Mzansi Super League delivered Madibaz bowler Lutho Sipamla into the big time. Photo: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images

Driving forces

He adds that the coaching teams at Madibaz and the Warriors had been “a big driving force in my cricket”.

“Every practice and every game I play I get to learn from all the seniors by speaking to them and asking questions.

“Every day I am learning and that’s what I need to do at this stage.”

Even though his focus remains on the present, the national selectors will surely have the promising fast bowler on their short list for future consideration.

He comes into the national argument at a time when the country is well stocked with fast bowlers. Talented exponents such as Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Junior Dala and fellow Warriors player Anrich Nortje are leading the way at this stage.

The World Cup in May and June may have come too soon for the young Sipamla, but he will surely take his place among those who have batsmen reaching for their helmets in no time.

In the long-term, Sipamla says he is hoping to secure a position in the corporate world while keeping in touch with cricket.

“I definitely want to complete my degree and, at this stage, am obviously looking to see how my cricket career develops.

“Once that is done I hope to move into the business world, but I also want to stay close to cricket and try to give something back to the community.”

Final word

The final word belongs to someone who has been around the block, AB de Villiers.

“I think he has all the credentials to become a serious fast bowler for South Africa in the future,” he told ESPNcricinfo.

“He is a fantastic kid. He has the right head on his shoulders and he needs to be given proper guidance and support to learn and improve over the next few years.

“I am looking forward to watching him grow.”


Statistically speaking


Born: Port Elizabeth, May 12, 1998
Education: Grey Junior, Grey High, Nelson Mandela University
Style: Right-arm fast bowler, right-hand batsman


Senior teams: Eastern Province, Warriors
First-class debut: EP v Border, January 5 to 7, 2017
Best bowling: First-class: 5/53 (innings), 9/112 (match); List A: 3/40; Twenty20: 3/19
Wickets: First-class: 50; List A: 19; Twenty20: 29

International Twenty20

Debut: SA v Pakistan, February 3, 2019, in Johannesburg (five caps)
Best bowling: 2/22
Wickets: 4 at economy rate of 8.36

Stats as at April 20, 2019