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Thursday, 07 December 2017 10:43

Cricket: Country or School? Hilton's Coach Juggles Two Jobs

Hilton College’s rise to the top of school cricket in South Africa has been refreshing for the alumni of this famed school but it’s no accident and comes after a committed investment in setting up expert coaching during the past few years.


The Zimbabwe international Neil Johnson, who once won three Man-of-the-Match awards during the 1999 World Cup which included a career best of 132* at Lords against Australia, was the first high profile coach to be invested in and the effect was immediate.

Resuming their place as one of the leading cricket schools in the country, Hilton College progressed steadily under the coaching of Johnson, churning out top performances against the best in the country.

However it was the appointment of former South African International and the 2009 Wisden Cricketer of the Year, Dale Benkenstein as Head Coach that has really rocketed Hilton College to the very top of the ladder in school cricket.

Achieving a phenomenal 85% win ratio during 2017, Hilton College is now one of the power houses of cricket in the country and fast becoming the factory for future professional cricketers. The KZN Inland teams, across the various age groups, boasts no less than 13 players from Hilton College.

However both Dale Benkenstein and Hilton College potentially could have become a victim of their own success. Otis Gibson the new Head Coach for the Proteas has noticed the success Benkenstein has achieved as a coach and appointed him as the Proteas Batting Coach for the next 18 months.

What effect will this have on the fortunes of Hilton College? Can the Coach juggle these two jobs? And which job will take priority, country or school?

Dale Benkenstein seems confident that he will cope with the demands of his two jobs and says that “The national job is an 18-month contract and there is not a lot of security in that but at the same time, it's an exciting opportunity to coach at that level. I will have to marry the two.

It appears that CSA and Hilton College have come to an agreement in order to secure Benkenstein’s services which includes Cricket South Africa supporting Hilton in several areas including fund raising events.

“We regard Hilton College as a national asset, so we’re delighted that we could be of assistance to the Proteas” remarked Hilton Headmaster George Harris. “We’re happy for Dale too, as this experience will make him an even better coach, further improving Hilton’s very successful cricket set up. CSA’s commitment to provide support to Hilton College cricket makes this a win-win-win development.”

Benkenstein recognises that “The South Africa work takes priority” and believes that “the schedule is such that there is quite a lot of time when we are not busy; blocks with no international cricket. I will be able to do about 50% of the work at Hilton."

Will Hilton College be able to remain at the top of SA School’s Cricket in 2018 and beyond with the coach’s attention divided? It seems possible and Hilton have already begun finalising a deal with county cricketer, Tim Groenewald, to cover for periods when Benkenstein is working with the Proteas. Groenewald has played for Warwickshire and Derbyshire and has completed his level 3 coaching badge in the UK. Groenewald will be based in Hilton during the South African summers.

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