Neil McKenzie has been appointed South Africa’s “high performance batting lead” and will work across the men’s, women’s, Under-19 and academy structures. McKenzie, who resigned as Bangladesh’s batting coach last month was named alongside bowling lead Vincent Barnes, national academy lead Malibongwe Maketa and Under-19 coach Shukri Conrad, as CSA added to the number of employees under director of cricket Graeme Smith‘s portfolio.
The new appointments mean CSA is unlikely to make use of consultants in the coaching structures, thereby avoiding controversy over its affirmative action policy. Last week, CSA confirmed that they would look to engage people of colour in consultancy roles in an attempt to redress racial discrimination. Their stance attracted a complaint from the Institute of Race Relations, who wrote to the ICC alleging government interference in the running of the board. That letter has been received but has not been acted on yet and, since then, CSA has clarified that the policy is not set in stone and announced the appointment of two white coaches and three coaches of colour.
On Tuesday, Dillon du Preez was unveiled as the women’s national team’s assistant coach and two days later, McKenzie’s new role has also been revealed. This will be his second stint with South Africa, after working with them under Russell Domingo for a year from 2016.
While McKenzie will not work exclusively with the men’s national team, it is likely he will have a significant presence there because the side currently does not have a permanent batting coach. Jacques Kallis was in the job as a consultant over the 2019-20 summer but has not been re-engaged. McKenzie will also be involved with developing batsmen in the pipeline and believes his experience in the subcontinent will allow him to help more batsmen.
“I was with Bangladesh for two years and went to the World Cup with Bangladesh, so I have come back more rounded as a coach. I’m looking forward to doing my bit,” McKenzie said.
Barnes, who was previously South Africa’s assistant coach and has since worked in the High Performance Structure, will mirror McKenzie from a bowling perspective. Because Charl Langeveldt is permanently with the national men’s team as their bowling coach, Barnes is more likely to work with players in the national academy and with Maketa in the A team.
Maketa, who is the only black African appointment, is also a former national assistant coach, having worked under Ottis Gibson between 2017 and 2019. When Gibson’s contract was not renewed, Maketa found himself out of a job too and was only brought back into the system when Smith asked him to work with the Under-19 side ahead of this year’s World Cup.
That brings Maketa back to senior cricket where his international experience will be called on to help players prepare to make the step up to the national side. “Malibongwe is quite an experienced coach with a Proteas background and a high level of franchise experience, and it’s important that a guy like that is working across our next-best talent. He will also be assisting the national women’s team where and when his expertise will be required,” Smith said.
At the Under-19 level, Conrad, who has coached the Cobras and the Lions franchises, the National Academy and the Uganda national team, takes over from Lawrence Mahatlane, who in turn has left for Uganda. Under Mahatlane, the Under-19 team finished eighth at this year’s World Cup, a dizzying fall from winning the tournament in 2014.
“I like Shukri’s style – he’s old-school, he’s to the point and gets the job done,” Smith said. “I think at that level, his coaching expertise and knowledge of the game are going to be key. The other thing is talent identification, I think that’s a real strength of Shukri’s ability as a coach and he’s got good support in the form of scouts.”
The only outstanding role left to be filled is that of national convenor of selectors. Interviews were conducted in April and the incumbent Linda Zondi is among the candidates who are being considered.