Kwena Maphaka, charting a path to Proteas stardom

Kwena Maphaka during the Betway SA20 season 2 Player Auction held at the Wanderers Club, Illovo, Johannesburg

Kwena Maphaka was being paraded around as the new crown prince of South African cricket with even Cricket SA chief executive Pholetsi Moseki calling him over. Picture: Alet Pretorius/ Sportzpics for SA20

Published Feb 24, 2024


A day after “leaving it all out there” in the South Africa ICC Under-19 World Cup semi-final defeat to India in Benoni, Kwena Maphaka was hanging around in the Long Room at the Wanderers.

It’s not necessarily the place you would find a 17-year-old schoolboy, especially when the rest of his St Stithians schoolmates were having a jol on the grass banks during Joburg Super Kings’ SA20 Eliminator against Paarl Royals.

But instead Maphaka was being paraded around as the new crown prince of South African cricket with even Cricket SA chief executive Pholetsi Moseki calling him over and saying “Hey youngster, come here I want you to meet some people”.

The awkwardness on the teenager’s face was prevalent throughout, but in his own courteous manner, obliged for every obligation without any hesitation.

‘Have a crack with the new nut’

It was clear though that he not only wanted to be messing around with his mates, but more importantly, be out in the middle for the Royals trying to knock over JSK.

“It would definitely have been nice to have a crack with the new nut,” Maphaka, who was signed by the Royals ahead of the SA20 auction last year, told Independent Media in an exclusive interview.

“But everything happens for a reason. I am just taking it day by day and hopefully next year I’ll get an opportunity to put my foot down on the gas.”

It is easy to get excited about Maphaka’s pace and in-swinging yorkers that brought him 21 wickets, which included being the first player to collect a trio of five-wicket hauls, that earned him the Player of the Tournament at the recent ICC U19 World Cup.

But it’s more the maturity with which he approaches his tasks that separates him from his peers.

It is what helped him with not only coping with the extra pressure of playing in a home World Cup, but also with the added expectation that only grew after every scintillating performance.

“The cricketing aspect wasn’t a big jump in terms of skills. Of course you are playing against better players more consistently” he said.

“But the main thing was mental preparation, wrapping your heads around playing in a big stadium and on TV.

“I won’t say there is extra pressure. Obviously being more experienced there are higher standards to uphold and the pressure of the moment, but I wouldn’t say I feel extra pressure.”

Bright future ahead

Maphaka understands that he is still very much in the embryonic stage of his career. He has only played one first-class match for the Lions senior team to date.

There is the Cricket SA20 Challenge still to look forward to, but he is equally content on finishing his Matric year by playing the year out at St Stithians.

“If I get picked (for the Lions) it would be a great opportunity to showcase my skill,” he said.

“But if I don’t get picked, it will be back to school cricket and honing in on my skills and to continue bettering myself as a cricketer.”

He will certainly need some guidance as the journey unfolds and it certainly helps that Maphaka already has a strong relationship with current Proteas Test coach Shukri Conrad.

It was the red-ball mentor that first picked Maphaka when he was just 15 years old for the SA Under-19 team and last year for the SA ‘A’ tour to Sri Lanka without the teenager having played a single senior match.

Someone to depend on

“Coach Shuks and I have a pretty good relationship. He is one of those coaches that when he backs you, you really feel that he backs you,” Maphaka said.

“He is someone you can depend on and makes you feel confident. You never get the feeling that am I in this team or not? If you do something wrong, he will show you how to fix it and how to do the right thing.”

South African cricket has not been as excited about a young fast bowler since Kagiso Rabada shot to prominence at the self-same ICC Under-19 tournament a decade ago.

It just so happens that Maphaka and Rabada went to the same school too.

If Maphaka does indeed follow in Rabada’s footsteps, then the youngster will certainly meet a lot more watching him from the Wanderers Long Room as the years go by.


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