Joshua Richards (Gauteng Strikers, 20)
The surname may look a bit familiar in the context of South African cricket history, but Joshua Richards isn’t exactly a name that trips off the tongue in cricket circles at the moment. But, after a three-month period in which he scored 673 first-class runs, including four centuries and a 98 for the South African Invitation XI side against a touring Pakistan, since making his debut for the Strikers, he may well be on his way to becoming a household name.
Richards, who scored his 98 a day before his 20th birthday, is another one on the lengthening list of ready-made cricketers St Stithians College has produced recently – think Kagiso Rabada, Wiaan Mulder, Wandile Makwetu and Ryan Rickelton. By the sound of it, the right-handed opening batsman is not averse to hard work, recently telling SA Cricket Magazine that he has hit 1 500 throw-downs a week for years, which resulted in a shoulder operation for his poor old man last year.
Janneman Malan (Cape Cobras, 22)
Malan first made his bow in the nation’s cricket consciousness as the youngest of three brothers – the others being Pieter and Andre – who made history in 2016 by all scoring a century in the same first-class game between Western Province and North West.
Last year, Malan forcefully reintroduced himself to the South African public by scoring runs in all formats. He currently has the third most runs in the four-day domestic franchise competition – 562 from six matches at 51.09, with two 100s and two 50s – and finished sixth on the scoring charts of the inaugural Mzansi Super League (MSL) T20 tournament with 305 runs from nine games, featuring two half-centuries at a strike rate of 125.51. The former SA Under-19 batsman looks like a man in a hurry.
Lutho Sipamla (Warriors, 20)
Much like Malan, Sipamla is another young player whose light was brought to the fore by the MSL. Playing for a Tshwane Spartans team that didn’t quite get going in the competition, Sipamla still managed to finish joint second on the wicket takers’ list with team-mate Jeevan Mendis on 16 dismissals. As a youngster, the fast bowler was often targeted by the batsmen, but they found a stubborn competitor who ran in even harder and hit his lengths hard. The compactly built Sipamla, a product of Grey High School, looks like a proper athlete and can only get quicker, despite already bowling in the 140km/h region.
Zubayr Hamza (Cape Cobras, 23)
Being in the Proteas test squad already, people don’t have to go far to track Hamza’s progress this year. One or two colleagues have grumbled about how few runs he made in this season’s four-day competition before being selected, but Hamza was clearly selected for scoring runs last year and on the South African A-team’s tour of India. His big hundreds in franchise cricket last season were scored with his team in 10/2 type trouble and his average of more than 50 in India A was earned in foreign conditions and against spinners, meaning Hamza’s best trait is mental toughness, as well as the ability to play both fast and slow bowling as a former SA Schools Hockey player.
Anrich Nortje (Warriors, 25)
Another MSL baby, the big fast bowler did well, but untelevised work in the four-day competition before the T20 competition put his qualities on the map. Once in the MSL with the Cape Town Blitz, Nortje, who hails from the same part of the world that gave us the wild Mornantau Hayward, showed us what we’d all been missing.
By bowling at speeds of up to 150km/h, he terrorised batsmen to the point of mugging them of the eight wickets he took from just three games. But then he encountered an untimely ankle injury that needed surgery and meant his tournament was over. Thankfully, it wasn’t before he had shown what a destructive quick he can be.