Johannesburg — Malibongwe Maketa is from the Eastern Cape where they boast about how hard they’re bred. He’ll need every bit of that toughness as he prepares to lead the Proteas Down Under for a three match Test series in December as the national team’s interim head coach.
Actually Maketa (42) has already needed a thick skin just to deal with Cricket SA over the last few years where he went from Proteas assistant coach under Otis Gibson, to some undefined role for a few months, then sprung up as SA ‘A’ coach, a job he’s continued with, which has allowed him to work again with the senior men’s national team lately.
He’s been with the squad in some capacity since the home series against Bangladesh in April and then worked with the Test players before the series in England. He’s not an unfamiliar face for the players, and so that modicum of stability is good.
Still it is a three-Test series in Australia, where the Proteas are protecting a very proud record, having won each of the last three series between the teams in that country. However unless Maketa finds a magic wand to wave over the batting unit it looks like an unenviable assignment.
Maketa is known as a structured and disciplined coach. “He’s very meticulous,” said Jon-Jon Smuts, who was captain of the Warriors franchise team when Maketa coached them from 2015 until 2017.
“He’s a good human being firstly,” said Smuts. “As a coach he set high standards, communicated well with his players and he was very good at instilling trust in his players. One thing I appreciated was he wanted to canvas all ideas, he liked hearing different opinions, there was no ego with him.”
The Warriors unfortunately came up short in two limited overs finals under Maketa, falling to the star-studded Titans on both occasions.
“We did quite well under Mali, it was unfortunate that we couldn’t get over the line in those competitions — but then only one team can win. We in the Eastern Cape are very resilient, very tough and we play for each other. Mali tapped into that. Of course he knows the region, being from there.”
Maketa moved from the Eastern Cape up to Northerns where he cut his teeth as a coach under Richard Pybus and was later Mathew Maynard’s assistant with the franchise. He won two provincial titles as head coach of the Northern semi-professional team, and returned to Gqeberha to be the Warriors assistant coach alongside Piet Botha, before taking up the head role in 2014.
Maketa will hope some of the Test players will be available for the first round of Division 1 fixtures in the Four-Day series from November 10. The first Test against Australia starts in Brisbane on December 17.
There was no mention made of a coaching staff, although it is understood that CSA’s batting lead, Neil McKenzie will accompany Maketa to Australia.
“Mali knows most of the players well; they know him too; and with such a short time between now and the tour, we as Cricket South Africa felt we needed someone who could step in immediately and lead us through what is an important series for the Proteas,” said CSA’s Director of Cricket, Enoch Nkwe.
South Africa Test Tour to Australia Fixtures
17 – 21 December 2022
Australia v South Africa – The Gabba, Brisbane
26 – 30 December 2022
Australia v South Africa – MCG, Melbourne
04 – 08 January 2023
Australia v South Africa – SCG, Sydney