'We’re here to win‚' says Enoch Nkwe ahead of start of SA’s tour of India

10 September 2019 - 15:58 By Telford Vice
Enoch Nkwe (coach) of the Proteas during the Mzanzi Super League player draft at Walter Sisulu Square on September 03, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Enoch Nkwe (coach) of the Proteas during the Mzanzi Super League player draft at Walter Sisulu Square on September 03, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

There was more to learn from the questions asked of Enoch Nkwe at the first press conference of South Africa’s tour of India on Tuesday than there was from his answers.

And not because of any fault of the articulate‚ affable Nkwe — the interim team director the men’s team’s series of three T20s and as many Tests.

Quinton de Kock‚ who will captain in the T20s in Faf du Plessis’ absence‚ sat alongside Nkwe in Dharamshala‚ where the first T20 will be played on Sunday.

South Africa’s media officer asked for questions to be directed at Nkwe first‚ but after several seconds of silence a reporter began with‚ “De Kock …”

The media officer set him straight smartly‚ and after more silence Nkwe was asked to rate South Africa’s chances of success at next year’s T20 World Cup.

Then whether his team were good enough to win in India.

Then how they would manage without Du Plessis.

And then what South Africa’s strategy for Sunday might be.

Nkwe might have replied that the World Cup wasn’t his problem considering that‚ at this stage‚ his involvement with the team will end after the India tour.

And that he wouldn’t have taken the job if he didn’t think he could win in India or anywhere else.

And that Du Plessis‚ fine player and leader though he is‚ is only one player and leader.

And that he wasn’t dumb enough to reveal his gameplan.

But Nkwe has better manners than that.

So the edited highlights of what he said were‚ “It’s the start of a new chapter‚ so the focus for now is on the coming series against India.

“We’re looking to invest in a good foundation going into the T20 World Cup.”

And: “Absolutely. We’re here to win.”

And‚ on the Du Plessis-shaped hole in the side: “I strongly believe we have a good enough squad.”

And his strategy?

Nkwe smiled: “We’re entertainers.”

De Kock was asked about the conditions and what he expected from his team.

He hasn’t played in Dharamshala before‚ so that was moot.

“Win or lose‚ I just want the guys to keep competing; keep fighting‚” De Kock said.

“We’ve got quite a young team — there’ll be a lot of energy.”

Both questions were neutral enquiries‚ not laced with the kind of suspicion slung at Nkwe.

It’s dangerous to form an opinion on the basis of an audio file from a press conference held far from where this story is being written‚ but it is difficult to avoid the view that Nkwe was at best disregarded and at worst disrespected.

He is indeed a placeholder in his position — at least for now — and he hasn’t had an international playing career‚ which earns coaches credit regardless of whether they deserve it.

But that doesn’t mean Nkwe should be disregarded‚ much less disrespected.

In the wake of their disappointing performance at the World Cup‚ the South Africans wouldn’t have needed additional motivation to give a good account of themselves in India.

They have it now.