Cape Town – When legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson arrived at Old Trafford, the fiery Scotsman vowed to knock rivals Liverpool “right off their f**g perch”.
New Lions cricket coach Russell Domingo – a self-confessed Red Devils fanatic – may not have gone as far as using Fergie’s colourful language, but he certainly has domestic kingpins, the Titans, in his sights now that he has moved up north to the Bullring.
“The team down the road … the Titans … have been the main team in South African cricket for forever. We want to compete with the Titans and we want to eclipse the Titans in terms of winning silverware,” Domingo told Independent Media.
“They have been the leading franchise and we want to get up to that standard and surpass it. Those are the sorts of challenges that will be put to the players, because at the end of the day you want to win trophies.”
Fortunately for Domingo his mission at the Wanderers may not prove to be as challenging as it was for Ferguson with United not having won an English championship in 26 years prior to his arrival.
The Lions have been the most successful domestic outfit alongside their neighbours north of the Jukskei for the past few years, having won competitions across all formats, and are indeed the reigning Cricket SA 1-Day Cup champions.
They also boast a host of Proteas on their books in national white-ball captain Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen, Kagiso Rabada, Reeza Hendricks, Wiaan Mulder, Bjorn Fortuin, Sisanda Magala, Ryan Rickelton, Lutho Sipamla and Duanne Olivier.
The squad has also been further strengthened for the 2022/23 season with the arrival of former Western Province’s South Africa ‘A’ duo Zubayr Hamza and Tshepo Moreki.
The Lions have certainly pulled off a coup, though, in luring Domingo to Johannesburg to replace former coach Wandile Gwavu. The 48-year-old has vast coaching experience at the highest level after guiding the Proteas men’s team from 2013 until 2017.
This tenure included the infamous 2015 Cup semi-final defeat at Eden Park, an away Test series victory over Australia, and a 5-0 ODI whitewash of the Aussies.
Domingo has also only just returned home after a two-year stint as Bangladesh head coach, before assisting the Netherlands as a consultant on their recent tour to South Africa.
Having been in charge of the Proteas when it boasted generational batting talents like Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla, Domingo is also passionate about working with young batters such as Rickelton, Hamza, Joshua Richards and Mitch van Buuren to help their development in a bid to fill up the gaping holes within the current national team’s batting unit.
“I think part of my job is definitely to develop national players, and in particular to unearth some young batters,” he said.
“I think South Africa are desperately needing some high-quality world-class batters across all formats. The likes of Van der Dussen and (David) Miller are not going to be around forever.
“I think that’s an important aspect to make those young players understand what they need to do to become international players.”
Domingo will oversee the Lions in all three Cricket SA’s Division 1 competitions including the 4-Day First-Class, 1-Day Cup and T20 Challenge.