Geoffrey Toyana The Lion King
It’s so ironic how the story of the Highveld Lions, and the introduction of their new and first black South African franchise cricket coach, Geoffrey Toyana, is such a similar tale with the historical story of The Lion King. From what I recall in the tale, once Simba managed to overthrow this evil uncle, Scar, all peace and harmony welcomed his kingdom. But it wasn’t easy as all sorts of obstacles had to be overcome. The same goes for Toyana. It took some fight coming from the Soweto-born and former Titans batsman, dedication to better his ability as a coach and most importantly passion –for Toyana to get to his sudden minor success of recent.
I had the privilege as a net bowler (during the CLT20 tournament) to train with the Lions franchise team and experience how it feels to be a ‘cub’ under Toyana. The first element I saw and really enjoyed to witness was the mutual respect from players to coach, and vice-verse. Toyana seemed to be a father-figure to the young men in red and white. I saw him making jokes with the 19-year-old batsman, Quinton de Kock, while playfully doing some boxing with talented batsman, Temba Bavuma on the side. It seemed to be a very fun camp. When it was time for a team talk, the boys would then ‘switch on’ and patiently listen to instructions while the king would go on preaching a lecture of importance. Stephen Cook did not feature in the CLT20 tournament, but king Toyana was much eager to give him more than enough batting time in the nets.
It’s really frightening how a season ago the Highveld Lions were an average outfit and this season, the Gauteng team are now such a powerful unit. Since the appointment of Toyana, not only did the Lions achieve the impossible (reaching the finals of the CLT20 tournament and the Momentum One Day Cup) but the atmosphere within the team has also changed. Young players in particular are picking their hand up and are either scoring match-winning runs or taking much needed five-wicket hauls. Every individual seems to be doing their deed towards the success of the team by surpassing minimum requirements that are expected of them –in all formats of the game.
A team without a lot of superstars or ‘big names’ in the squad (except for former test batsman Neil McKenzie), the Highveld Lions have achieved much success in their little time spend with their new coach king Geoffrey Toyana. The very near future looks bright for Toyana and his crop of young cricketers if they keep their current success consistent. Much praise has been made for the new black franchise coach. All who know him well know that he isn’t threatened at all but any type of pressure.