Toyana challenges his Highveld Lions to create champion mentality

Highveld Lions coach, Geoffrey Toyana, has challenged his players to use their Sunfoil Series triumph to create a mentality that will keep the trophies coming in seasons to come.

On Sunday the Lions celebrated their first four-day title since the 1999/2000 season, with their innings victory over the Chevrolet Warriors giving them a record points haul in the competition.

Yet as emotional as Toyana was at the achievement, he was already thinking about the importance of his side continuing to dominate in seasons to come.

“If you want to be a champion, you’re not just a champion for one season - it’s something that’s done time and time and time again,” he said. “Even though I hate Manchester United, under Alex Ferguson those guys just came and won leagues every year for many years, and that’s where I want to see this franchise go. Not just be one-season wonders, but win trophies every year.

“So as I’m sitting here, happy and excited, I’m also taking stock because hopefully it won’t take us another 15 years to win this competition.”

Toyana’s vision came in part from his experience in his first two seasons as coach, when a stellar debut campaign in 2012/13 was followed by a horror show in 2013/14.

The Lions finished stone last in every competition last term, making their success in the most coveted tournament this season all the more impressive.

“I think the biggest thing was taking stock during the off-season, because in my first season we had a great year so I knew that the squad I had was a good squad, even though they played badly last season,” said Toyana. “We stuck with the same squad, so all big-ups to the board members who backed it, and the guys came through this year.

“The other thing during the off-season was getting eight fast bowlers primed and working on our depth, because our depth was poor last year.

“If you look now, we’ve used 22 players in this campaign because of call-ups to the Proteas and South Africa A squads. And those depth players twice played against the Cobras - the best team in the country in my opinion - and they beat them twice. Those two games for me were the turning point that got us sitting here today.”

Toyana was particularly pleased to see Neil McKenzie end his first-class career on a high.

Not only did the 39-year-old pick up his maiden South African first-class title in the last season of a career that began in 1994/95, but he signed off with an unbeaten double-hundred in his final innings.

“He’s had a great career - he’s a legend of the game and a good man,” said the coach. “I’m lost for words because I’ve got a lump in my throat to be honest.”

James Buttler

James Buttler

James has been working as a cricket journalist and broadcaster since 2006.
As the editor of Cricket Badger he is intent on building the website to give quality coverage of the domestic game around the world.
James was the full-time Media Manager at Yorkshire County Cricket Club between 2007 and 2010.
James is a published author and a writer/video contributor to many cricket publications.
He's unsurprisingly a complete cricket badger!
James Buttler

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