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I watched with an uneasy mix of appreciation and dread. St Stithians first XI captain Ricardo Vasconcelos played a studied innings under considerable pressure to lay a match-winning foundation for his team. I sensed that this opening batsman was the real deal.

“I’ve always loved opening the batting, I feel like I thrive on that pressure, for me there’s no better feeling than being able to put my team into a position that can allow us to be in the driver’s seat to win the game,” was Ricardo’s response to my leading question.

Clearly I am not the only one who sees Ricardo in the same light – and perhaps even more significant, it’s not all been golden-boy moments: It started in the relatively modest surrounds of the Gauteng U15B team – and blossomed without blemish thereafter.

Gauteng U17A for two years, SA U17 and most recently Gauteng U19 for the upcoming Coke Week. St Stithians had no doubts. Ricardo played Saints first team for four years.

A Saints lad to the core, the Vasconcelos brand has steadily taken off since its launch in Grade 0. “I think it was about Grade 3 when I started to develop a real love for the game. For me it’s the time spent with friends that separates cricket from other sports; you can’t stand next to someone for hours a day – day in and day out - and not become good mates.”

His most memorable innings? The answer reveals an appreciation for more than the simple computations of aggregate runs and averages.

“Probably the 76 not out for Gauteng U17 against Western Province, chasing a low score yet losing regular wickets. We ended up winning by two wickets, three balls to spare. Hitting the winning runs, that was pretty cool.”

Ricardo’s highest score (at the time of writing) was 150 not out against Trinity. “The first time I reached 150 was a pretty memorable occasion.”

The skipper recalls one match with particular fondness. “We beat Waterkloof in the Coke T20 final. It meant we were measured as the best team in the country at that time.”

As to Saints’ 2015, it’s apparent that this captain is not easily pleased. “It wasn’t a bad year, we got to the final of the Johnny Waite tournament, but it wasn’t as good as last year.”

Vasconcelos is quick to mention fellow Saints in the Gauteng team. A tidy crop they are: Brandon Glover (bowler), Wiaan Mulder (all-rounder) and Wandile Makwetu (batsmen).

School cricket weeks are great, we all know that, so I wasn’t surprised at the Vasoncelos response to this ask: Oppenheimer Michaelmas Cricket Week, hosted annually by Maritzburg College in the first week of October … Good stuff?Yes, it is so enjoyable. Michaelmas is the highlight of our calendar, because of all the history surrounding it and the fact that so many prominent past cricketers and current professionals have played in that same week.”

That wonderful compliment makes it easier for me, a College Old Boy, to come to terms with the tender memory of Ricardo’s masterfully compiled 90 on our hallowed Goldstones turf that set up Saints’ well-earned victory. (For reference, dear reader, please revert to paragraph one).

So what are the opener’s goals at Coke Week? “I want to be in the top three leading run-scorers to give myself the best opportunity to make the SA U19 side.” Vision uncluttered, straight to the point.

The Vasoncelos ambition is clear, unencumbered by those twin evils – unwarranted arrogance and ill-placed modesty: “I want to go professional and hopefully play for the Proteas one day.”

The man who counts St Andrews Bloemfontein as the SA school team he most enjoys playing against, also has much admiration for the cricket played by that Cape Town institution,Rondebosch, and first stop for Vasconcelos next year is Stellenbosch University.

And once again the vision is flawless in its clarity. “I hope to play for Boland next year.” Working his way into the Western Province Academy follows. The Cobras next.

Honest within himself, Vasconcelos ticks another box on the player-with-character list. “I have not had the best season, but I still managed to score 1 432 runs at an average of 52 with seven fifties and three hundreds.” That unbeaten 150 among them.

His opinion of the Gauteng line-up for Coke Week? “We have an extremely strong side this year, 10 players in our squad were invited to the SA U19 camp.”

Admirable technique is the trademark, enabling substantial time in the middle, but Vasoncelos knows when it’s time to launch: “I think that I am probably a more technically correct batsmen who tries to be attacking when I get the chance. I enjoy 50-over matches because it gives me enough time to build an innings and get a substantial score.”

So who has been the biggest influence on the burgeoning cricket career, and life, of Ricardo Vasconcelos?The answer gives another clue to this young man’s solid foundation, his bright future: “Probably my dad, he has always encouraged me to pursue cricket and has always supported me throughout my career.”

As to the nitty gritty of honing the art and craft, challenging and nurturing Ricardo’s raw talent, two coaches stand out. “Bongani Ndaba and Jimmy Cook have helped me immensely with my game and have been with me for many years,” says the modest, well-spoken Saints man.

The Ricardo Vasconcelos temperament when the pitch is doing plenty and the bowlers are right on top? The answer to this question is the one I like the most.

“I enjoy it when the bowlers think they’re on top. It brings out the best in me, makes me more determined to do well.”

Ricardo Vasconcelos is one to watch. And I am definitely not the first, nor the last, to notice that.

St Stithians first XI cricket coach Fergus Gray watches every single ball of his charges’ matches with intense focus. You will often find Fergus sitting alone at matches, better able to observe proceedings - the ebb and flow of an even contest - unhindered by idle chatter.

Wednesday, 09 September 2015 00:00

Cricket: Dainfern Makes a Bid to be the Best in SA

In a bold bid to become one of the best cricketing schools in Johannesburg, Dainfern College has embarked on this ambitious goal by recruiting one of the most revered cricketing coaches in the world.

Waterkloof is undisputedly regarded as one of the powerhouses on the school boy cricket circuit. Superb performances in the highly competitive Pretoria league, strong showings at the annual National T20 competition and the recent production line of first class and national cricketers, suggests that they have firmly entrenched themselves as one of the top cricket schools in the country. With Director of Cricket, Neels De Villiers at the helm and the Waterkloof cricket academy in great shape, all the workings are in place to cement the school at the top for many years to come.

Wednesday, 04 September 2013 11:32

Cricket: St David's Twenty20 Festival Fixtures

St David’s Marist Inanda in association with the Kent Park Taverners is hosting its annual Twenty20 Cricket Festival this week. Matches take place from Thursday 5 September until Sunday 8 September. There are 12 teams involved.

St. Alban’s College 50th Independent Schools Cricket Festival:

St.AlbansOnce again some of the top teams from around the country will gather at St.Alban’s College for the annual Independent School’s Cricket Festival.

 

St Alban's College 50th Cricket Festival

Fixtures

Day 1 and 2 (2 DAY GAME)

TEAM 1

VS

TEAM 2

RESULTS Currently

St. Alban's

v

St Georges

St.Alban's 390/5 dec beat St.Georges 116 & 143 by an innings & 131 runs

St. David's

v

Hilton

St.Davids 177/8 dec & 169 draw with Hilton 269 & 80/5

St. John's (Harare)

v

Grey Bloem

St.John's 249 all out (S.Snater 111) & Grey College 168/0 match drawn

Cornwall Hill

v

Clifton

Clifton beat Cornwall Hill by 10 wickets

St. Charles

v

St. John's (JHB)

St.Charles 173 & 69/4 draw with St.John's 339/6

Helpmakaar

v

Woodridge

Woodridge 197 & 139 beat Helpmekaar 69 & 70 by 117 runs

Kingswood

v

St. Benedicts

KC 294/8 decl & 168/7 decl. St B 246/7 decl & 11/0. Match drawn

St. Andrew's Coll

v

Michaelhouse

St.Andrews 306/7 & 60/4 beat Mhouse 216 & 146 by 6 wickets

AFFIES

v

Kearsney

Affies 252/10 & 43/2 beat Kearsney 160/10 & 134/10 by 8 wickets

PBHS

v

Bishops

Bishops 277/5 dec & 142/4 dec beat PBHS 213 & 126 by 76 runs

Maritzburg College

v

Grey PE

Grey High 208 & 69/4 beat Maritzburg College 119 & 158 by 6 wickets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 3 (Saturday)

TEAM 1

VS

TEAM 2

RESULTS

St. Alban's

v

Michaelhouse

St.Alban's 281/5 (L.Van Heerden 102*) beat Mhouse 243 by 38 runs

Grey PE

v

Grey Bloem

Grey College 230 all out draw with Grey High 180/6 (Dec match)

St Georges

v

Maritzburg College

Maritzburg College 80/4 beat St.Georges Zim 79 all out by 6 wickets

Cornwall Hill

v

St. John's (Harare)

St.John's 243/8 beat Cornwall Hill 219/9 by 24 runs

Clifton

v

Bishops

Bishops 244/7 (J.Flax 103) beat Clifton 243 all out by 3 wickets

Kingswood

v

St Charles

St.Charles 155/6 beat Kingswood 154 all out by 4 wkts

St. David's

v

Woodridge

St.Davids 337/7 beat Woodridge 135 all out by 202 runs

St. John's (JHB)

v

Hilton

St.John's 261/6 beat Hilton 93 all out by 168 runs

AFFIES

v

St Andrew's

St.Andrew's 153/1 beat Affies 151/8 by 9 wickets

Menlo

v

Helpmakaar

Menlo 252 all out beat Helpmekaar 156/9 by 96 runs

St. Benedicts

v

Kearsney

Kearsney 250/9 beat St.Benedict's 127 all out by 133 runs

 

 

 

 

DAY 4 (Sunday)

TEAM 1

VS

TEAM 2

RESULTS

St. Alban's

v

Grey PE

St.Albans 222/4 beat Grey High 219 by 6 wickets

Helpmakaar

v

Michaelhouse

Michaelhouse 250 all out beat Helpmekaar 110 by 140 runs

Bishops

v

Maritzburg College

Maritzburg College 194/7 beat Bishops 193 all out by 3 wkts

Cornwall Hill

v

Woodridge

Cornwall Hill 128/7 beat Woodridge 127 all out by 3 wkts

Kearsney

v

Kingswood

Kearsney 210 beat Kingswood 141 all out by 69 runs

Grey Bloem

v

Clifton

Grey College 65/2 beat Clifton 64 all out by 8 wkts

St. David's

v

St Georges

St.Davids 71/4 beat St.Georges 70 all out by 6 wkts

St. John's (JHB)

v

St. Andrew's Coll

St. Andrew's 233/7 beat St.John's 203/9 by 31 runs

AFFIES

v

St John's (Harare)

Affies 298/5 beat St.John's 143/8 by 155 runs

PBHS

v

Hilton

Hilton 201 beat Pretoria Boy's 184 by 17 runs

St. Benedicts

v

St. Charles

St.Benedict's 176/6 beat St.Charles 153 all out by 23 runs

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, 18 February 2013 07:34

Cricket: Cricket at St.Alban's Part Two

In 1985 St Alban’s undertook an overseas tour (to England) for the first time. It was both historic and courageous, given the obstacles that had to be overcome (these were the isolation years imposed on all SA sport during the Apartheid.) No equipment could be taken – to not attract attention from the anti-apartheid protesters at the airport - it all had to be bought over there.

(For Cricket at St.Alban's Part One)

chLater tours: 1995 UK, 1998 England and Wales, 2002; 2006 Singapore and Australia; 2009 UK; 2012 Sri Lanka) The reception in 1995 was in marked contrast. As Gerry van Wyk put it : “SA was flavour of the month and we as ambassadors basked in a warm reception.” The most different tour was to Sri Lanka in 2012.

 

Early Days at St Alban’s

The early days were not easy. As could be expected in a tiny (37 boys, all told) school with a bare minimum of facilities (2 concrete nets) with use of a Cowshed (now the Chapel) as an indoor net when it rained, and every fixture away, the “1st” Cricket Xi did not win a game in their first season. Their joy at managing to draw the last game of the season (exultant cries of “We didn’t lose!”) was perhaps understandable.

However, the turn-around came soon. Grant Nupen (later headmaster, and after that headmaster of Bishop’s) scored the College’s first century, and was the College’s first provincial selection. The first win against another school’s 1st XI was recorded in 1965.  

By 1969, the TC Mitchell Oval was adorned with a scoreboard, sight screens and a picket fence. A young Patrick Hamilton had taken over as coach in 1968, and Cricket was on the up! With typical Patrick enthusiasm, competitive spirit, and energy, he galvanised the young school’s cricketers into breaking shackles to achieve new heights. The first victory against PBHS was recorded in 1969 (by 7 wickets), while matches against St John’s and KES, and St Stithian’s were even, with St Alban’s winning in the strong years.

From then on St Alban’s has been well represented at Schools’ provincial level.

In 1975, in Cape Town, at the SA Nuffield week, St Alban’s history was made: Eugene Muntingh and Michael Collins were selected for SA Schools’. Patrick Hamilton records “As can be imagined, with the Headmaster, Anton Murray, and a full contingent of parental support, great was the celebration that night. Muntingh and Collins are also WHPS’ first SA Schools’ Caps - since the incomparable Eddie Barlow (who high schooled at PBHS). Incidentally, Eddie Barlow played for Western Province against the SA Schools’ side which included the 2 St Alban’s boys.”

Amid huge pride, in 1976 Michael Collins was again selected, and in 1977, David Welsh became St Alban’s 4th SA Schools’ Cap.

Since then a number of College cricketers have been selected for SA Schools, including Gerald Dros; Deon Kruis; Josh Richards (Captain) (2009); and David Bunn (2010).

 

St Alban’s as a source of Cricket Commentators:

Gerald De Kock (TV and Radio); Deon Kruis (Afrikaans commentary on TV and Radio); Gerald Dros; Alfie Phokobye (Radio); (Gerry van Wyk also received an invite to do a Radio 2000 commentary. (He said it was the best fun he’d had in years …)

The Most Successful Cricketer?

Great names spring to mind: The early SA Schools’ players, Muntingh, Collins and Welsh, and the era of Dros, Martin, van Zyl, Kruis, as well as 10 years later, Mokonyama, all went on to play provincial cricket. More recently, players like Chad van Zyl and Stephen Bendall, Chico Ponella, Ryan Cartwright, Josh Richards, and David Bunn and many others have really raised the bar against the top schools in South Africa and on overseas tours. Unfortunately, school records do not keep track of wicket-keeping or fielding prowess. Josh Richards was outstanding behind the stumps and went on to captain the SA Schools’ side.

David Bunn is the top Cricketer of the last 50 years. In 107 1st team games, he scored 4985 runs, 13 centuries and 26 half-centuries. (In his Form 2 year he scored 99 against Affies, just missing what would have been his first ton, but went on to take 7 for 54 to bowl Affies out!) He averaged above 50 throughout his school career, also taking over 100 wickets at an average of 3.22 runs/over, and 19.69 runs/wicket. He was selected for SA Schools’ and SA Schools’ U19. In addition he has been one of the greatest ambassadors for St Alban’s Cricket.

 

2 Stalwarts of St Alban’s Cricket Gerryvan Wyk and Bob Caple

Gerry van Wyk

In 1984 Gerry was appointed to St Alban’s staff. His cricketing credentials were impeccable: he had matriculated at St Andrew’s (again, the connection with Anton Murray), and was selected for SA Schools’, in 1963, in a year bristling with the talent (the Pollock, Proctor era) that was to herald the golden years of South African Cricket before isolation in which England and Australia were to be soundly beaten. He toured England with the SA Schools’ side – when he returned to England on the 1985 and 1995 St Alban’s tours the boys were amazed to find an SA School’s photograph with Gerry in it hanging in the Wellington College change room – the master-in-charge of cricket at Wellington had played against Gerry. In 1964 he was a tutor (stooge) at St Alban’s.

Gerry had been master-in-charge of Cricket at Bishop’s for over ten years. His deep understanding of the game, his coaching expertise, and his impressive organisational and delegation skills ensured that Cricket at St Alban’s was in good hands for the next 11 years. Gerry’s cricket knowledge is legendary – he could recount facts and discuss characters with the authority of one who had studied the game profoundly and read widely. He was very well known in cricketing circles country-wide and he served on numerous cricket administration committees.

The Private Schools’ Cricket Festival

A major contribution Gerry brought to the College, using the cricketing personnel network he had built up over the years involving all the top cricketing schools, was to institute the hugely successful and popular Private Schools’ Festival at St Alban’s. The selected long-weekend - during the 1st Term Exeat – was ideal for private schools, and St Alban’s, with its plentiful boarding space and 4 top cricket pitches, as well as easy access to fields around Pretoria, was the ideal venue. For the first time we were able to measure our cricketing prowess against the very best Private Schools’ teams from all over South Africa.

The True Spirit of Cricket

A vital and enduring feature was that the games were always played in a festival spirit, without the desperate need not to lose reducing matches to tame draws. In this tradition of true sportsmanship between like-minded cricket enthusiasts, there is no doubt that over the years, the love of Cricket was the winner. Further, the interaction enjoyed by staff and players in the very communal, friendly festival atmosphere created important and often life-long networks and friendships about which sport thrives. Year after year (Private School Cricket Festival has been played every year except one) the after-match get-togethers with genuine appreciation of talent from whichever school as well as much gentle ribbing and good-humoured fun between umpires, managers and coaches permeated down to the boys. It became a prestigious event with invitations much sort after.

Gerry worked successfully with the Cricket Professional, Bob Caple, who became a legend over the next decade and a half. In 1996 he resigned, and sadly, that was the first year in which the Private Schools’ Cricket Festival (what would have been his last) could not be held. Heavy downpours caused the spruit to overflow its banks so that all of Murray field as well as the Oval were under water to a depth of over a meter, depositing silt and rendering them unplayable for the first term.

   

The Pro – Bob Caple

Bob Caple was appointed for the South African cricket season at St Alban’s from 1984. He was Cricket coach at Bedford School in the UK summer and divided the year between the 2 schools. Bob was hard-bitten. He had been a professional English County player in the days when the division between the amateurs (the “gentlemen”) and the working cricket professionals earning their living from the game was marked, and he hated snobbery of any sort. He had had to make his own way in life, not only by playing week in and week out in top County Cricket, but also by working as a groundsman (at Lord’s), and as a coach, in all weathers.

Bob was very down-to-earth. For many years he had been a top spin bowler for          , and a dogged batsman, never giving his wicket away. He demanded a lot of the boys, having little room for sentiment, fear or softness. His oft-repeated mantra: “This game gives you nothing! You have to earn everything you get, and never forget that!” hid his deep love of Cricket. He believed in never missing practice: he believed in the dogged determination the long hours of hard work in the African sun built up in the boys. While he admired talent, and freely coached any boy willing to work, he would not tolerate prima donnas who would not work at their gift.   As a result, St Alban’s Cricket thrived. A much tougher mental attitude was established. The sides he coached were very competitive, and indeed, very successful, even against much bigger, older schools.

It is tempting to use the adjective, “dour” to describe Bob’s temperament. But this is not so: he enjoyed the boys, especially the tough “characters”, and he joked easily with them, provoking them and needling them to never feel sorry for themselves. He loved the South African climate, and his often ironic sense of humour showed itself in many ways.  

Players who made their name in Provincial cricket after school, like Nico Martin, Dan van Zyl, Gerald Dros, Deon Kruis and James Mokonyama remember his contribution with fondness and gratitude. Bob retired in March, 2000, and at a moving ceremony, the Oval Scoreboard was named after him.

In the decade 1985 – 1995, the dearth of cricket coaching in the Prep schools was marked. Only 6 primary school provincial players arrived at St Alban’s: however, in the same decade St Alban’s gained 25 Northern Transvaal Nuffield caps, and 2 SA Schools’ Caps (Gerald Dros and Deon Kruis) – a real tribute to the coaching at St Alban’s.

 

Friday, 15 February 2013 10:02

Cricket: Cricket at St.Alban's Part One

 “I will coach any sport except Cricket,” said Detlef Basel at his interview for a teaching post at St Alban’s back in 1965, blissfully unaware that the headmaster, the legendary Anton Murray, was an ex-Springbok Cricketer. “Cricket is an organised waste of time!” (Despite the blasphemy, he still got the post – St Alban’s needed a Science teacher, but Anton refused to allow him anywhere near a Cricket field.)

St AlbansHe did not need to. St Alban’s has been blessed with long serving Cricket coaches of passion and expertise over the years. These include 1st team coaches Harry Birrell (ex-St Andrew’s, Eastern Province) Patrick Hamilton (Oxford), Paul Davies, Gerry van Wyk (SA Schools 1963), Bob Caple (Cricket Pro and Northamptonshire County Cricketer), Shane Kidwell, Neil Bielby, Barry de Tert, Gerhard Maree (Northerns Cricket Pro), Ryan Anderson-Ogle and Craig Hoyer.

Gerry van Wyk, fresh from coaching at Bishop’s and working with Bob Caple was responsible for creating the Private Schools’ Festival at St Alban’s. It has been held every year (except 1996 when floods damaged the fields) for the past 26 years.

 

SA Cricketing Network

 Cricket has been, if not the most successful sport, certainly the sport that has done most for St Alban’s acceptance into the Ivy League of SA Sport Schools. At the Private Schools Festival, the camaraderie between coaches has been built up over the years and it is wonderful to see old friends meet.

St Alban’s success over the years is not surprising, considering the succession of headmasters who were top cricketers themselves. Anton Murray was a Springbok cricketer, while Paul Marsh (also ex-St Andrew’s, was a provincial cricketer, as was Ronnie Todd, and Grant Nupen had excelled at a high level both at school and at university. (Tom Hamilton, the present headmaster, being Irish, would not have really encountered the game of the English, the Proddy enemy!)

 The Ethos of Cricket

Cricket resonates with all the values private schools hold dear. It is both team and individual; it embraces the values of sportsmanship perhaps more than any other sport; there is dignity in the competitive ethos of the game, and, at least at schoolboy level, there is a sense of thorough control by umpires which suits schoolmasters. It has long traditional connections with the great public schools of the UK. This is a sport not easily mastered, requiring application, dedication and perseverance over long periods of time and a technical expertise that has to be carefully coached and doggedly acquired. Above all, it is a character-building sport. There is time for introspection, time for self-control to be learnt as the player is forced to dig deep into his concentration, and that part of him that determines how he faces up to challenges. And it can be played at all levels with passion and enthusiasm and does not have to take an eternity as the following report from Craig Hoyer shows:  

U14C vs KES

St Alban’s win the toss and confidently elect to bat on a flat track – a potential batting paradise.

The first over produces 10 runs – a great start. However, 10 overs later the U14Cs are all out for 35!

KES are confident, home supporters anxious.

Inspired by their coach, Dave Mukhari, (a Blue Bulls Coach in winter) the undaunted U14Cs go in search of a victory.

1st over: 3 KES wickets for no runs. The game is on! (The home crowd goes mad)

2nd over: KES hit back with 7; (jubilation is dampened)

3rd over : 2 more wickets, and the game is evenly poised at 10 for 5; (but the home crowd is cautiously optimistic).

4th over: Disaster! KES score 15! 25 for 5 (The visitors cheer hoarsely, the home crowd goes silent);

5th over: 3 wickets fall! 25 for 8. A great win in sight! (But the home crowd is nervous)

And then, from the jaws of victory, defeat is snatched – KES score 11 runs in the same 5th over to win by 2 wickets!

Instant Cricket: it all took less than an hour!

 FOR St.Alban's College Cricket Part 2

Kagiso Rabada’s excellent performance during the recent Coca-Cola Khaya Majola Cricket Week earned him a place in the Coca-Cola under 19 national team. He is now frustrating the visiting England under-19 team with both his batting and his bowling.

Monday, 08 October 2012 11:41

Cricket: Gauteng Schools Cricket Teams

Gauteng Cricket trials are over and a very competitive team has been selected to take on the best from around the country in Coke Week 2012.

The 17-year-old King Edward XII (KES) schoolboy Shaylin Pillay is fast making strides in the cricket world.

Thursday, 20 September 2012 10:53

Cricket: Montana Score 655 in 50 overs!

Hoërskool Montana’s second cricket team provided a great deal of excitement during their league match against Hoërskool Akasia.

St. David’s Marist Inanda hosted a highly successful T20 festival which got the ball rolling for the cricket season for most of the school’s who took part.

Director of cricket at St Alban’s College in Pretoria, Craig Hoyer, is 33 years old and was born in 1978 in Durban. He went to Lyndhurst Primary School in New Germany, just outside Durban and then completed his schooling at Selborne College in East London.

Thursday, 17 November 2011 10:44

Cricket: Affies Rise as a Cricket Powerhouse

Coach Deon Botes on Affies’ rise as a cricket powerhouse

The rise of cricket in traditional Afrikaans-speaking schools has been a feature of the development of the noble game in this country for a number of decades, probably having its birth in the late 1970s.

Tuesday, 02 August 2011 11:03

De Kock & Savage Warming Up English Weather

In what has been at times some pretty poor weather for cricket the SA U19 team has enjoyed a great tour so far and several players have shown some great potential. Two of these players are Quinton de Kock and Calvin Savage.

Three teams of Hoërskool Die Wilgers in Pretoria, last week ensured that their school's trophy cabinet is well stocked when they recorded some memorable victories in the Tshwane city cup finals.