It was the last innings for Knights coach Sarel Cilliers yesterday when the Knights took on the Highveld Lions in Potchefstroom, in a Momentum One-Day Cup match. Appropriately, Cilliers ended his 26-year first-class career on the same ground that he started it in 1989. He will be succeeded on an interim basis by former Proteas all-rounder, Nicky Boje, with a permanent appointment to be made in May, 2016.
After beginning his coaching career with the under-17 Free State side, Cilliers served as fitness trainer under Andy Moles from 2000 to 2001 and under Corrie Van Zyl for the Free State side in 2002. Cilliers served as Knights fitness trainer and then later as assistant coach to Corrie Van Zyl from 2003 to 2009. He then took the logical step up the ladder by being appointed Head Coach of the Knights in 2009.
Central Franchise CEO, Johan Van Heerden, commented: ‘It is very sad to say goodbye to Sarel. Thank you for what you did for Free State Cricket Union and the Eagles/Knights. You were a fantastic professional and an example for any professional cricketer.’ Cilliers posted on social media ON Sunday: ‘And so it ends where it all started in ’89, in Potch. Cheers to the wonderful game and all the great people I have played with, worked with and have had the privilege to call cricketing friends. It has been a great ride!!’ Interim coach, Boje, will take charge of the Knights for his first game when they travel to Newlands to take on the Warriors in the first Ram Slam T20 Challenge match of the season.
As a cricketer, Boje played 43 Tests and 115 One-Day Internationals as an all-rounder for South Africa between 1995 and 2006. He had match-winning analyses in both India and Sri Lanka to finally established him as the Test number one spin bowler in 2000/01. He had a big role to play in the final Test of the New Zealand tour of 2003/04, when his eight-wicket haul helped South Africa to a series-levelling win.
He finished his international career with 100 Test wickets. He went on to play in the Indian Champions League and in 2008 was appointed captain of Northamptonshire. In that season, he recorded his highest ever first-class cricket score of 226*. He returned to the Knights from 2010/11 until 2013/14 and continued his passion for cricket when he was appointed as head coach for the Free State Cricket Union Academy in 2014.
Boje will fulfil his role as head coach for the Knights until the end of April 2016, with the new permanent appointment effective from May 2016. He says: ‘I am looking forward to this challenge, working with a young and talented group of players.’ Van Heerden says: ‘Nicky had played the game at all levels, understands the challenges of an international cricketer and could bring a wealth of knowledge to the young cricketers still developing their game. We trust Nicky will enjoy the challenge.’