BIG things are happening in little Oudtshoorn. And if the optimism of South Western Districts cricket coach Garry Hampson is anything to go by, the town's Recreational Ground is set to become an even bigger fortress for SWD this season.
SWD begin their Cricket South Africa first-class campaign against Gauteng in Johannesburg on Thursday, and while the away fixture is a daunting one, Hampson is confident his squad are well equipped to challenge the bigger unions.
The team surprised many in the three-day format by finishing fourth last season. "Our team is pretty much the same as last year, except for the addition of fast-medium paceman Lonwabo Rodolo from Griquas. We are hoping he will provide great back-up for Marcello Piedt, who bagged 59 wickets for us last season," Hampson said.
He said the fact that many quality players were coming through the SWD Academy would assist in the quest for silverware this season.
"We have been very fortunate to get Andre du Plessis from EP, who is a quality coach and really helps the youngsters at the academy," he said.
While depth of the squad, particularly towards the end of the season, is a challenge for a small union like SWD, the former Titans player believes there are certain factors that also work in their favour.
"We are always going to be difficult to beat at home because of the incredible heat you get in Oudtshoorn. Our wicket is also very different to those in other parts of the country, in that it is much slower."
One area in which SWD would like to improve this season is the limited overs formats, where they finished in the bottom half of the table. "We were not consistent enough last season, so that is something we will be working on.
"Our strength is in the first-class competition, but we would like to get some silverware in at least one of these formats."