Justin Ontong has been praised after his appointment as the new fielding coach of the South African national side.
“This is a chance of a lifetime, an early Christmas present, and I had to grab it with both hands,” Ontong said.
The former SA T20 captain and ex-Cape Cobras skipper was named amongst the management staff of the national coach, Ottis Gibson, on Thursday. He will start as fielding coach on December 16.
Few players domestically have been as successful as Ontong.
He has compiled 11 933 runs at an average of 41.87 at first-class level in 20 years while also capturing 136 wickets.
The 37-year-old has scored the bulk of his first-class runs for the Cape Cobras, Boland and Western Province. He also represented South Africa in two Tests and 28 One Day Internationals.
He wore the armband as Cape Cobras skipper during an all-conquering period when the Cobras won all the trophies on offer, while also sharing the spoils in the Momentum One Day Cup competition.
“It is an enormous blessing to be back in the Proteas fold, although it is in a coaching capacity,” Ontong said.
“We boast very good athletes in the Proteas team and it is a good challenge to work with their skills. I intend to test them in different ways in the field (to boost their levels).”
Nabeal Dien, chief executive officer of the Cape Cobras, said the franchise released Ontong from his domestic contract from December 15 in the best interests of South African cricket.
“One of his greatest moments came when he hammered 927 runs in the 2013/2014 season for the Cape Cobras.”
Boland Cricket president Angelo Carolissen agreed.
“It is memorable moment that one of our stars in the Boland and former South African player receives an international call-up to manage the coaching of the fielders,” he said.
“He was one of the more versatile fielders that the Proteas produced – in the slip cordon, at cover or when patrolling the boundary area.
“Justin is one of the golden stars of Boland and we believe he will add value to the fielding unit of South Africa and lift them to another level.”
Beresford Williams, president of the Western Province Cricket Association, said Ontong is an iconic player whose outstanding service contributed to an era of domestic dominance by the Cape Cobras.
“His leadership and all-round skills, especially his batting at number four, were invaluable to the success of the franchise,” he said.