The Devon Cricket Under 15s squad returned to South Africa for the first time since the pandemic struck to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the tour earlier this year. Tour coach, Matt Cooke, looks back on the landmark fortnight:

This year’s touring party returned as one of the most successful of all time, returning with five wins, one draw and one loss; a great team effort all around! However, this tour isn’t simply about the cricket, it is about the great experience they get off the field and the team culture they set between themselves that will hopefully stand them in good stead for their Under-16 and 18 seasons, respectively. The boys were truly a credit to themselves and their parents throughout the entire trip, both on and off the field.

Having been down on five previous tours we have always flown direct into Johannesburg from London Heathrow. This time, however, the boys were thrown in the deep end with 30 hours of door-to-door travelling to reach our destination in Skukuza (normally we would be closer to the 20hrs mark!). Likewise on the way home: flying from Cape Town up to Dubai and then from Dubai back to London Heathrow, followed by a three-hour bus journey from Heathrow back down to Devon!

Onto the tour itself and Devon managed to retain the Battle of the Kruger Trophy, beating Nelspruit Hoerksool. We then went on to beat the Johann Rudolph Academy up in the Kruger, which was a great start to the trip. Moving on down into the Cape we knew there were more difficult challenges to come. 

The first of these was against the Gary Kirsten Academy, which was both teams' first opportunity ever to play under the floodlights. Devon, unfortunately, went on to lose this game, however, this was a great eye-opening experience for the lads. Playing against a team made up fully of African lads predominantly from the townships around Cape Town was certainly an experience that none of these lads had previously had. The improvements that were seen within the GK Academy were very noticeable from previous trips. It was clear the hard work that these lads have put in, plus greater exposure to coaching on a regular basis, was really bearing fruits for them. Devon posted a competitive 196 and this was chased down with a couple of overs to spare with one of the GK Academy players going on to make 100. One notable mention in this game was the partnership between Seb Linnitt and James Theedom, which surpassed 100 runs, with Seb going on to be 97-not-out, the highest score of the trip.

The next outing for the boys with a 50-over match versus a Western Province U16 select XI at Somerset West, a ground Devon have never played at before. Unfortunately, some of our Devon weather followed us down to Cape Town as the heavens opened and we lost about one and a half hours of play. Despite this delay, Devon's batting effort was one of our better innings of the trip, getting a healthy 175 for five and then response bowling the Western Province team out for 122. A notable mention to Toby Holroyd, who made a fine 65 towards the end of the innings to get Devon to a very competitive total. On the polling front, wickets were shared around across the board with two apiece for Connor McCann, Will Edwards, Seb Linnitt and Charlie Gaywood leading the wicket-takers with 3 for 26 off his 7 overs.


Heading into the business end of the tour Devon headed to the vineyard Oval to play against yet another Western Province Challenge XI in the traditional two-day fixture at this ground. Unfortunately, the weather yet again followed us as we were washed out on day two after two overs being bowled, meaning that a draw was the only result available in the end. Nevertheless, the game was set up beautifully after day one with Devon doing well to restrict a strong WP side to 197 all-out. The western province team had several older members which made the challenge a tough one for the lads. The Devon first innings was nicely poised to get parity with the WP team at 174-7 when the heavens opened on day two. A special mention to James Theedom, who guided the touring side's innings along with a well-crafted 60-not-out.

The final outing of the trip was to the beautiful Rondebosch Cricket Club, a stunning venue and an amazing backdrop for the last game of the tour. The Western Province team won the toss and batted first, however, it was some consistent bowling across the board from the Devon attack which successfully bowled out, a rather gung-ho Province team for 144. In response to this score, Devon rather made hard work of chasing down the total, with old habits creeping back into the team's batting display. Nevertheless, skipper Freddie Bucknall saw the team over the line with a well-made 21-not-out when the pressure was on.

No doubt the lads will come back as more well-rounded cricketers. However, it’s the off-field life experiences that this tour really develops the most. The boys experienced the traditional African bush environment in the Kruger, marvelling at the wonders of the magnificent wildlife but also gaining an appreciation of the dangers of the animals, and the risks and threats they face with poaching. Down in Cape Town, the multicultural nature and magnificently diverse environment were eye-opening for us all. The boys managed to complete all of the usual tourist trail around Cape Town, including Table Mountain and visiting the District Six museum. 

Matt Cooke presents Frik Rossouw with a 20th anniversary commemorative shirt.This trip would never happen without the fantastic connections and relationships that have been built up over the last 20 years. In the Kruger, Frik Rossouw and his wife Petro are quite extraordinary, they treat us and the boys as if we are their family and they bend over backwards to help us year-on-year.  We are truly grateful for the help and support; this trip would be nowhere near the experience for us all without them. Thanks, should also go to Johan Rudolph for organising the cricket games in the Kruger.

Cape Town is slightly different as we deal with professional members of staff from the Western Province Cricket Association. The support we get from Clinton Du Preez and Camillah Adams is absolutely first-class. They couldn’t have done any more to ensure that the boys have a great experience in Cape Town. A special mention should also go out to Shaheem Taliep, who organised all our transport in Cape Town and also acted as the chef at the end of tour Braai!

Some of the squad on Table Mountain.

These trips do not happen without the support of several key sponsors who heavily support the tour year-on-year. Mentions go out to Travis Perkins Building Supplies, Michael Spiers Jewellers, James Pryce Tractors, Exeter School and Blundell's School for their long-standing support of the trip. We have also been heavily supported by the David Shepherd Cricket Trust, which has helped fund boys who find financing the trip a challenge. We are truly grateful for all their support and would like to extend a special thank you to all of them. 

Normally, this is an annual trip run in February. However, with the fallout from the Covid pandemic, we moved this year’s trip to October, which means that we have only a four-month turnaround until our next trip in February 2023, before returning to the normal cycle of annual trips.

As alluded to above, sponsors for this trip are a vital part of making the tour viable for a number of our tourists. Due to current rates of inflation, we have had to increase the cost of the trip to £3,250 per person. We appreciate that, in the current climate, this is a vast sum of money for a lot of people.

The original tour organiser, Alan Swift, always had a mantra that no boy should miss out on the trip due to the financial implications of it. To this day, Matt Theedom and I are adamant that we want to continue with that mantra and make sure that there is no financial barrier to playing cricket for Devon.

To help aid this process we have put a number of options in place which we hope can raise significant income on an annual basis to help keep costs down and support parents who are finding the £3,250 a barrier to coming:

SA Tour Just Giving Page

We have created a Just Giving page with a target of £1,000 annually, for people who would like to donate, either anonymously or named, towards the tour.

Auction of Promises

We have several auction items that have already been donated to us, including signed shirts, a golf day out and tickets to cricket events next summer.

However, we are looking at reaching out to the wider Devon Cricket audience to find out if anyone is willing to donate towards our auction of promises. The deadline for donations is the 10th of December and we will be running the auction live from the 15th of December through to the 15th of January.

Any items big or small that you believe could help raise income for the tour are greatly appreciated and can be donated by contacting Matt Cooke on 07805 553110 or via

Past Tourist Legacy

We would also like to reach out to all previous tourists over the last 20 years. If you have been on the tour, you understand what a great event it is and how memorable the experience can be, and we would like to hear from you.

We are looking to set up a legacy donation, where previous tourists donate £10 a year to help towards funding the tour. If you are interested in setting up a legacy donation, please contact Matt Cooke on 07805 553110 or via

Corporate Sponsorship

There are numerous opportunities for corporate sponsors to support the tour on an annual basis. Sponsorship starts from as little as £250 for a quarter-page advert in the Tour Brochure, all the way up to Platinum Level at £3,000 annually, which includes adverts in the Tour Brochure, social media coverage and advertising on the tour playing and training kit.

Please contact Matt Cooke today (07805 553110 or if this is of interest to you and your business and see the image below to find out more about the opportunities available.