There are a few shrewd picks in South Africa for a Fantasy Jockey League
Piere Strydom may be older than the rest but he's too good to ignore.
Future Swing with jockey Richard Fourie. Picture: Yolanda Saayman/Gallo Images
You’ve gotta love Fantasy Premier League (FPL) football.
On most weekends, except for those horrendous international windows in which I can’t bring myself to watch the likes of England take on Malta at Wembley, our would-be managerial skills, soccer smarts are put to the test.
I have been running an Invitational Fantasy League for a couple of years now and this season’s @Cafe_BettorSport league has nearly 200 entrants fixing to out-fox each other over the marathon trip that is the English Premier League season.
The majority of participants have entered our league organically through my public profile on SuperSport and Clocking the Gallop but many of the players are having so much fun I might very well market the league to a wider audience next year to include the likes of SuperPicks players across the continent.
But that is for August 2024, right now we are once again all chasing that serial-FPL-top-performer Justin Vermaak. Justin’s game-pedigree is astounding; in the 2019/2020 Fantasy Premier League season Justin amassed 2 475 points and finished second in South Africa and a staggering 106th in the world.
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My FPL squad “Kneels Knights” is currently 89 points behind his “Hendo Shufflers” but I do have a potential prize-fighter in my corner.
It’s not impossible that Team Vermaak’s newest recruit, a Labrador puppy who goes by the name of Rocky, chews Justin’s WiFi router and knocks out the internet signal while he’s trying to save his FPL team changes before cut-off.
All this FPL talk got me thinking. What would a Fantasy Jockey League (FJL) look like in South Africa?
Imagine if local punters had to buy their squad of five jockeys from a given budget of say R10 million.
Every weekend you would pick your team of four jockeys based on their weekend mounts. As with the FPL model, the ‘benched’ rider would be there as back-up in case one of your team was medically indisposed or the dreaded excuse of flight complications reared it’s ugly head.
Naturally enough you’d get to captain a team member who would then glean double points over that weekend but there would also be opportunities during the season to Bench Boost, Triple Captain, Free Hit and to play a Wildcard.
In such a scenario you can bet on the fact that Richard Fourie would be the most expensive purchase – if he were benchmarked at around R4 million he would be most people’s Erling Haaland.
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On the assumption that the likes of Muzi Yeni, Gavin Lerena, Calvin Habib, Craig Zackey and S’manga Khumalo would all be valued somewhere between R2.8 and R3.2 million, they would most likely be juggled by fantasy league managers to fulfill the roles of Mo Salah, Son Heung-Min, Bukayo Saka, Ollie Watkins and Julian Alvarez.
What interests me most though is who would you look to purchase for your FJL squad to play the all important differential role.
Budget limitation would inhibit you buying three of the top five jockeys. Likewise you wouldn’t be able to fund five of the top 15 jockeys so you’d have to find a couple of shrewdies who you’d gamble on proving value for money purchases.
Of course this would depend on how all the jockey’s were benchmarked. One man’s Trent Alexander-Arnold might be another man’s Kieran Trippier.
That said I reckon we all have our opinion on jockeys. After all, as the famous saying goes (and I am going to put this politely); “opinions are like bottoms, everybody’s got one”. As such every single FJL manager will back themselves to find jockeys whose talent they believe under-the-radar and who will deliver them a handsome return on investment. Some will consider other riders overpriced.
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Personally, if I were seeking to unearth differential jockeys for my ‘Kneel’s Knights’ FJL squad, I would be checking the purchase price of a couple of riders.
I really like Philasande Mxoli. He would definitely make my team. With 29 winners already this season, he is as high as 12th on the National Jockey’s Log and returns a win/place percentage of 61.29.
I would have a good look at some other personal favourites who have done me a few punting turns and who are more than capable of producing the goods when given a chance – the likes of Robert Khathi, Corne Orffer, Keanen Steyn and Kobeli Lihaba, who I think is well worth his apprentice claim.
Finally, even though some might argue it would be akin to trying to resurrect past glories by bringing back 57-year-old Eric Cantona to Old Trafford, I would still try and find a place in my squad for Piere Strydom.
The man might be of the same vintage as “Ooh Aah Cantona” but his current win strike-rate of 17.65% is too good to ignore and as long as he has See It Again to partner I wouldn’t like him riding for my Fantasy Jockey League opposition.