CAPE TOWN – “Who is the only Proteas Test cricketer to win a silver medal at the Olympics?”
It is a quiz question that would stump even the most ardent of sports fans, with possibly not many knowing South Africa’s long-time javelin champion and former Proteas’ Women’s all-rounder Sunette Viljoen played a solitary Test against India in 2002.
Current Proteas all-rounder Nadine de Klerk seems to be following a similar career path. De Klerk was also an ace javelin thrower in her youth before being selected for the Proteas at only 17 years old – just like Viljoen.
“(Javelin) was something I had a passion for and it was the way I wanted to go with my career, but sometimes life throws you a bit of a curve ball and it doesn’t turn out the way you think it will,” De Klerk said.
“(Playing for South Africa) happened quite suddenly, I didn’t expect it to happen at all, I was very much into athletics and only played cricket for fun and missed a lot of games and tours for athletics, so I didn’t take it seriously.
“But I got a call-up to the national team so I had to make a decision whether I would go with athletics and cricket, and I chose cricket. I’m not regretting anything as far as cricket is concerned because I love this game and representing my country.”
The climate for women cricketers is, however, vastly different to 20 years ago though. Despite Covid-19 stemming the momentum that has been built up, the Proteas are now elite athletes that are contracted to Cricket SA and there are further opportunities of playing in franchise T20 leagues all around the world.
De Klerk is certainly riding the cusp of the wave. After starring in South Africa’s ill-fated T20 World Cup semi-final with the excellent figures of 3/19 earlier this year, the 20-year-old has been signed up by the Brisbane Heat for the upcoming Australian Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL).
She will join a growing list of Proteas’ parading their skills Down Under. SA Women’s Cricketer of the Year Laura Wolvaardt will turn out for the Adelaide Strikers, while captain Dane van Niekerk and Marizanne Kapp are seasoned Sydney Sixers veterans.
Opener Lizelle Lee will also be in Australia after recently moving across town from the Melbourne Stars to the Melbourne Renegades.
Fast bowler Shabim Ismail is back at the Sydney Thunder, all-rounder Chloe Tryon is with the Hobart Hurricanes and Mignon du Preez at the Melbourne Stars.
“I’m pretty excited, it’s always been a dream and that’s what you work for,” De Klerk said. “It’s a really great opportunity and I’m really excited to play against some of my teammates and alongside some legends.
“Earlier this year was my first time in Australia but I loved every bit of it and there’s no better tournament than the WBBL. Hopefully I can perform well for the Heat.”
The Brisbane Heat deal has certainly off-set some of the disappointment of the Proteas Women’s team not being allowed to travel to the United Kingdom for a bilateral series against England due to lockdown regulations.
De Klerk, along with her fellow Proteas teammates, will be able to fulfil their WBBL commitments after Cricket SA provided clarification on the travel arrangements pertaining to individuals earlier this week.
“Everyone is eager to get out on the park, four months is a long time and we haven’t played any competitive cricket in some time,” De Klerk said.
“It’s a really great opportunity to get a chance in the Big Bash with the England tour being cancelled, it’s good to get some competitive cricket in before the end of the year.”
The WBBL season is scheduled to begin on October 17.