In Theunis de Bruyn they have a real four-in-one cricketer: powerful top-order batsman, a pace bowler who has shone with the new ball, a fine fielder and a thoughtful, astute captain who undoubtedly holds the respect of his team.
In the three matches against the Steinhoff Maties, De Bruyn scored a total of 83 runs off 68 balls as well as taking wickets up front in the first two games.
Having already shone in four-day domestic cricket for the Titans, there’s no doubt the 21-year-old is going to be a key player in England when Tukkies take on the other seven champion universities in the Red Bull Campus Cricket World Finals.
“It’s been a very exciting competition and beating Maties is like the first step for us. Our main goal is putting in a massive performance in England. I think we’ve only been playing to 60-70% of our capability in these matches.”
“But all the accolades must go to our head coach, Pierre de Bruyn. He’s brought 15 years of experience in first-class cricket and he’s introduced a culture where young people can really learn their game and how to be successful at higher levels. It’s a very professional environment here and that’s why our players are able to excel when they go up to first-class level,” De Bruyn says.
De Bruyn is one of those who has donned senior provincial colours this season and he made an impressive, immediate impact with the Titans, scoring 53 not out and 23 in the T20 Challenge and 79 and 35 on an assured Sunfoil Series four-day debut.
“I made my Titans debut before I’d even played for the amateur Northerns side, which doesn’t happen a lot. It was obviously all a new experience with the match being on TV, but the coach’s words [Pierre de Bruyn’s] were still in my ears and I was happy with my debut.
“It’s been a productive season and I’ve learnt a lot about my game, as well as being exposed to other cricketers who have played for a long time, like AB de Villiers and Morne Morkel. It’s been a good season,” Theunis de Bruyn says.
The third-year BCom Accounting student is also easing his way back into a full bowling role and he sees a future as being a Jacques Kallis-type player who can bat in the top-order and bowl seam.
“Jacques Kallis is the best cricketer ever for me, and maybe in a few years I’ll be able to fulfill a role as a fourth seamer and top-order batsman, that would be ideal. I had to have a hip operation a year ago, so my bowling’s still a bit raw coming back from that injury … ” De Bruyn says.
Coach De Bruyn was no doubt in his ear about converting that 79 for the Titans into a century, and Theunis de Bruyn says he is still getting used to opening the batting, having previously come in at number three or four.
“It’s new for me to be opening the batting, but I’ve learnt a lot about my game this season. You’re up against the new ball, against the best bowlers when the pitch is still fresh,” De Bruyn says.
While the tall Menlo Park product finds T20 cricket as the most physically demanding format of the game, he says four-day cricket is like scaling a crag inch by inch.
“In T20 cricket you have to think a lot and you sweat the most, but the longer format is really mentally draining. You’ll get a bad ball in maybe only the fourth over, while in club cricket you get two an over.
“But I like the mental challenge and the longer format is my favourite. That being said, T20 brings more aspects to grow your game, like learning to reverse-sweep,” De Bruyn says.
While De Bruyn’s favourite cricketer might be Kallis, his batting is more like that of another of his heroes, former Australian great Matthew Hayden.
His aggressive, positive approach has had the Maties bowlers fighting rearguard actions in all three matches; there might not be much particularly arty about his batting, but man does he hit the ball hard!
While the fizz and intensity out on the field is a pivotal part of Tukkies’ success, so too is the calm, assured leadership of De Bruyn.