Hardus Viljoen has just come off another outstanding season for the Highveld Lions, playing a key role in their Sunfoil Series title with 39 wickets at an average of 20.43, but De Villiers told The Citizen on Wednesday that the 26-year-old would be travelling to New Zealand next week for talks with one of their franchises.
Although Viljoen has not yet played for the national side, he is definitely in the selectors’ thoughts, having played nine games, in both four-day and 50-over cricket, for representative A teams. The strong fast bowler has taken 103 wickets, more than any other bowler, in the last three Sunfoil Series seasons at a superb average of 23.95.
“Patriotism is out the door,” De Villiers, who described himself as “a close family friend who has advised Hardus since he was in Standard 8,” said. “He’s been the leading wicket-taker over the last few seasons but he hasn’t played for South Africa because of the dynamics of the team. Hardus is a very strong and very good fast bowler who can bowl at 150 km/h and he will be sought after in New Zealand and Australia.
“So on April 22 we are meeting one of the New Zealand franchises to see what they offer, which is why Hardus is the only player not to have signed his new Lions contract yet,” De Villiers said.
De Villiers added that the move was not to do with quotas but was rather designed to ensure Viljoen was remunerated properly for his ability, with English County Cricket a key target.
“Because of the new quotas, a lot of players will look elsewhere, but Hardus is already in the system and could play for any franchise. But he’s playing in the shadow of others and should have played for South Africa already. There are two fantastic fast bowlers at the top in the Proteas, but there’s no way some of the others who have played are better than Hardus.
“He can’t qualify to play County Cricket, where you get your revenue from, unless he has played for South Africa, and Kyle Abbott, Marchant de Lange and Chris Morris are all ahead of him in line, I know how the selectors operate. So we have an appointment in New Zealand, where he can get serious opportunity with the new ball and qualify for them in four years’ time, when he is 30, and then play County Cricket and earn a million rand a year,” De Villiers said.
While Viljoen’s benefactor stressed that the fast bowler could not afford to wait an iota longer for selection to the Proteas, De Villiers’ own bitterness towards the South African cricket system could now negatively affect a tremendous talent who has just really begun to blossom within the brilliant Lions bowling attack.