• The rise of De Bruyn

    As befitting an accountancy student, Theunis de Bruyn knows the importance of numbers, writes MARK SALTER.

    And he is doing the maths when it comes to getting into the national selectors’ books with a series of superb performances for the Titans as they prepare to resume their assault on the Momentum One Day Cup later in January.

    After the break for the domestic Twenty20 jamboree and the festive season, the Titans sit in a precarious fourth position on the One-Day series table, but it was not for the want of trying on the part of the Pretoria University student.

    He burst into the limelight by racking up 349 runs in his first five List A matches, hammering 108 in his debut appearance, just two days after his 22nd birthday, and following that with a best of 152 not out. He now stands as third top-scorer in the series, behind the seasoned Cobras opener Andrew Puttick (394 runs) and the Dolphins No 1 Morne van Wyk (353).

    His run, and the Titans’ position, could have been better if not for being bowled for eight on the Willowmoore pitch, which was so dodgy the match was abandoned with the Knights handed a free four points.

    Still, never daunted, he returned with a top score of 60 to trounce the Cobras, and followed that with an unbeaten 152 to see off  the Warriors with a dazzling array of shots.

    His performances have brought high praise from his skipper Henry Davids, who said: ‘He’s got so much pure talent, and he’s able to score all around the wicket. He’s very mature for his age.’

    His is a story of unqualified determination, literally and figuratively. His sudden elevation into the senior ranks of the Titans has put his accountancy degree on the backburner. Now he hopes, as a professional cricketer, to use his down time between matches to complete his academic qualifications through Unisa.

    This time last year, pro cricket wasn’t on the agenda, but as he told SportsClub: ‘Playing cricket is all I wanted to do; it was a dream come true. And you have to pursue your dreams; otherwise, what’s the point of dreaming?’

    He has the pedigree, having hit the headlines as an outstanding schoolboy at Menlopark after being named Player of the Tournament at the U17 Week in Grahamstown in 2010, where one of his cameos was a 269 for Northerns against Free State.

    He carried that through to the South Africa U19 stage, playing a major role alongside one Quinton de Kock in a team which came third in the ICC World Cup in Australia in 2012. His innings included a 63 against Bangladesh and a fifty which crushed England in the quarter-finals. The student finished among the top five in the batting averages, ahead of established first-class stars like Gihahn Cloete and Lizaad Williams.

    Injuries curtailed his learning curve in 2012 and 2013, during which time he had to have a hip operation, a result of his desire to emulate his hero Jacques Kallis and become a true all-rounder. He took to seam bowling late in life, having been a more sedate off-spinner for most of his school career. But it meant remodelling his action and that aspect of his game is taking a while to return.

    ‘That is what I really want to be: a top-order batsman who can take a few wickets. But after that op, I am really going to have to work on the bowling in the off-season. I’m never going to be quick, but I reckon I could be useful when I get it right, bowling at around 130-135[kph].’

    This energetic sport fanatic played his first T20 for the Titans last season even before he was selected for the Northerns amateur side, and after just four matches in the CSA three-day series, he was promoted up to the top tier, marking his debut with a sparkling 79 against the Warriors while opening the batting

    In the words of  Titans coach Rob Walters: ‘It’s not difficult to notice that the guy can play. It became a case of creating an opportunity for him to play. In pre-season he scored a hundred against the Knights and then two weeks later he scored 95 in our second four-day game. Then he hit a hundred in the one-day warm-up.

    ‘He was quite obviously in a rich vein of form and can cope with the stresses of playing at this level. It was about making a call on creating the opportunity.’

    It was here he showed his amazing maturity, seizing that opportunity with both hands.

    In the opening T20 match De Bruyn hit 53 off 37 balls, including two fours and three sixes, and helped the Titans to a semi-final encounter against the Dolphins.

    In the meantime, however, De Bruyn was shining like a lighthouse in the more prosaic atmosphere of university cricket, leading Tuks to the Campus Cricket World Finals – the World Cup of university cricket – in London in July. There he captained the team with authority and example, being named Player of the Series. But he is humble enough to recognise the input of his coach Pierre de Bruyn, who put the muscle on the schoolboy frame of his career.

    ‘We have a really close relationship,’ said De Bruyn of his coach. ‘He is such an honest guy, and one you can trust completely. He brings 15 years of first-class experience and he really taught me so much about my game,’ he said. ‘He’s introduced a culture where young people can really learn and how to be successful at higher levels. Not just me, but so many others have benefited; players like Corbin Bosch, Aiden Markram, Ruben Claassen …’

    The tall, strapping right-hander was a willing and able pupil, judging by his early success. He is also a purist, preferring the first-class game to T20.

    ‘Look, I enjoy playing T20. It is nice to play. It is physically demanding and exciting; but if I were given the choice of scoring a hundred in a T20, or in a Test … there’s no contest.’

    But when it comes to dreaming that far, the accountant looks at the bottom line in a more pragmatic way: ‘My ambition now is to help the Titans regain their reputation as the No 1 franchise in the country, like they used to be. We are in a rebuilding phase, and being one of the junior guys in the setup, I am just grateful to be part of it.’

    De Bruyn has shown he has a head for numbers; now, as he soars up the ranks, he must show he has a head for heights.

    This feature appears in the January issue of SportsClub Monthly.

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