• Viljoen ponders move abroad

    Fast bowler Hardus Viljoen is finding himself in the middle of a tug-of-war between the Lions franchise and New Zealand cricket team Central Districts.

    Viljoen is considering leaving South Africa and continuing his career with the Central Districts, but the Lions are fighting to keep him, reports ESPNCricinfo.com.

    ‘We are aware that he has been talking to the Stags but we are in the process of firming up his contract for next season. As things stand now, we believe he will commit to us,’ said Greg Fredericks, Lions CEO.

    Former South African fast bowler Fanie de Villiers is facilitating the talks between Viljoen and Central Districts, whose head coach Heinrich Malan played in South Africa. De Villiers told The Citizen newspaper that he believed Viljoen will have better opportunities in New Zealand.

    ‘Patriotism is out the door,’ De Villiers 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 a very good fast bowler who can bowl at 150kmph and he will be sought after in New Zealand and Australia.’

    Viljoen was second on the Sunfoil Series bowling charts last season, with 39 wickets at 20.43 in just seven matches. He was sixth the season before that (2013-14), with 33 wickets at 30.51 and eighth in the 2012-13 summer with 31 wickets at 21.51.

    In total, Viljoen has claimed 274 first-class wickets in 70 matches at an average of 26.27.

    He is known for his aggression and pace, and played for the South African A side last year in two unofficial Tests against Australia A, which suggests that Viljoen is on the radar of the national selectors.

    It seems as if Viljoen wants to move not necessarily because of a lack of opportunities, but because of the better money that is on offer in New Zealand.

    ‘It’s about what we can offer him,’ Fredericks said, while even De Villiers said ensuring proper remuneration was the main motivator for Viljoen seeking the move. He is also eyeing county cricket for the same reason.

    Viljoen is 26 years old, but will be 31 by the time he qualifies to play for New Zealand.

    The Lions understand Viljoen’s value and have given an assurance that they will compensate him as well as they can.

    ‘We know he is important to us, especially now that we have lost Chris Morris to the Titans and we are negotiating with him,’ Fredericks said.

    Should Viljoen leave, he will follow a string of other former South Africans to New Zealand like Grant Elliot, Kruger van Wyk and Neil Wagner.