Heinz Schenk
4 minute read
26 Feb 2019
7:40 pm

Five Kolpak defections that hurt the Proteas

Heinz Schenk

The controversial rule has gone from merely taking away valuable domestic experience to actively draining the Proteas' player pool.

Hampshire bowler Kyle Abbott in action during the NatWest T20 Blast match between Glamorgan and Hampshire at SWALEC Stadium on July 7, 2017 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Duanne Olivier’s unexpected announcement that he’s ditching the Proteas for a Kolpak contract with English county Yorkshire was another stake to South African cricket’s heart.

Yet it’s hardly the first and last time this issue will rear its head.

In fact, the 26-year-old quick is the 41st South African player to take up a Kolpak deal since 2004 – a pretty incredible stat.

ALSO READ: Another Kolpak shock for the Proteas

Not all of these signings have necessarily been damaging to the local game, but it’s disconcerting that the trend is changing.

More players in their prime are leaving.

Here’s a list of South Africa’s biggest Kolpak defections.


Many were sympathetic of the now 31-year-old seamer’s plight when he joined Hampshire in early 2017.

Despite taking a magnificent 7/29 on Test debut in 2013, Abbott only played 11 Tests and was one of the victims of the selection debacle in the 2015 World Cup semifinal, where administrative interference saw him dropped in favour of Vernon Philander.

He played more regularly after that, but had made a commitment to the county before those opportunities came.

Given how long it took for Dale Steyn to make his comeback, Abbott could’ve been a vital cog in the national attack, especially in the ODI team – where the Proteas could’ve used his intelligent bowling at the 2017 Champions Trophy.


Rilee Rossouw of Hampshire in action during the Royal London One-Day Cup Final match between Kent and Hampshire at Lord’s Cricket Ground on June 30, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

He was Man-of-the-Series in his final ODI series as an international player – 311 runs at an average of 78 against the Aussies.

His overall average had risen to 38 after five ducks in his first 10 international innings.

The attacking left-hander was on the cusp of fulfilling his potential.

Yet, unlike Abbott, there was bad blood with this move.

Then national coach Russell Domingo made no secret of his displeasure, accusing Rossouw of a lack of communication and also – if you read between the lines – a lack of respect.

Nonetheless, Rossouw is now particularly being missed in the Proteas’ AB-less era given his quick run-scoring ability.


Essex bowler Simon Harmer in action during day one of the Specsavers County Championship Division One match between Warwickshire and Essex at Edgbaston on September 12, 2017 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Nobody is denying how well Keshav Maharaj has grabbed his chance at Test level as the Proteas’ first-choice spinner.

Yet there’s precious little backup.

Harmer was summarily dropped after South Africa’s disastrous Test series against India in 2015 despite very respectable numbers (20 wickets at 29.4).

Opportunities at SA ‘A’ level even became scarce and the off-spinner decided to go to Essex.

His impact has been dramatic.

In 2017, he took 72 first-class wickets and 57 last year.

Don’t forget that his batting average is a useful 24.


Colin Ingram of the Adelaide Strikers bats during the Big Bash League match between the Adelaide Strikers and the Hobart Hurricanes at Adelaide Oval on January 21, 2019 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

The compact left-hander is an interesting case.

There’s an argument to be made that he didn’t quite take his chances at international level, especially after becoming the first South African to score a ODI century on debut.

That said, batsmen generally take a bit longer to mature than bowlers and it’s that view that makes one wonder whether the Proteas missed out on his best years.

Since joining Glamorgan in 2014, Ingram has matured into a particularly commanding white-ball batsman and is becoming a hit on the world T20 circuit.

His experience is an asset the national side could’ve utilised as other stalwarts reach the end of their careers.


Stiaan van Zyl of Sussex plays a shot during the Royal London One-Day Cup match at The 1st Central County Ground on May 7, 2017 in Hove, England. (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

Elegance personified, the former Cobras left-hander was badly managed at international level.

He stroked his way to a fine Test century on debut against the West Indies, but wasn’t afforded the opportunity to cement a place in favoured position in the middle-order.

That was understandable as men like Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis were present.

Yet rather than making him a lower middle-order anchor, Van Zyl was later picked as an opener and it eroded his confidence badly.

He went to Sussex at a good time in his career and made over a 1000 runs in his first first-class season there.

In the wilderness at the Cobras last season, he belatedly was called up due to an injury crisis and promptly scored 540 runs in just eight innings at an average of 90.

Much like Ingram, one wonder whether his newfound maturity could help the Proteas’ transition once their golden generation retires.

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