Ken Borland

By Ken Borland


SA20: The bargain buys who delivered great value in first season

Right at the top of that list has to be veteran Roelof van der Merwe, who champions Sunrisers Eastern Cape bought for just R175,000 in the ninth round of bidding.

While some SA20 team owners will look back with righteous indignation at the returns they received for the big money they splashed out on certain players, there were also some fabulous bargain buys who came through and delivered great value for their franchises in the inaugural season of the new league.

While it ended up being difficult to justify the millions spent on some pre-bought players who barely featured, young tyros who ended up being paid nearly R50,000 a run, a Protea who cost more than R100,000 per run or assembling the most expensive attack possible only to finish last as MI Cape Town did, there were some incredible returns on investment.

Roelof van der Merwe

Right at the top of that list has to be veteran Roelof van der Merwe, who champions Sunrisers Eastern Cape bought for just R175,000 in the ninth round of bidding.

Not only did the left-arm spinner end up as the joint leading wicket-taker in the competition, he produced a man-of-the-match display in the final and his fighting spirit was hailed by captain Aiden Markram as turning their season around.

Read more: How the Sunrisers shocked Capitals to win SA20 title

No-one would have quibbled if Van der Merwe, instead of Markram, had been named Player of the Season. The sheer indomitable spirit of the 38-year-old won over those South African fans who were still a bit sore over the incredible catch he took to dismiss David Miller and kill the Proteas’ run-chase in that crucial T20 World Cup defeat against the Netherlands in Adelaide last November.

Read more: Roelof van der Merwe shows he’s still a massive asset in T20 cricket

The Rising Star award went to Eathan Bosch of the Pretoria Capitals. The 24-year-old had to wait to the very end of the auction to be picked up by Graham Ford’s team, also for just R175,000.

What a buy he turned out to be, playing all 12 games and taking 15 wickets at an economy rate of a whisker over eight runs-an-over. He is able to bat as well, as he showed with a couple of valuable contributions in the lower-order.

Bosch at times struggles to get into the Dolphins team – due to transformation targets – so it was wonderful to see him show his talents for an extended period at a high level. Able to bowl with pace and control, getting bounce and movement, Bosch is going to push for higher honours if he keeps up this form.

Breetzke, Potgieter and Roelofsen

Durban’s Super Giants struggled to get the balance of their side right, fielding far too many all-rounders and not enough specialists. When they belatedly let Matthew Breetzke, another R175,000 purchase, have a go in the batting order, he responded with a couple of crucial innings for the team as they made a late push for the semifinals.

Breetzke topped their averages with 125 runs at 62.50 and, pleasingly for someone who had a strike-rate of 129 coming into the tournament, he freed himself up and scored at 137.36 in the SA20.

Delano Potgieter and Grant Roelofsen were two 26-year-old, Johannesburg-educated players who found homes with MI Cape Town for R175,000.

Potgieter ended up playing in nine of their 10 games. Even though he is an all-rounder, MI Cape Town never entrusted him with the ball, but the left-hander did look comfortable in his role as a finisher, striking at 159.61, by far the best for the franchise.

Roelofsen did play all 10 games, and in fact was preferred in the latter stages to Ryan Rickelton, who was tipped for greater things in the SA20. Roelofsen finished as MI Cape Town’s third-highest run-scorer with 198.

I expect, given the quality of cricket played in the new league, that some of South Africa’s talented young cricketers, denied sufficient opportunity in an ever-shrinking domestic circuit, will use the SA20 as a roundabout way of getting into the Proteas.

Performing in front of capacity crowds against international stars will certainly tell the selectors more about their temperament and skill than a three-week domestic T20 tournament held in front of paltry crowds in one of our smaller centres.