Opinion: Theunis de Bruyn and Stiaan van Zyl - similarly different

Batsman faces bowler in front of packed cordon

Jonhenry Wilson takes a look at the careers of both Theunis de Bruyn and Stiaan van Zyl and whether or not they fit into South Africa's future plans.

I chatted to two South African cricketers who epitomise the opposite sides of the 'Kolpak' debate this week. First, there's Stiaan van Zyl, who has been lost to the Proteas for the foreseeable future. Then, there's Theunis de Bruyn, who remains invested in a future in this country despite a rough entry to Test cricket.

De Bruyn's words were relatively guarded. He, understandably, doesn't want to put a foot wrong in front of Cricket South Africa. A characteristic confidence, however, was evident - and the mature 24-year-old seems the right fit for the future. His experience and credentials gained at franchise level bode well for an extended stay in the national squad.

Van Zyl obviously doesn't want to burn bridges with a set-up that might welcome him back in a couple of years, but was pretty forthcoming in how well he is being managed at Sussex, which wasn't necessarily the case at the Proteas. Allowed a permanent berth in the middle order and afforded plenty of communication, van Zyl remains comfortable with his choice.

The gap between county or franchise cricket and the international stage is admittedly large, so the comparison is a small stretch, but the principles are the same: player management and transparency are demands, not options, amid the need for big runs and plenty of wickets from rookie or seasoned Test cricketers.

Their Test careers bear remarkable similarities. Both bobbed up and down the order and were required to perform a support role with the ball - and neither were secure during difficult phases for the team. De Bruyn, of course, has the opportunity to improve on this. Van Zyl, for better or worse, has opted out for the next 24 months or so.

De Bruyn, too, will have the chance to impress new national coach Ottis Gibson, resigning the outgoing Russell Domingo's preconceived notions to the past. Van Zyl didn't have that. Batting coach Neil McKenzie will ensure continuity remains. Bowling-wise, van Zyl was a luxury in an attack featuring Dale Steyn and Kyle Abbott. De Bruyn is a necessity in an attack minus both.

De Bruyn was drafted by the Bloem City Blazers at last month's inaugural T20 Global League player draft. Twenty20 cricket is the least suited format to his orthodox, old school approach, but he'll benefit entirely from playing alongside the inventive Kieron Pollard, Chris Jordan, Dwayne Smith, Ryan Ten Doeschate and others.

Van Zyl, meanwhile, missed a berth with the Blazers or any of the other seven new franchises, but cherished a fine stretch of form for the Sussex Sharks in the NatWest T20 Blast - and is pursuing a stint in the Bangladesh Premier League, a significant part of which will overlap with the T20 Global League.

With a new season of first-class cricket in South Africa less than a month away, thankfully, we'll soon see de Bruyn and van Zyl compete in the same match. While it won't be in the same Proteas nor franchise XI and won't have any bearing on the latter's international career, their individual and collective presence will be a welcome sight in a competition starved of international talent.

Written by Jonhenry Wilson for Hollywoodbets

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