Heat lock in Proteas allrounder for Big Bash campaign
Brisbane Heat secure their final international for WBBL|06, signing South Africa allrounder Nadine de Klerk
26 August 2020, 07:00 AM AEST
Nadine de Klerk almost consigned Australia's hopes of a T20 World Cup fairytale to a mere fantasy in March.
Now, the South African allrounder is set to return to Australia, this time to make her Rebel WBBL debut.
De Klerk has signed with reigning champions Brisbane Heat for WBBL|06, filling their third and final overseas berth alongside New Zealand stars Amelia Kerr and Maddy Green.
One of the lesser-known names in the Proteas squad despite making her debut in 2017, that relative anonymity ended when de Klerk received a late call-up to South Africa's XI for the World Cup semi-final at the SCG in early March.
Stepping into the big shoes of superstar allrounder Marizanne Kapp, who was battling illness, and confronted with a star-studded Australia line-up desperate for their date with destiny at the MCG, she took 3-19, dismissing the world's No.1 T20 batter Beth Mooney, allrounder Ashleigh Gardner and vice-captain Rachael Haynes.
She then struck six from two deliveries during the frantic final moments as the Proteas fell just six runs short of their first major tournament final – a performance that was enough to catch the attention of the Heat.
"Anyone who saw Nadine charge in and bowl without fear against the best team in the world would have been impressed," Heat coach Ashley Noffke said.
"She's got very good skills and is certainly a player who likes to lead by example."
De Klerk, 20, grew up playing cricket on her family's farm in Pretoria, attempting to emulate her hero Jacques Kallis with bat and ball during fierce contests with her older brother.
However, she almost trod a very different path as an elite-level athlete, with javelin her first sporting passion.
She competed nationally in athletics, and viewed cricket as a mere hobby - despite making regional representative teams.
But a major spanner was thrown in the works in May 2017, when the then-17-year-old was selected in South Africa's squad ahead of the 2017 ODI World Cup.
"(Javelin) was something I had a passion for and it was the way I wanted to go with my career, but sometimes life throws you a bit of a curve ball and it doesn't turn out the way you think it will," de Klerk explained via teleconference on Tuesday.
"(Playing for South Africa) happened quite suddenly, I didn't expect it to happen at all, I was very much into athletics and only played cricket for fun and missed a lot of games and tours for athletics, so I didn't take it seriously.
"But I got a call-up to the national team so I had to make a decision whether I would go with athletics and cricket, and I chose cricket.
"I'm not regretting anything as far as cricket is concerned because I love this game and representing my country."
De Klerk joins a formable roster of South Africans signed on for WBBL|06.
Allrounders Marizanne Kapp and Dane van Niekerk are due to continue their long association with the Sydney Sixers, while opener Lizelle Lee has moved from the Melbourne Stars to the Renegades, and speedster Shabnim Ismail has re-signed with the Thunder.
Chloe Tryon will again line up for the Hobart Hurricanes, batter Mignon du Preez returns to the Stars, and up-and-coming batter Laura Wolvaardt has a new home at the Adelaide Strikers.
"I haven't played against them a lot, just provincial cricket every now and then, so it's going to be a challenge," De Klerk said of taking on her Proteas teammates.
"I'm very excited, I think you have a little bit of a step ahead when you know them and know how they go about things."
Like their counterparts around the world, South Africa's players endured a prolonged lockdown and limited access to training facilities in the months following T20 World Cup.
There had been light at the end of the tunnel with a limited-overs series against England scheduled for September, but those hopes were dashed suddenly last week when Cricket South Africa announced it was pulling out of the tour.
The country's strict restrictions on movement currently prevent national teams from travelling overseas, however individuals with employment opportunities can be granted exemptions to leave – including AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn and Chris Morris, who are in the United Arab Emirates preparing for the Indian Premier League.
On Tuesday, Cricket South Africa confirmed these exemptions would also allow the eight Proteas contracted to Big Bash clubs to honour those commitments.
"Individual players competing in events deemed as work are permitted to travel subject to them being COVID-19 compliant in the country they are travelling to and upon their return to South Africa," a statement from CSA confirmed.
With the WBBL season scheduled to begin on October 17, de Klerk cannot wait for her debut in teal.
"Everyone is eager to get out on the park, four months is a long time and we haven't played any competitive cricket in some time," de Klerk said.
"It's a really great opportunity to get a chance in the Big Bash with the England tour being cancelled, it's good to get some competitive cricket in before the end of the year."
The Heat have now locked in all five marquee players for the upcoming season and have just four positions left to fill on their list.
Confirmed departures from last year's champion side are Beth Mooney (Scorchers), Sammy-Jo Johnson (Thunder) and Kirby Short (retired).
Brisbane Heat squad so far: Jess Jonassen (c) (Aus), Nadine de Klerk (SA), Maddy Green (NZ), Amelia Kerr (NZ), Delissa Kimmince (Aus), Grace Harris, Laura Harris, Mikayla Hinkley, Lilly Mills, Georgia Prestwidge, Courtney Sippel