Coetzee and Jansen the future, but also the present, for the Proteas

15 November 2023 - 13:11
By Stuart Hess in Kolkata
The Proteas' Gerald Coetzee and Marco Jansen during a practise session at Ekana Cricket Stadium in Lucknow, India, on October 10.
Image: Reuters/Adnan Abidi The Proteas' Gerald Coetzee and Marco Jansen during a practise session at Ekana Cricket Stadium in Lucknow, India, on October 10.

Marco Jansen admits nerves get the better of him, he tends to overthink things. He needs Netflix or a sermon to calm himself before a big match. Gerald Coetzee, meanwhile, allows the adrenaline to consume him. 

So when Coetzee celebrates his first wicket in any match, he lets it all out; it’s vein-throbbing, eye-bulging and screaming fury. That out of the way, subsequent wickets get a mere finger wave, a wink at the batter and a cheeky glance. 

Jansen has no idea what’s going on when he takes a wicket. He lets nature take over, but a bit like Coetzee, it is best teammates give him space because they don’t want a wild hand or elbow smashing them in the cheek. 

Jansen and Coetzee are the babies of this Proteas team. One known as "Plank", the other with his bandanna and the "Daniel-san" references. Both 23, both at their first World Cup, free of the scars of yesteryear and thriving in an environment that lets them be them.

Yet, before the World Cup there was concern their lack of experience would handicap the Proteas.

“People say, ‘you can’t buy experience’, which is true, but experience is only important if it makes an impact in the team,” Proteas coach Rob Walter said.

“These guys have brought a fresh energy, they are different in what they do and their skill set — but both are wicket-takers.”

Jansen was asked to fill the all-rounder berth; bat seven and bowl 10 overs — and in his case take the new ball. Seven was thought to be a spot too high for him in the batting order but he has thrived; sharing a match-defining partnership with Heinrich Klaasen against England in Mumbai while registering his highest ODI score of 75. 

With the ball, he’s been a revelation, taking 12 of his 17 wickets in the opening 10-over power play. Swing, pace and bounce have been the major elements that have allowed him to be successful, but so has a mind free of clutter — which has actually been a hallmark of this South African team. 

Jansen had been the Proteas’ leading wicket-taker until last Friday when Coetzee, who sat out two of the round-robin matches, took a career-best 4/44 and became the first South African player to take 18 wickets in a World Cup. It’s a record he’d love his pal to break in what both hope will be two more matches for the Proteas.

What their success has meant is Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Keshav Maharaj have not been solely responsible for carrying the workload as many had feared before the tournament. There is a sense Rabada’s big match-defining spell is around the corner. 

Ngidi, while not delivering in as explosive a manner as the two laaities, has the variety that can be successful on these dry surfaces, though his execution of some of the death bowling tactics has left a lot to be desired. 

What Coetzee and Jansen have allowed is for the creation of a well-rounded attack. The absence of Anrich Nortjé has not been the terminal blow many forecast. Coetzee has notched up speeds close to 150km/h, while Jansen regularly touches the 140-mark. 

What their success here in India has also done is ensure when attention turns to the 2027 tournament in South Africa, the Proteas have two players who can already be earmarked for the event. 

For now, however, the only future they will both be concerned about is Thursday. There is excitement for carving a new narrative for South Africa at the World Cup. Jansen will be nervous. Coetzee will be excited. 

They are the future, but they are also very much the present.