Anrich Nortjé: Next big thing in SA fast bowling
24 March 2019 - 00:00
Anrich Nortjé has a B.Com and a post- graduate diploma in financial planning, and cricket might have a broken collarbone in his penultimate year at high school to thank for the fact that he doesn't play rugby for a living.
His coach at Brandwag in Uitenhage, Francois Anker, remembers how he "bowled plenty of stumps physically broken".
The Warriors' website says he "enjoys spending time with his family and friends, especially if eating a fillet steak is involved".
Now for something that matters: Nortjé doesn't yet qualify for a Kolpak contract. And something else: his agent is not Weber van Wyk.
According to the conventional narrative Van Wyk has helped rob SA cricket of Duanne Olivier, Kyle Abbott, Rilee Rossouw and Hardus Viljoen, among the 42 players from Mzansi who have gone the Kolpak route.
Might they have had little confidence in the country's economy and even less in the suits to run the game properly? Don't be silly. Or want to live in a place where the lights stay on?
What middle-class nonsense. Isn't Van Wyk simply doing his job? Heresy!
Nortjé is, of course, subject to the same realities. He has featured in 11 fewer white-ball internationals than he needs to be eligible to go Kolpak - and 11 games is how many SA could play at the World Cup.
It's a long shot. Not only would Nortjé have to crack the selectorial nod, he would need to play in every match at the tournament. And SA would have to go all the way to the final.
But, considering the fire he stoked in four one-day internationals, setting the speed gun aglow at 150km/h and claiming five of his eight wickets among Sri Lanka's top six, he will get to 15 caps sooner rather than later. Or play the one Test that would also put him on the counties' radar.
For now he is SA's.
"I can tell you that Anrich is entirely focused on his international career at this point in time," his agent, Donovan Kretschmer, said. "He still has a lot that he wishes to achieve with the Proteas."
Even so, Nortjé is open to offers. He was due to play in the Indian Premier League, which started yesterday, but has been ruled out for six weeks by a shoulder injury.
Ankle surgery put paid to his Mzansi Super League after he had taken eight wickets in three games, half of them - those of Morné van Wyk, Hashim Amla, Sarel Erwee and Temba Bavuma - in one match.
Tall, rawboned, quick: we've been shot in this movie before, starring everyone from Neil Adcock to Allan Donald to Kagiso Rabada. What makes Nortjé different? Is he the next big thing in SA fast bowling, or is he simply in the right form in the right place at the right time?
"The kid is a hard worker," Warriors assistant coach Mfuneko Ngam said. "He never misses a bowling session and he's always in the gym. He knows what he wants from the game."
And the injuries? Ngam's own name is not written among the Adcocks, Donalds and Rabadas as boldly as it might have been because of a slew of stress fractures. Did he not fear a rhyming of history in Nortjé's case?
"The shoulder tells you he's been bowling a lot and needs a break. The same with the ankle. It will happen when you're bowling at 150. My problems were more about what was happening with my bones."
For Anker, "[Nortjé's] strongest attribute is the fact that he maintains a perfect balance between modesty and confidence. Together with a competitive approach to the game, that makes him an asset for any team."
Anker ended his comment with an invitation: "Phone for more if you want; I've got enough to say."
Don't worry, coach. We will...