CAPE TOWN – Dane Vilas’s relocation to Durban via Manchester has created an opening behind the stumps at the Cape Cobras for the first time in five years.
Since Vilas’s move down from Johannesburg to become a self-confessed “Kaapie” at the start of the 2011-12 season he has been an ever present in the Cobras side.
It’s at Newlands where Vilas won all the accolades in the domestic game under former coaches Richard Pybus and Paul Adams and earned his six Proteas Test caps.
But the time has come for “Maleish” to start a new adventure with wife Pippa and their baby at firstly Lancashire and then the Dolphins from next season onwards.
All of this means that the Cobras will be on the hunt for a new ‘keeper with talk in local cricket circles suggesting that former Western Province youth star and SA Under-19 World Cup winner Clyde Fortuin could return to the Western Cape after an unsuccessful spell at the Warriors.
However, Fortuin’s window of opportunity may have already passed him with another young gloveman impressing in Cape Town at the moment. Former Wynberg Boys’ High and 2016 SA U-19 prodigy Kyle Verreynne has been hugely exciting in his maiden season playing for the Western Province semi-pro team in the Sunfoil CSA Three-Day competition.
The teenager has not only performed his core job excellently, but also contributed significantly with the bat. Verreynne smashed 691 runs at average of 53.15, which included a century and four half-centuries. There could easily have been a second ton too, but Verreynne fell just two runs short in the final game of the season against KwaZulu-Natal at Newlands.
“He’s come straight out of school and really looked like he belongs at a higher level. There are a lot of other guys who are still finding their feet but there’s just something different about Kyle,” says WP coach Saliegh Nackerdien.
“As a straight out keeper, he’s really good, whether it’s standing up or standing back. He works extremely hard on his game, often putting in extra sessions with our wicket-keeping consultant Ezra Pool. He’s just a young that’s eager to learn and execute.”
One criticism of Vilas’s tenure at the Cobras was that he was not always the neatest of wicket-keepers. But he certainly compensated for that with the value he added to the Cobras as a batsman. Vilas was regularly among the top run-scorers nationally in the Sunfoil Series, having struck a career-best 216 not out in a record-breaking partnership with JP Duminy two seasons ago.
Equally, Vilas was a dynamic player in limited-overs cricket for the Cobras with the veteran often batting up the order to provide impetus during the powerplay overs.
Vilas’s intensity at the crease will certainly be missed, but Nackerdien believes Verreynne can add similar value if given time to settle in at the higher level.
“Kyle is someone who really enjoys responsibility. We pushed him up to No 5 in the WP team and it has really worked for him,” Nackerdien said.
“He is a very busy cricketer, always looking for those singles, but he’s also a 360-degree player who can score all around the wicket. He’s got a wonderful cover drive and despite being a relative small guy can hit a long ball. Without putting too much pressure on him because he’s still just 19, but we do have high expectations of him.
Verreynne has certainly proven that he is ready to take the next step. In a recent three-day fixture against Border at Newlands the young gloveman put on a particularly special show. With Province being set 161 for victory on the final afternoon in approximately 35/36 overs, the match was slipping away from the home side when they slumped to 59/5 in 20 overs.
With only four wickets left in the hut and over 100 runs required for victory in only 16 overs, Verreynne put his foot down and took on the job of getting his team over the line. In combination with fellow former SA U-19 star Dayyaan Galiem, the duo took WP home with Verreynne smashing an unbeaten 79 off only 77 balls (11x4, 2x6). Galiem was undefeated on 38 (45 balls, 4x4, 1x6).
“It was a superb innings,” Nackerdien enthused. “The beauty was that it was not slogging but just good batting. To see a kid tear apart an attack in such a manner was beautiful. He just played good cricket shots.”
With the Cobras requiring all the fresh impetus it can gather after a dreadful 2016-17 season, Verreynne’s energy and potential will certainly be music to the ears of coach Ashwell Prince.