Tuks cricketer Neil Brand was named 'Varsity Player of the Tournament' Photo: VARSITYSPORTSA

PRETORIA – Neil Brand's failed attempt to play for England forced him to return to South Africa where he ended up as captain of the University of Pretoria's cricket team.

Over the weekend Brand's cricket career reached another milestone when he was named 'Varsity Player of the Tournament' after the weekend’s final in Potchefstroom which saw Assupol Tuks (University of Pretoria) beat Northwest Pukke by five wickets.

Northwest Pukke batted first and scored 154/4 setting Tuks the challenge to score 155. The winning runs were scored with two balls to spare. 

Brand left South Africa to play cricket in Britain when he was in Grade Eight completing his schooling at Kings College in Taunton. 

As a cricketer, he went on to play for Cardiff MCCU, Glamorgan 2nd XI and Somerset 2nd XI. He had hoped to qualify for British citizenship. 

Unfortunately for him but fortunately for Tuks, he was forced to abandon that dream due to visa problems. 

Brand arrived back in South Africa in December. The former Proteas-player, Jacques Rudolph, who played with Van Wyk at the Titans suggested that the Tuks coach should meet with Brand. Luckily coach and player came to an immediate agreement which meant Brand joint the Varsity squad in January.  

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The idea was not for him to captain Tuks, but when Toni de Zorzi got called up to play for the Titans Van Wyk offered the captaincy to Brand. That was just two weeks before the tournament was about to start.

Before the Varsity Tournament, Kruger van Wyk (head coach) said that it would take a real team effort for his team to succeed. 

The players certainly did not disappoint. In the nine games played six batsmen managed at various times to play a crucial inning and five bowlers managed to take more than five wickets during the tournament.

In such brilliant display of teamwork, it might sound unfair to highlight the performance of just one player, but Brand’s team-mates will agree that he was brilliant. 

For the duration of the tournament, he gave an exemplary performance as the captain leading from the front.  In nine innings he scored 300 runs at an average of 42.9. He was justly the one to score the winning runs for Tuks in the final hitting a four in the last over with just two balls to spare.  

Brand was equally impressive as a bowler taking nine wickets and it was no surprise that he received the Player of the Tournament Award.  

Brand who is currently doing a diploma in entrepreneurship made it clear that he has no plans to go back to England.  He has his sights set on trying to play for South Africa. 

“As a team, we had an honest conversation in which some hard words were spoken. That had the desired effect as from then on we played to our true potential in each game.”

In spite of scoring 59 runs off 57 balls in the final Brand refuses to take sole credit for his team’s victory. He is of the opinion that it was Corbin Bosch’s innings of 41 runs from 21 balls that swung the game. 

“That six Corbin hit in the second last over clinched the game for us.”  

African News Agency (ANA)

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