CAPE TOWN - Dane Paterson had a childhood dream. He wanted to play at Newlands.
There was only one problem. Paterson was referring to the stadium on the other side of the railway line, where his old school mate Cheslin Kolbe was running rings around the opposition up until very recently.
Like with many other kids growing up in Cape Town’s northern suburbs, rugby is king. And the passion for the oval ball only grew further at Brackenfell High where Paterson was a talented fullback armed with a big boot.
But somehow cricket always got in the way. From the moment Paterson was selected for the Western Province Khaya Majola Week U/19 team, the script was pretty much written.
He would get to play at Newlands, every week in fact for the Cape Cobras, and go on to make his Proteas international debut there, but it will always be his second love.
“Yeah, I love my rugby. I always have and always will. I even considered playing in the off-season but there’s always an Emerging Tour, a SA ‘A’ tour or something coming up. The risk of injury is also quite high, so I think I’ve finally made peace that it is not going to happen and that I need to pack away my boots for good,” Paterson said.
Paterson’s change of heart will certainly be comforting for the Bloem City Blazers, particularly after the Hong Kong-owned team recently forked out $135 000 (approximately R1.8 million) to secure the pace bowler’s signature for the inaugural Global T20 League.
For a player who has shared a Cobras dressing-room for years with IPL superstars like Kieron Pollard, Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn and JP Duminy without ever being envious of their riches, it is just reward.
Initially Paterson did not want to believe that he had been picked up so early. Playing for South Western Districts in the Africa T20 Cup at Willowmore Park while the draft was taking place in Cape Town, the four-cap Protea started hearing murmurs from the sidelines.
“I was on the field, so I didn’t follow it online or anything. It was only when Qaasim Adams (his long-time United and Cobras teammate) started screaming from the sidelines that I was made aware of anything.
“I still didn’t take any notice because I was trying to get through an over. But then Aviwe Mgjima and Jason Smith started shouting from the dressing-room too. I actually told them to ‘stuff off’ because they were distracting me. It was only after the groundsman told me at the completion of the innings that I believed what had happened!”
The past eight months have been a rollercoaster of emotions for the Northpine resident. The New Year was welcomed with a Proteas T20 debut against Sri Lanka in the series-decider, but the occasion proved too much.
Renowned for his death-bowling skills and calmness under pressure in domestic cricket, Paterson did not do his talents justice as he failed to defend 11 runs in the final over as Sri Lanka secured their first series win of any kind in South Africa.
Only after working intensively with bowling mentor Charl Langeveldt in the nets on the Proteas’ tour of New Zealand were there signs that Paterson was regaining his confidence.
A solid comeback performance in the sole T20 against the Black Caps in Auckland followed before Paterson was the standout seam bowler for the South Africa A side on their tour of England.
The jury, though, remained out on whether Paterson could perform the thankless death-bowling job consistently under pressure at the highest level for the Proteas.
Two consecutive nerveless displays in the England series, including a brilliant haul of 4/24 in the final T20I at Cardiff, was an emphatic statement of Paterson’s credentials.
“I felt I let down a lot of people, but especially myself with my performance on debut. I knew I was much better than that. And that’s all I wanted to show the people of South Africa, that I wasn’t that bad,” Paterson explained.
“I work very hard on my skills. When I started out I watched ‘Langes’ for hours. I just took notice of how he went about his business and all the extra work he always put in.
“I try to do that now by always staying on after training, so that I can work on my skills. I don’t like bowling at cones. I prefer a batsman because that’s a moving target. Cones don’t move around the crease like a batsman does.”
It seems like everything is moving in the right direction for Paterson again with the 2019 World Cup in England the obvious destination.
He’s not too fazed about that just yet - simply ‘wanting to do well for the Cobras and the Blazers’ - but there’s no doubt the new “Million-Rand Man” of South African cricket will not be lacing up those rugby boots anytime soon.