JOHANNESBURG – Reeza Hendricks and Rassie van der Dussen were the big winners at the Highveld Lions season awards on Thursday evening, with the former walking away with the Player of the Year gong, while Van der Dussen picked up two prizes at a ceremony held at Sun City.
Van der Dussen was named Batsman of the Year and won the coveted Players’ Player of the Year title following a season in which he showed remarkable growth and consistency across all three formats.
That improvement came despite being shifted to a position in which he was unfamiliar in the middle-order.
The 29-year-old had spent most of his professional career, either opening or batting at No 3.
But in a Lions team which struggled throughout the season, particularly at the top of the order, Van der Dussen was able to provide stability at No 4 or 5 in the order, although from a team perspective, it didn’t lead to any silverware for the franchise.
Van der Dussen was the leading run-scorer in the Sunfoil Series, scoring 959 runs at an average of 73.76, with three centuries and five fifties.
In the Momentum One-Day Cup, he notched up just three half-centuries, but still finished as that competition’s fifth highest run-scorer with an aggregate of 432 runs.
Shifted up and down the order in the RamSlam, Van der Dussen managed just 171 runs in the RamSlam, with two fifties.
Recognition at SA A level eluded him last season, but with the SA A side set to tour India in the winter, it would come as a surprise were he not to be included in the touring party for one of the formats of that trip.
Hendricks did get national recognition last summer as part of the SA T20 side that played India in three matches, and he top-scored in the first game of that series with a delightful innings of 70.
Hendricks moved to Gauteng two seasons ago, and though he has made an impact, he will admit that given the expectations, he perhaps has yet to live up to his star billing.
Nevertheless there was reasonable consistency across all three formats as well, with the RamSlam a highlight, in which he topped the run-scoring charts with 361 runs.
And along with the Dolphins’ Sarel Erwee, Hendricks was the only player to make a hundred in that tournament.
In the Sunfoil Series, he was the eighth highest run-scorer with an aggregate of 658 runs that included three centuries, one of which came in the final match of the season when the Lions chased down 258 against the Cape Cobras on the final day.
Beuran Hendricks won the Bowler of the Year award with his 20 wickets in at an average of 29.06 in the Sunfoil Series, showing he was getting back to his best form after a career that has been beset with injuries.
Overall, the Lions struggled all season, finishing fifth in both limited-overs competitions, while they ended bottom of the Sunfoil Series.
“It was a tough season for us,” said outgoing coach Geoffrey Toyana. “When I sit back now and look back, I think about how close we were compared to where we actually finished.
“Some of the games were so close, there were really fine margins, and it’s really ended in a very disappointing campaign overall.
“In the T20 format we lost games we were supposed to have won, it was the same in the Momentum One-Day Cup.
“The season was like that for us in all the formats where we got close. We were competitive, but just fell short. In the 50-over competition, we were just a win away from making the playoffs.
“But that’s what happens when you have a young side. Not to use that as an excuse, but we should have executed better when we put ourselves into those positions.
“But I know that we were not far off from winning if you look at the positions we were in.”
Toyana will take over as the director of coaching in the region, a position that still needs to be clearly defined.
A new head coach is expected to be named at the end of May. “I’m very happy to be now moving to a role I’m so passionate about at the Lions.
“I’ve always been a fan of young players in the system, and hopefully I’ll help the franchise help more young players come through.”