Johannesburg: “He’s your friend but he’s not your best friend.”
Both being ardent Liverpool FC supporters Temba Bavuma and Shukri Conrad would be well-acquainted with former Reds’ defender Dejan Lovren’s feelings about manager Jurgen Klopp.
The significance of the throwaway line from the Croatian would not be lost on the pair for it is as close to an accurate assessment of Bavuma and Conrad’s relationship too.
The Proteas captain and coach have formed a dynamic connection since being brought together in Bloemfontein just over a month ago now.
From the outset there has been a commitment to honesty that has forged the trust within the relationship. The political correctness is correctly being left to the politicians.
Conrad has been forthright with Bavuma from the moment they sat down on the Mangaung Oval outfield.
And here again at the Wanderers after Bavuma made history for all the wrong reasons with a set of ducks in his Test captaincy debut in Centurion last week.
“Before the game, we sat and he challenged me. He asked some really tough questions. One of them was that just because I'm captain, who says I'm not going to score two ducks?" Bavuma said.
“I'm learning a lot from him in terms of the language that he speaks and also the challenging conversations that we have.”
Both talks triggered an immediate response from Bavuma. A series-winning century in the second ODI against England followed the first talk and now a magnificent undefeated 171 on the third day of the second Test against the West Indies that will potentially go a long way to sealing another series win.
The gravitas of Bavuma’s second Test century goes far beyond just his contribution to his team’s cause though.
Bavuma’s inability to add to his maiden Test century over the past seven years was a stick for all his nay-sayers to consistently beat him with. They have now been disarmed.
It is not only privately that Conrad has also filled Bavuma with confidence.
Much like Klopp, who he also shares a further affinity with for wanting to have a quick drag behind the dressing room, Conrad has publically come out in full forward defence of his skipper.
They have not been outlandish displays such as his Springbok counterpart Rassie Erasmus’ is prone to when backing Siya Kolisi, but each media engagement has been geared to making pertinent points and achieving a certain effect.
Like in the Wanderers pre-match presser when Conrad dressed down a young reporter for his enquiry about Bavuma’s readiness for the second Test after his pair of ducks at SuperSport Park.
"Would the same question be asked if it were another player," Conrad hit back.
"Yes? I don't know why. Players get pairs.
"I'd hate to think we're having this debate because it's Temba and because of the spotlight that's been on him on the past couple months.
"Batters have got to move on, deal with it. It doesn't make Temba special.
"So, to reiterate, there's been no special conversation. You've just got to get up and deal with it."
It may not have been a “special conversation”, according to Conrad, but it certainly is a big deal to Bavuma that he feels that his coach is firmly in his corner.
The 32-year-old had to go all the way back to the 2018/19 season when playing under the now Cricket SA Director of Cricket Enoch Nkwe at the Lions franchise that he last felt so much love.
"I definitely feel fully backed. I haven't had this feeling for a while. In fact, the last time I probably was in such a position with Enoch at the Lions where I felt such full backing .
“I am not here to make comparisons between Shuks and other coaches. But the synergy seems to be there.
“At the moment, things are going well with the coach and the team. We'll try to keep riding on that.”