Time and again, South Africa produces exciting young prodigies at the under-19 level, prodigies who excel so much that the general public earmarks them to make the Proteas side at a relatively young age.
However, for a host of different reasons, not every youngster’s journey will take the same route, despite the talent he or she possesses.
Former SA under-19 captain, Raynard van Tonder, is one of those players who did not make it to the Proteas squad straight away, despite the abundance of talent he had at the tender age of 19.
The hard yards
Instead, Van Tonder had to do the hard yards in domestic cricket, earn his way up the pecking order, and impress the national selectors.
Through hard work and dedication, he received his first Test call-up in 2020 to tour Sri Lanka, following a season of dominating the Cricket SA 4-Day series. However, Van Tonder broke his finger the day before the second Test, just when he was in line to make his Test debut.
From then on, the youngster had to go back to domestic cricket and get rid of a negative tag that lingered over his head at the time.
Despite dominating domestic cricket, the selectors dug a little deeper into his domestic numbers and found the youngster was almost exclusively scoring big runs in Bloemfontein, his home ground back when he was still contracted with the Knights.
After two seasons of tightening up his technique, runs started flowing for Van Tonder, even in the often difficult-to-bat-on wickets in coastal cities such as Cape Town and Gqeberha, earning him a second Test call-up for the ongoing tour of New Zealand.
“I remember the first call I got two years ago was from Victor Mpitsang and I didn’t have his number saved on my phone so when I answered I wasn’t sure who was talking. I was just unbelievably happy, I can’t really explain it. I immediately called my Dad,” Van Tonder told Independent Media,
“Fortunately this time around I have Shuks’ (Test coach Shukri Conrad) number saved in my phone. He doesn’t usually call me, so when he called I just knew it was a Test call-up and I really got excited. It was a great moment and I’m really looking forward to what’s going to come.”
The six years that Van Tonder spent toiling in domestic cricket really made him the cricketer he is today – calm and mentally strong.
“I was with the Knights for about six or seven years before I moved to the North West Dragons. Three years ago, I was in the Proteas Test squad for the tour to Sri Lanka, but unfortunately I broke my finger the day before the second Test,” he continued.
“Since then I haven’t been in the squad again, so it’s been a long toil to get back in. But I’m very grateful that I’m back in and hopefully I can get a chance to play and take my opportunity. Hopefully this is not the last tour for me.”
Now 25 years old, Van Tonder understands the rare opportunity he has to make a strong case for himself in what looks to be a settling Proteas Test team.
However, as with newbies Tristan Stubbs, David Bedingham and Tony de Zorzi, there is always a chance to force a way into the Test side.
Also, with the lingering retirements from some of the senior players, a solid tour of New Zealand for the young Van Tonder could see him get an opportunity to be a part of the full-strength Test side.
“This is a massive opportunity for me. Sometimes it is really tough to get an opportunity in a good Test side with quite a few players that are already settled in the team.
“Opportunities don’t come everyday, so if it’s there... you have to take it with your 100%. I’ve just been focused on my training and my processes to make sure everything that I can do, I am doing. Unfortunately you can’t always control the runs that you score, but you can control your preparation.
“For me it’s a big opportunity. I want to play Test cricket for a long time for South Africa. Hopefully this is the first tour of many and I can help the team win big matches.”