DURBAN - South Africa may have been mistaken for tourists when they pulled into the Hong Kong Sixes welcome dinner, wearing casual clothes compared to all the uniformed teams around them.
But, by Sunday, every team in the bustling Asian metropole certainly knew who the men playing under the management of former national opening batsman Ashwell Prince were. For one thing, they were wearing the look of champions, so official team kit didn’t matter so much.
In the end, it came down to the very last ball of a thrilling tournament, with Aubrey Swanepoel holding his nerve to hit the required boundary in the final to beat a gallant Pakistan, who had been undefeated up to that point.
The win, South Africa’s fifth in the history of the event, meant they defended the trophy they won in 2012, when the tournament was last held at the throbbing Kowloon Cricket Club.
For a long time, before the advent of T20 cricket, the Sixes were the ideal mix of fun, socialising and serious competition. The players, certainly, are thrilled to have it back on the roster.
“It was unbelievable to be part of this weekend, and I am just really proud to have played a part in the victory,” Dolphins opener Sarel Erwee said while in transit back home on Monday.
“Working with Ashwell was great. He called us all together when we arrived, and told us to go out there and enjoy ourselves. He told us there was no pressure on us, and I think that freed the guys to go out there and play some really great cricket."
The South Africans had defeated New Zealand by 18 runs to get into the final, at a venue steeped in history. Erwee said that he had been warned about the size of it, but it had still taken him by surprise when he first saw the cricket club.
“I thought I knew what to expect, but when you see it, you realise just how small it is. It’s unbelievable, and really puts you under pressure with the ball,” he said.
Despite that, the occasional bowler in the Dolphins ranks somehow burgled his way to joint highest wicket-taker in the tournament, with his offering of off spin collecting six scalps.
“I guess you could call it underrated offies - that catch people by surprise,” he said. “It was great to get a few poles, and to just bowl a few more balls out in the middle."