Kyle Abbott tries to hold back the tears at Newlands on Thursday after announcing that he's signed a Kolpak deal with Hampshire. Photo: Chris Ricco, BackpagePix

A year ago this week, the Newlands Test was overshadowed by the small matter of a couple of players and the K-word.

Yes, that dreaded Kolpak thing.

Some purveyors of doom insisted that it was the beginning of the end for South African cricket, citing politics, the economy, security and everything else to back up their theory that Kyle Abbott and Rilee Rossouw would be the first of many to flee our ovals.

Those fires of fear were fanned even more by AB de Villiers’ sudden sabbatical, and rumours about disgruntled stars like Morné Morkel supposedly considering their futures.

And all the while, champion bowler Dale Steyn was stumped, his shoulder in a sorry sling.

The coffin for South African cricket had already been measured and ordered by the truly cynical, oblivious to the simple, eternal adage of sport; no one is bigger than the game.

No one.

Those doom merchants had incredibly overlooked the patriotism of the likes of Messrs Du Plessis, Elgar, Rabada, De Kock, Maharaj and a pile of other Proteas who couldn’t care less about anything beyond playing and winning for their country.

A year on, Abbott and Rossouw are only mentioned in trivia questions about the 2015 World Cup, their places in the pecking order greedily lapped up by patriotic young men who still see life in shades of green and gold.

De Villiers himself has returned to national duty, having realised that life and international cricket went on - and occasionally thrived - without him.

Steyn is back, Morkel is a menace reborn, and they are part of a pace pack so potent that the prospect of them locking horns with Steve Smith’s Aussies is the stuff of ultimate format wet dreams across the cricket world.

So much for the imminent death of the Republic, then.

The next few months of cricket in South Africa ought to emphasise that the game - occasional Global League abortions aside - is still fighting fit.

There is, no doubt, a natural changing of the guard in the national team, as Steyn and company are now in the autumn of glorious careers.

Steyn would have seen back at the Titans that the future of the game is most promising, and that in itself would have been nectar for his well-worked limbs.

A year is a long time in sport.

Ask Steyn, who spent most of it in pain and solitude. Ask the people of Cape Town, who have spent most of it praying for their taps to open freely again.

Perhaps, too, ask Rossouw and Abbott, who could well have been in action at Newlands and all over South Africa this summer and beyond, but are instead catching the action along with Joe Public.

A year is a long time, indeed, but a year passing is a reminder that life rumbles on, regardless of individual circumstances.

While you’re at it, maybe ask those Grim Reapers when the funeral of South African cricket is supposed to be.

On the evidence of the returning warhorses, the quality of opposition lined up, the ability on the sidelines and the swell in appreciative audiences, the Proteas are in rather rude health.

Silence the piano and, with booming drum, take back the coffin.

Tell the mourners not to come.

Independent on Sunday

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