Roelof van der Merwe – The bulldog that still has plenty of bite left

Roelof van der Merwe – The bulldog that still has plenty of bite left

Thursday, 23 February: When Roelof van der Merwe packed his bags to leave Pretoria more than a decade ago he could never have imagined the whole wide world that was awaiting him.

Van der Merwe thought he had reached the summit of his career, playing 26 times –  split evenly between the two white-ball formats – for his birth country South Africa.

It could only possibly be downhill from there he may have thought with the treadmill of possibly English domestic cricket to keep him company.

But Van der Merwe is not called “The Bulldog” without reason. His tenacity and never-say-die character is second to none and it wasn’t long before the left-arm spinning all-rounder found a home in the various T20 leagues around the world.

Coupled with acquiring a Netherlands passport in 2015, Van der Merwe was back doing what he loves best, which is competing at the highest level.

Fast forward to 2023 and Van der Merwe – even at 38 years old now – remains one of the most sought after T20 specialists.

It is this experience and all-round cricket intellect acquired over the years that helped him drive the Sunrisers Eastern Cape to the inaugural Betway SA20 championship title.

And in true “Bulldog” fashion, his bite was equal to his bark as he finished top of the bowling charts with 20 wickets at an average of 9.55 and an economy of 5.61. It also included the tournament’s leading individual figures of six wickets for 20 runs.

“I love coming back to South Africa. The last time I was back here was in 2019.  I’m just glad I could contribute to us winning a trophy. Obviously, that’s why we play the game … to win trophies,” Van der Merwe said.

“I think, even at my age, there’s still a bit left in the tank. I am glad it went to good use. I just love competing. As long as I love that I will keep coming back.”

Having made his T20I debut for the Proteas at a rousing Centurion back in 2009 already, Van der Merwe knows all about the emotions young players experience ahead of taking the step up to the next level.

He therefore believes the greatest aspect of the Betway SA20 is that with big crowds streaming through the gates during Season 1, it will better prepare South Africa’s young talent for the pressure of international cricket.

“Playing in front of crowds like this, you are not going to get that opportunity very often,” he said.

“I think those are the learnings that they will take away. How they responded under pressure is massive.”