Assupol Tuks reclaims Varsity Cricket title

Posted on February 12, 2018

Assupol Tuks Cricket is the best club team in South Africa. After the weekend’s Varsity final in Potchefstroom, which saw Assupol Tuks beat Northwest Pukke by five wickets, there can be no arguing the fact. Northwest Pukke batted first and scored 154/4 setting Tuks the challenge to score 155. The winning runs were scored with two balls to spare.

The last time Assupol Tuks lost any tournament they competed in was exactly a year ago. It was the 2017 Varsity final. Northwest Pukke managed to beat Tuks with seven balls to spare.

Since that setback, the team from Pretoria went on to win the Momentum National Club Championships. They also dominated the various Northerns Cricket Union (NCU) leagues, ending the year on another highlight by claiming the South African Universities title.

One of the main reasons for the team’s success is not only the ability of the coaches to spot true talent, but also to help the players to play to the best of their abilities when it matters.

Before the Varsity Tournament, Kruger van Wyk (head coach) said that it would take a real team effort for his team to succeed. The players certainly did not disappoint. In the nine games played, six batsmen managed at various times to play a crucial inning and five bowlers managed to take more than five wickets during the tournament.

With such a brilliant display of teamwork it might sound unfair to highlight the performance of just one player, but Neil Brand’s teammates will agree that he was brilliant. For the duration of the tournament, he gave an exemplary performance as the captain, leading from the front.  In nine innings he scored 300 runs at an average of 42.9. He was justly the one to score the winning runs for Tuks in the final, hitting a four in the last over with just two balls to spare.  Brand was equally impressive as a bowler taking nine wickets.

It was no surprise that he received the Player of the Tournament Award.

There is an exciting story to tell on how Brand came to captain Assupol Tuks. He left to play cricket in Britain when he was in Grade Eight, completing his schooling at Kings College in Taunton.

As a cricketer he went on to play for Cardiff MCCU, Glamorgan 2nd XI and Somerset 2nd XI. He had hoped to qualify for British citizenship. Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for Tuks, he was forced to abandon that dream due to visa problems.

Brand arrived back in South Africa in December. The former Proteas player Jacques Rudolph, who played with Van Wyk at the Titans, suggested that the Tuks coach meet with Brand. Luckily coach and player came to an immediate agreement, which meant that Brand joined the Varsity squad in January.  

The idea was not for him to captain Assupol Tuks, but when Toni de Zorzi got called up to play for the Titans, Van Wyk offered the captaincy to Brand. That was just two weeks before the tournament was about to start.

He immediately agreed as he relishes the challenge to captain any team. He is appreciative of the way his new teammates accepted him. Brand, who is currently doing a diploma in entrepreneurship, made it clear that he has no plans to go back to England. He has his sights set on trying to play for South Africa.

Brand views his team’s loss against Maties as the turning point of the tournament. At that stage, Assupol Tuks had played four games, winning two and losing two.

“As a team, we had an honest conversation in which some hard words were spoken. That had the desired effect as from then on we played to our true potential in each game.”

In spite of scoring 59 runs off 57 balls in the final, Brand refuses to take sole credit for his team’s victory. He is of the opinion that it was Corbin Bosch’s innings of 41 runs from 21 balls that swung the game.

“That six Corbin hit in the second-last over clinched the game for us.”

- Author Department of University Relations

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