Waringstown have signed a replacement overseas professional for Ruhan Pretorius who returns home after Saturday’s crunch NCU Premier League match against CIYMS.
The villagers are bringing in Juan De Villiers, a 26-year-old who plays for the Titans and Northerns in South Africa’s domestic competitions.
De Villiers will play in next week’s Irish Cup final against Merrion in The Lawn and is expected to make his debut in next Wednesday’s rescheduled match against Lisburn.
A fast-medium bowler, De Villiers has played 89 first-class matches and taken five five-wicket hauls.
He has a first-class batting average of 22 with three half-centuries and one hundred.
Le Nelson, the Waringstown captain, said: “I’m obviously delighted we have been able to bring in someone of JP’s calibre at this stage of the season, he has performed exceptionally well in both franchise cricket for the Titans and in the Lancashire League in England. Having played against him myself in South Africa a few years ago I’m well aware of the qualities that he will bring to Waringstown and hopefully match the recent achievements of Ruhan who has done exceptionally well.”
The title race remains intriguingly poised. Waringstown are level on points with North Down, but head the table courtesy of a far superior run-rate. For the first time, run-rate will be used to determine the champions if two teams are level on points.
Waringstown will be favourites on Saturday if the game survives the miserable weather, with most grounds in the NCU under water after a horrific week. Rassie van der Dussen has gone home, but CI have brought in Tom Smith, a batting all-rounder contracted to Gloucestershire and a former MCC Young Cricketer.
Nelson remains wary of CI’s potent bowling attack. ““The CI bowling attack is still very strong,” he said. “We are still going to have to bat very well if we want to beat them.
“Their bowling attack is still one of the strongest, if not the strongest, in the league. If we don’t bat properly we’ll get beaten, it’s as simple as that. Rassie not being there doesn’t affect their bowling attack at all.”
Nelson has been pleased by the reaction of his players since the shock defeat by Civil Service North earlier this month.
They have won four consecutive matches since, with almost all of the players making key contributions.
“I have been delighted with how we’ve responded to each of the setbacks we’ve received,” he continued.
“The CSNI defeat could have been so deflating but the players bounced back really well.”
Both CI and North Down remain firmly in the title race. The Comber men will be the strongest of favourites at home to Lisburn tomorrow, Pieter Malan’s last match before he returns to South Africa.
“I have been impressed with North Down this year,” Nelson added. “They gave us a really tough game. Their attitude is something that we have tried to copy. In that 20-over match that they beat us in recently they showed us the fight, determination and attitude they have and we have learnt from them.”
Instonians, the reigning champions, are all but out of the title race after last week’s defeat to Carrickfergus, their fourth of the season. They face CSNI at Shaw’s Bridge on Saturday before a trip to Belmont on Sunday.
In Section One Derriaghy can take a giant step towards promotion if they beat Woodvale at Ballygomartin Road.
Craig Lewis’ team will return to the top flight if they win their remaining two matches. Muckamore, their nearest challengers, are relying on other results.