Ex-CIYMS star Rassie van der Dussen reflects on two ‘great’ years
A lot has changed for Rassie van der Dussen since the last time he was in Ireland.
The South African arrived at CIYMS in 2014 as their overseas professional and spent two years at Belmont, scoring 1,865 runs at an average of 81 and hit a high score of 190*.
Now six years down the line, van der Dussen returns as an established South African international having played 58 times for his country in all formats since making his debut in October 2018.
He is a key player in a squad of world class stars that touched down in Dublin on Monday and is in superb form, hitting three half-centuries in his last 11 innings in series against Pakistan and West Indies.
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In total, he has scored 2,225 runs (19 fifties, 1 hundred) in international cricket at an average of 48.36 and will likely take to the field against Ireland on Sunday in Malahide in the first game of a six-match series this month.
It had been a long road to the top for the 32-year-old and he looks back on those two seasons in Northern Ireland with great fondness.
“I came there in 2014 not knowing what to really expect,” he said.
“I was blown away by the standard of club cricket, which was the strongest I had ever played overseas.
“They really accepted me into the team and I had two good seasons which helped.
“I was walking into a really successful club who had some big names playing for them in recent years.
“It was a great experience to play all year and the important thing for me was having the facilities there to train so I could better myself.
“I was able to prepare myself for the South African season which not many clubs can give you.
“Everybody looks at you to perform as the professional and looks to you to put in match-winning performances for the team.
“That responsibility is something you must live with and to do that on a weekly basis is very important for player development. I feel like I learnt a lot in my two years there.”
Van der Dussen has been able to take his talents all over the world, playing in overseas Twenty20 competitions such as the Caribbean Premier League and Canada’s Global T20.
He still keeps up to date with results in the Northern Cricket Union on social media and has a keen eye on both his former club and fellow countrymen playing in the Premier League.
“I still follow on social media and keep in contact with a couple of guys from the club,” he added.
“I had two seasons here so you get to know the people, the league and other players really well.
“There are other South African players that I know in the league.
“Andre Malan is playing for Waringstown and just made a big score over the weekend.
“There are a few guys from South Africa that play there and I keep an eye on the results. CIYMS have done really well in the last few years so that’s great to see.”
The NCU has been home to many top South African talents over the years, going back to AB de Villiers time at Carrickfergus through to van der Dussen, Pieter Malan and now the likes of Andre Malan, Ruhan Pretorius and Jacques Snyman, but what makes it so good?
“The club system is really strong,” said van der Dussen.
“The system here is straightforward and it’s almost like football in a sense where the best eight teams play in a league and that’s where the best players play.
“Every week you’re playing against a strong team with strong professionals and for me, the club culture and people involved at the clubs are so good.
“They were so good to me personally and my now wife was over with me both times visiting and the way people accepted us into the community was really special.
“The combination of those two things made it a great experience.”
His attention now turns to taking on Ireland after a cross-format series against the West Indies which just finished last Saturday, and van der Dussen is expecting a tough test.
“It’ll be a good challenge for us in different conditions,” he added.
“I have played here before but we have just come from the Caribbean so it’s almost on the other end of the spectrum in terms of conditions and climate.
“For us as a team it’s going to be a challenge for us to adapt to these conditions again but that’s what good players and teams do – they sum up the conditions really quickly and adapt accordingly.
“Any team at home is difficult to beat and we expect Ireland to come out guns blazing.
“Their squad is in a good place and they’ve been playing Inter-Provincial cricket over here and they’ve some seasoned players with experience in County cricket.
“I’m really looking forward to it and it’s going to be a well-fought series.”