Cape Town - Arguably one of the five greatest fielders in South African cricket over the past ten years and one of the most underrated middle-order domestic batsmen, SA Engelbrecht, has announced his retirement from first-class cricket.
The 28-year old athlete, a graduate in financial management as well as in advanced project management, will join a financial consultancy as an asset manager in January 2017.
His match for Western Province against North West this weekend will be his last at his beloved Newlands.
Engelbrecht gave his thousands of fans multiple reasons to celebrate during his impressive career.
Arguably one of the greatest catches treasured on YouTube was one during the ICC World U19-tournament in Malaysia in 2008 when he leaped into the air and grasped a catch which made him an instant celebrity around the world as arguably the best acrobatic fielder since Jonty Rhodes.
But Engelbrecht was much more than a superb fielder.
He smashed 56 in February 2014 when his more accomplished senior Cape Cobras’ colleagues faltered in the Ram Slam T20 Challenge final against the Dolphins, underlining his ability to handle pressurised moments with aplomb.
His bowling during the Champions League T20 in India in September and October was a revelation.
Summoned as replacement for the injured JP Duminy, Engelbrecht single-handedly won a game during the super eliminator against the Barbados Tridents and also captured 2-24 in his allotted four overs.
His best return during the tournament was 3-20 and he finished with six wickets. The off-spinner was comfortably the Cobras’ best bowler.
In the Ram Slam T20 Challenge, the Cobras coasted to a 33-run win in the final in December. Engelbrecht was not selected for that match, as some of the international players returned to the Cobras-fray.
Yet, he was a stalwart in the league-phase, taking 10 wickets in eight matches with his 4-22 against the Warriors a stand-out moment.
The all-rounder underlined his credentials with the bat in the Momentum One Day Cup campaign, averaging 37.50 and taking seven wickets in the series.
A match-winner with both bat and ball, his greatest moment in that campaign arrived at Paarl where the Highveld Lions looked poised to chase down the 324 smashed by the Cobras.
Engelbrecht trapped Neil McKenzie and Jean Symes in front in quick succession and the Cobras fans celebrated with “happy days are here again”. Indeed. The Cobras won by 53 runs.
“I would like to be remembered as somebody who played the game hard yet honestly and selflessly put the team’s interest above my own. The past few seasons have produced arguably some of my best performances,” he said.
January 2015 was a case in point, as Dane Vilas and Engelbrecht scored 84 and 72 respectively to take the Cape Cobras to the brink, but the team just lost their shape at the moment critique and lost by 16 runs against the Warriors at St. George’s Park on a tricky wicket.
In the 2015/2016-season, Engelbrecht was enterprise personified, assembling 567 runs in the Three-day Sunfoil Series at an average of 51.54. He contributed an unbeaten 162 as Western Province reached the three-day final.
“One of the greatest assets of the current Western Province squad is that they have so many experienced players who know their own games inside out, and a number of young, emerging players with such talent. We play with a smile on our faces, and we are positive,” he said.
“When I speak about talented, young players, Pieter Malan, Shaheen Khan and Matthew Kleinveldt are some of the stars I would mention as they might still have six years left in them. There are also emerging stars like Dayyaan Galiem and Kyle Verreynne that spring to mind,” he added.
Engelbrecht said the choice to leave cricket is not an easy one, yet he has to consider his long-term future. “The selectors have not picked me once this season, so I had to think about my career.
“I enrolled and completed a career in financial management as well as in advanced project management, both at the University of Cape Town and it was always my plan to join the financial sector after my career,” he added.
“I have been blessed to play in a couple of finals at Newlands, which will always be amongst my most treasured moments,” Engelbrecht remarked.
He finished his career with an impressive 2901 first-class runs at an average of 38.68. In List A-cricket, Engelbrecht has been particularly superb, averaging 45.53 and also capturing 41 wickets at an average of 40.17.
And don’t forget those catches which have scored thousands upon thousands of hits on the internet. Those game-changing moments in mid-air contributed richly to the Cape Cobras’ status as one of the domestic powerhouses in South African cricket the past ten years.