South Africa news December 7, 2016

Viljoen's Derbyshire deal adds to South Africa exodus

Hardus Viljoen enjoyed a successful spell at Kent in 2016 © PA Photos

Hardus Viljoen, the bullish Highveld Lions fast-bowler who played one Test match for South Africa against England, has signed a Kolpak deal with Derbyshire for three-years.

Viljoen is the third South African who has recently played international cricket to agree to an offer from England this season, following Stiaan van Zyl's commitment to Sussex last month and Simon Harmer's one-year deal for Essex. Viljoen can still play for the Lions but will not be able to represent South Africa for the duration of the deal.

Expectations are that others could follow before the start of the English season.

On the big stage, Viljoen is best known for taking the wicket of Alastair Cook with his first ball in Test cricket, in Johannesburg this January. The rest of the match did not bring any further success and Viljoen finished with 1 for 94 in a game that cost South Africa the series. He was not retained for the final fixture at Centurion and has not featured in any of the Test squads since.

Although Viljoen appeared to have lost ground, he remained part of South Africa's plans and travelled with the South African A side that played in Zimbabwe and Australia ahead of the current season.

He is currently ranked top of the South African Cricketers' Association MVP list, is second in the ongoing T20 cup, with 14 wickers at 14.00 and joint-second on the first-class bowlers' charts with 22 wickets at 24.95. Viljoen also topped the first-class wicket-takers' list last season, with 47 scalps at 23.02, which earned him his Test call up.

This is not the first time Vijoen has considered furthering his career overseas. Last year, he was in discussions with New Zealand's Central Stags, under the advice of Fanie de Villiers, but committed to the Lions instead.

During his only Test, Viljoen said he thought he had made the right decision not to move. "I don't want to have second best. You get brought up in your country to play for your country. I said I will give myself the right time and a fair time and a fair chance. It came quicker than I thought and I will never regret my decision to stay here."

Despite such professionals of loyalty, Viljoen's opportunities have been limited since then, especially following the successful return of Vernon Philander from injury, the continued consistency of Kyle Abbott and the rise of Kagiso Rabada and Dwaine Pretorius.

Viljoen spent some part of the English county season playing for Kent and took 20 wickets in four matches and they made him a formal offer in September. At the time, no agreement was reached and Kent opted not to sign Viljoen when he sought a team a few months later.

Instead, Derbyshire, winless in the second division of the Championship last season, will be looking at Viljoen to lead the attack as they attempt to rebuild under a new director of cricket, Kim Barnett, who was the prominent figure in their successful 1980s side.

"It was clear last summer that we lacked a consistent threat with the ball, and we feel Hardus fits that bill," Barnett said. "He's a strike bowler who can bowl over 90 miles an hour and has experience both internationally and here in England."

A host of county batsmen drank their fill against Derbyshire's attack last season. Viljoen may help to make life a little more challenging.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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