Cape Town Blitz fast bowler Anrich Nortje has been ruled out of the remainder of the Mzansi Super League with an ankle injury that will require surgery.
"Anrich has several small avulsed bone fragments from the inferior tip of the lateral aspect of the talus in his left ankle," explained Cape Town Blitz physiotherapist Shane Jabaar. "He has associated bone oedema and surgery will involve removing the fragments arthroscopically."
Nortje, 25, made an immediate impact in the league, taking eight wickets in three matches - including the likes of Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma and Reeza Hendricks - at an average of 10.4. Even more eye-catching than his figures were his methods, with Nortje upsetting the usual balance of bat and ball in T20 cricket with pace and swing, attacking the stumps at speeds of up to 150kph.
"Unfortunately, I had to make a decision that I will no longer be taking part in the Mzansi Super League," Nortje said. "I have had to leave the team after the abandoned match against the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants and will be having surgery on Friday to remove a small piece of bone that has broken off."
Nortje's performances will not have escaped the national selection radar, especially with a space in the Protea bowling attack having opened up after Lungi Ngidi's knee injury put him out of action for three months. For the moment, Nortje's own injury would appear to put him back out of contention, but his coach at the Cape Town Blitz, Ashwell Prince, believes he has a bright future.
"It is really unfortunate that the injury has come at this particular time in his career," said Prince. "He is definitely one for the future for the Proteas and South Africa has a lot to look forward to from this young man. I have no doubt he will go on to play successfully at Test match level."
"Everybody in Cape Town was really excited to see the sheer pace that Anrich could generate, which they saw in the first warm-up game against Paarl Rocks, where he got the ball through at 150 - maybe higher. I think all Capetonians were really excited about his potential in the tournament and in the brief time he played with us, he didn't disappoint.
"We are just hoping that it is not a rushed process and the young man will be granted the opportunity to fully recover before he starts cranking it up again. We are most certainly looking forward to having him back at the Cape Town Blitz next year."
Nortje will be replaced by Highveld Lions left-arm seamer Nandre Burger. While he only played in three games before his injury, Nortje praised the MSL for the exposure he had already received. Nortje had been part of the South Africa A tour to India in July, and started the domestic season with 24 wickets in five games for Warriors, but it was not until he tore through line-ups on national television that he was really noticed.
"This tournament is great for getting some exposure, it is something we don't get at domestic level and I haven't heard this much of a buzz around myself or any other player," said Nortje. "Within two weeks, things have changed, so it's really nice to get the exposure and having the matches broadcast all over the world."
Nortje played alongside Dale Steyn in the Cape Town Blitz XI, and is hopeful of following in his "role model" Steyn's footsteps. "With this tournament, you are playing with international players," said Nortje. "To be learning from them, listening to them and to be working with them is something that can't be taken for granted because we don't really get to see the Proteas often. It has been an amazing experience to be in that environment.
"My ultimate goal is to play for the Proteas. I can still remember watching Mornantau Hayward, who is also from Uitenhage. Obviously, now I got to play with my role model Dale Steyn. It's definitely something I am working hard to try to achieve. Hopefully, it is something I can achieve in the next few years and I can't wait for the day to come where I can sing the national anthem and wear the green and gold - any format would be a dream come true."
Nortje's is not the only recent injury in the MSL. Australian Michael Klinger has also been ruled out of the remainder of Paarl Rocks' campaign in the league after injuring his back in the field against Cape Town Blitz last Sunday. David Wiese has joined Paarl's squad as a replacement.