Rassie Van Der Dussen: “Mental Preparation Is Just As Important As Physical”

"I get my practise done and then mentally switch off so that next time I’m on the field my mind is 100 per cent ready to go."

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The South Africa’s T20 camp in UAE was a talk of the town and Temba Bavuma, Rassie Van Der Dussen and Keshav Maharaj are here to take us inside the T20 camp and discuss the teams improvement in the past one year!

“What are we watching?”asked Rassie to his wife Lara to which she replied “Not too much at the moment, we’re in between series, so you’ve caught me at a difficult time!”. 

This is the predicament as the couple have very little else to fill their downtime in the bubble of the T20 South Africa’s match. Van tells his wife that he will put time in the next few days thinking about which shows to watch on the television.

 “I bet it’ll be a series because we tend to fall asleep during movies, “says South Africa’s promising top run scorer in the UAE according to the cricket betting site Betway.

A Netflix marathon helps them keep players sanity in check when they are restricted in their bio secure environment in an Abu Dhabi hotel. It is also the key to their performances as they relax in between performances and practises which helps them perform better in the match.

“We’re being treated very well!”says Dussen on behalf of him and his wife who is a teacher and teaches her classes virtually. He adds that he spends a lot of time in the room but they have a big TV and a lovely living space which makes it even more enjoyable. 

He also says that “You’ve got to keep active! I have got fitness toys and there are other facilities at the hotel too which keeps them occupied and in proper shape. The gym at the bottom of their hotel can also be converted into a team and a medical room! 

Team member Keshav Maharaj describes the makeshift setup as not ideal but is working to make the best out of it. He says “There are a lot of differences so I’m trying my best to make myself feel at home. I’m a clean and tidy person and the last thing I want is a dirty room. With no room service or cleaners coming in, I spend time making myself more comfortable by cleaning and keeping the room in check!

On Saturday, October 2nd, the team watched South Africa beat New Zealand in the rugby championship. One look around the team is enough to confirm that the team is capable of replicating the Springbok’s success. Van Dussen and Maharaj are experienced cricketers while Reeza and Dwaine have made huge improvements in a year. The staff are still new to the job but the results in 2021 show that their trajectory might be up.

“We have adapted to different conditions and we’ve had a good year. The team is good very well” says Dussen. The captaincy also changed in the past 12 months. Temba took the permanent place as T20’s skipper in March which led to positive results.

“It first came as a surprise to me how I would take the team to new heights and there was plenty of anxiety and fear but I enjoyed it! It’s great how I have played with guys from school level so the mutual respect and understanding is there. I feel that they’re behind me,” concluded Temba.

He broke into the South Africa setup when de Villiers, Hashim Amla and Morne Morkel were still at the fore and to relay the experience of playing with these legends to his team is a big part of his job! 

Temba says he draws a lot of inspiration from Amla and he is similar to him as a player in a sense that he wasn’t considered a classic T20 player but remodelled his game. “Playing with them and watching them prepare has given me great experience to pass onto the rest of the squad,” adds Temba.

Mental preparation also matters a lot for Dussen who does not burnout ahead of a busy few weeks of cricket. “You can put in all the hours you need to and then game night, it’s pretty intense. I do my practise and then shut myself down so that when I go on the field, my mind is 100% at work.”

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