Eben Etzebeth is the big Springboks enforcer. He is big, strong and powerful.
In cricket terms, Duane Olivier was meant to fulfil the same role for the Proteas. Big, fast and dangerous.
But then something happened. Olivier went to England where he signed a Kolpak deal before returning home a few years later softer than a Yorkshire pudding. More importantly, he was also much slower.
There were plenty of reasons Olivier lost his most prized asset: pace.
Some argued that he had refined his softer skills and was now a much more rounded bowler than simply one that had looked to bounce batters out. But that was not what the Proteas needed and Olivier lost his place in the national team. Something needed to be done and Olivier sought out the help of Proteas Test bowling coach Piet Botha during the winter.
The change has been significant with Olivier back in fine form during the CSA 4-Day Series with 16 wickets in three matches, but most importantly, his pace has improved significantly since.
“If I am being honest, the past two years have been tough,” Olivier said ahead of the Proteas’ departure for the two-match Test series in New Zealand.
“And then we had a bowling camp in June where I worked with Piet (Botha) on a few technical things and that helped me a lot, because I knew I was struggling.
“The more I bowl, the better I get. I am happy with where I am at. From a technical point of view, I collapsed on my back leg, which affected my pace. It caused different injuries. I had a groin injury on the UK tour and then last year I ruptured my disk.
“A lot of things wasn’t great. Tweaked it a bit and implemented a few simple changes to get my pace up again.”
Olivier has a bit more than just the speed gun to worry about on this tour of New Zealand. He is part of an inexperienced Proteas squad that has been deprived of its regular stalwarts due to their participation in the SA20 and Olivier, as the most capped member of the seam attack, will have to lead the bowling unit against a formidable Black Caps line-up.
“For us as a team, we are going to try and compete and win in New Zealand. We know it’s going to be a tough series.
“There are a lot of guys who haven’t played international cricket, but we are fairly experienced in terms of guys who have played a lot of domestic first-class cricket.
“The guys that are here know their game. It’s just now about replicating that on the international scene.
“New Zealand are a good team. They have won the WTC (World Test Championship) final.
“On a personal point of leading the attack, I have done it for many years, whether it has been internationally or domestically. It doesn’t really faze me.”
Olivier also has the experience of touring New Zealand before.
“The big thing is that you arrive there and it’s so green and you think it’s going to move around, but then it actually plays very well, so it can be deceiving. The ball moves around a bit.”