Following a few months away from the game as he dealt with the rigours of non-stop cricket for more than a decade, which presented itself most obviously in a serious elbow injury, De Villiers is enjoying a fine RamSlam T20 Challenge campaign, averaging 65 at a strike-rate of 213.
“To really enjoy my cricket, I’ve got to be fresh and I’m really looking forward to playing now. I feel the time off has refreshed me, it gave me time to work on my body. I’ve rediscovered my love for the game and the form is just a bonus.
“When you play so much cricket, you don’t get the opportunity to put in the training you need, but I’ve hit more balls than ever lately and I’ve been able to work on skills I don’t often get the chance to concentrate on, and I spent six weeks at TUKS practising against the red ball. It’s really nice to know that even after scoring all those runs, I can still get better,” De Villiers said after a typically lengthy Titans net session at SuperSport Park on Monday.
The man with South Africa’s second-highest Test score – 278 not out against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi in 2010 – is set to make his return to the Proteas Test side next month, and says he is “200% Test match ready” at the moment thanks to all the work he has been doing in the nets.
But for now, his focus is on the RamSlam T20 Challenge and all roads lead to the semi-finals for the unbeaten Titans as they enjoy an 11-point lead at the top of the log at the halfway stage.
But De Villiers said it is vital they maintain their focus lest their campaign be derailed.
“We’ve had a bit of a run, but every game we have to start over. We’ve seen in the IPL and other tournaments that you can win five in a row and then lose five in a row as well. So we’ll continue to prepare well, in a professional manner, to ensure we’re at the top of our game for every match.
"Every team has a weakness or two, we haven’t been exposed yet, but our time when we are under fire will come,” De Villiers warned.
A busy, vital week lies ahead of the Titans as they play three games in the next six days: they take on arch rivals the bizhub Highveld Lions in the Jukskei derby at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium on Wednesday, host the Warriors at Sahara Willowmoore Park in Benoni on Friday and then play the Knights in the Port Elizabeth double-header on Sunday.
If the defending champions win two of those games then they will be assured of finishing in the top two of the standings and hosting a semi-final. De Villiers, as he has shown so memorably in the past, knows better than most just how inspirational it can be to play at the Bullring.
“The derby is always special, there’s a great history between the two teams and we’ve had some great games before. Every game is big, but to go to Johannesburg and play in the Bullring is special. We always love to win at the Wanderers,” De Villiers said.
The 33-year-old said the RamSlam T20 Challenge, with all the Proteas involved, has been just the breath of fresh air South African cricket needed after the disappointment of the Global T20 League postponement.
“I’ve loved it, especially playing for the Titans under Mark Boucher and Albie Morkel, it’s been great fun. I think it’s meaning a lot for our cricket and the quality has been really good. It’s very nice for the youngsters to feed off the Proteas and they can see that the gap is not that big for them,” he concluded.