“I have only ever played for the Multiply Titans as a franchise, so Supersport Park holds a very special place in my heart,” he said after his final appearance for South Africa.
Back in 2003, Morkel was still a young man trying to make his way in the game, and hoping to find a path to the paid ranks.
“I was still living with my parents, and I remember getting the phone call that I had been offered a rookie contract. I was playing in the UK, and my father told me. It was a very exciting time,” he remembered.
Morkel’s first day on the job was a nerve-wracking affair, as he and his father got stuck in the notorious Pretoria traffic, and the young newcomer was late for his introduction to some legendary teammates.
“We got lost on the way to the stadium, and I was just thinking that this can’t be happening on my very first day! Then, when I got there, we had a fitness test in the indoor centre, and I was rubbing shoulders with guys like Martin van Jaarsveld, Justin Kemp and Gerald Dros.
“I was so nervous, and I was already the rookie who was late! But that is what has always made the Titans special, because the senior guys really look after the young players. The guys made me feel at home, and I was very grateful for that.”
Morkel’s early days also saw him move into the Titans digs, across the road from the stadium. The apartments have housed many young players who have gone on to become household names, and Morkel’s housemate was another familiar face.
“I was sharing with Faf (du Plessis) as well as Alfonso Thomas. Initially, I wasn’t looking forward to sharing with Faf, because we had played against each other in school matches, and had some battles. We didn’t really know each other then,” he smiled in reflection.
Morkel’s early challenges didn’t end there.
“When I got there, I realised that there were only two beds there, but there was obviously three of us. I had to go and buy a bed, but because money was a bit tight at that stage, I bought myself a blow-up mattress! I also couldn’t afford to buy the pump, so I had to blow it up myself every night – which would wake Faf up and irritate him!”
From those tentative days, however, Morkel and his roommates grew closer than ever, and even got to know the ‘neighbours’ well. A few other guys were next door, including Paul Harris.
"We used to have a lot of braais together, and those days really made us become very comfortable in the Titans family, and allowed us to play our best cricket,” the big man enthused.
**Look out for the second part of Morne’s goodbye to South African cricket, as he reflects on his highlights on the field for the Multiply Titans, as well as the start of his career-long friendship with a speedster from Phalaborwa.