“It hasn't quite sunk in yet. When I got the call, my wife was really excited and I was speechless. I'll probably get more excited when the tour starts and becomes a reality,” the 31 year-old beamed.
“Ever since I started playing cricket, the one thing I've always wanted to do is play for my country. That's every boy’s dream and after playing for quite a long time at the first-class level, it's
made it so much better to actually reach the goal that I've wanted to achieve for the last twenty years.”
With 345 first-class wickets in 96 matches spread over the last nine seasons, Von Berg’s perseverance has finally paid off. Upon reflection, he looked back at a tough time in his career, when he had broken a finger, and was wondering how much longer he had in the game.
“It looked very bleak, even though I was under a Titans contract. I chatted to Heino (Kuhn) and we both said to each other; “just do well on the field, do all we can do, and if we get picked, it's a bonus. If we don't, it's one of those things that are out of your control,” he reflected.
“For the last two years, it’s been going well. I've been in a good mental space and getting married has also helped to get my frustrations away from cricket. I think these are a combination of
things that have worked out, which is great,” he said of the balance he has found in his life.
Von Berg also brings a semblance of balance to any side he plays for, combining leg-spin, stout batting and a sharp pair of hands to provide the most whole-hearted of cricketers. He attributes much of his improvement to working with former Proteas keeper, and now Titans coach, Mark Boucher.
“Bouch has helped me work things out for the last two to three years, especially with regards to my bowling. He has made me focus on tactics and field placements, as he has always had the best view from behind the stumps.
Being a Titans player, he adds that the healthy competition has benefitted his game hugely. And yet, such is the spirit within the team, he and fellow Test squad member Tabraiz Shamsi have been working together, trying to be the best they can be come July.
“Last week we trained at the High Performance Centre, where we tried to replicate spinning conditions. Tabraiz and I came together and worked out game plans - how to bowl on wickets that turn quite a bit. From a batting perspective, we had Neil McKenzie giving us tips of how to play off spin and leg spin - which will put us in good stead for the upcoming tour.”
Happily, Von Berg’s first squad will have a lot of familiar faces. Of the 15 players selected, ten of them are Titans squad members.
“At least I’ll know most of the guys - that’s a plus point! It’s good for the franchise to have so many players in the side, and I guess it will almost feel like I’m playing for the Titans.
Von Berg added that he will go on tour with little expectation, but rather focus on grabbing any opportunity that comes his way.
“Hopefully, if I get a game, and make my debut, I will try to make a difference and carry the South Africa badge as high as I can.”
It is all he has ever dreamt of.
South Africa depart for Sri Lanka on July 4th and will get their two-Test Series preparation underway with a two-day practise match on 7 and 8 July, in Colombo. The first Test gets underway a week later in Galle, before the sides return to Colombo for the final Test, starting 20 July.
Full Standard Bank Proteas Test squad: Faf du Plessis (Multiply Titans, capt), Hashim Amla (WSB Cape Cobras), Temba Bavuma (WSB Cape Cobras), Quinton de Kock (Multiply Titans), Theunis de Bruyn (Multiply Titans), Dean Elgar (Multiply Titans), Heinrich Klaasen (Multiply Titans), Keshav Maharaj (Hollywoodbets Dolphins), Aiden Markram (Multiply Titans), Lungisani Ngidi (Multiply Titans), Vernon Philander (WSB Cape Cobras), Kagiso Rabada (bizhub Highveld Lions), Tabraiz Shamsi (Multiply Titans), Dale Steyn (Multiply Titans), Shaun von Berg (Multiply Titans).