Jacques Snyman is hoping he will get the chance to return to Carrickfergus at some point this summer and help the club pick up some silverware.
The 26-year-old marked his first season in the NCU as an overseas professional by racking up 1,085 runs at an average of 54.25 and also chipped in with 24 important wickets as Carrick made it to their first ever Irish Senior Cup quarter-final and a third-placed Premier League finish.
Snyman had enjoyed two previous stints in England but believes 2019 marked his best season yet in the most competitive league he has played in during his time in the United Kingdom.
“It was one of the best seasons I’ve ever had going overseas,” he said.
“People always ask what the toughest league you’ve played in is and for me it would definitely be in Northern Ireland. For me, there is no such thing as an easy game there.
“I got to the club and people made me feel comfortable and the likes of Eagy, Holmesy and CJ helped me a lot.
“It was one of my best seasons ever with breaking some records and I really enjoyed it.”
Snyman understandably didn’t know an awful lot about the NCU or Carrick when he received the offer to ply his trade in Northern Ireland but he had the right people around him to talk to about a potential move.
Pat Botha, who had spent the previous three seasons with Carrick and has now signed for Woodvale, was able to offer some advice while he also shared a Knights changing room with Shadley van Schalkwyk who was at Armagh in 2018 and originally scheduled to join Warinsgtown for the 2020 season.
Through his own research he found out that AB de Villiers had been at the club and says it’s an honour to play for the same team as one of biggest stars of this generation.
“I spoke to Shado and to Pat Botha and they both said it was a great club,” he added.
“They mentioned the names of the likes of Roger, Iain Parkhill, Eagy, Jim Nelson and said they were all really good guys.
“When I signed, CJ (van der Walt) texted me and just told me a bit about the background of the club.
“I went to read up about the club and seen that AB de Villiers had played there and one of my best friends used to be at the club.
“For me, it was huge playing for the club that AB had been at.
“Everyone in South Africa looks up to AB so to have that opportunity to play at the club he played at was a great opportunity and I was so excited to get over and see what it was like.
“The guys accepted me with open arms and I had a really good time.”
Carrickfergus have found themselves consistently in the top half of the Premier League table without being able to mount a serious challenge on the title yet.
With someone like Snyman in their team supported by a host of quality players they might not be too far away from that and the South African is desperate to get back and help the Middle Road men fulfil their potential.
“I really want to get back,” he said.
“I’m a loyal guy and I’m looking to get back to Carrickfergus this season.
“If not, I’m not sure what the future holds and maybe they’d want me back for the season after.
“I don’t want to have started something with a club and then leave them. I want to help the club to win some trophies so it would be my goal this season.
“I obviously want to perform well on my side but I would love to help the club win some silverware.”
Snyman’s blistering form carried over into his season back home and he was really impressing with his performances before the coronavirus pandemic resulted in the campaign ending prematurely.
The highlight of that was his 65 against England for a South Africa Invitational XI before following it up with scores of 38 (from 16 balls) and 29 the following day.
That experience helped him enormously and his run of consistent performances meant he picked up a Knights franchise contract, where a certain Allan Donald is head coach.
“I came back from Carrickfergus with some form,” he added.
“For Northern Cape I did really well and then getting exposure to the franchise season was just great working with the coaches.
“I played half of the franchise season and now have got a franchise contract.
“I’m really happy and what helped me a lot was playing for the Invitational team against England.
“That helped me a lot because getting the privilege of speaking to the likes of Ben Stokes, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and all those guys afterwards you learn so much about the game.
“It was a dream come true to play against the World Cup champions.
“The reality kicks in when you walk onto the pitch on the morning of the game and you see the England squad warming up.
“You see the likes of Ben Stokes warming up and the reality kicks in that I’m going to be playing against them.
“The night before I didn’t know if I would be in the playing XI and then when you walk onto the pitch knowing you are playing – the excitement was overwhelming.”
His hard-hitting batting ability didn’t go unnoticed by the stars of England’s touring side and comments from Jonny Bairstow particularly stood out.
“Afterwards, Jonny Bairstow made a few good comments that I heard again last night that he hasn’t seen a guy hit the ball as clean as me and I’m one of the best talents he had seen in South Africa, so that automatically drives me to work even harder,” he said.
“With those comments he was saying that he didn’t think I was too far from international cricket so for me it’s just about putting my head down and working to achieve those goals.”
Playing international cricket is Snyman’s ultimate dream and there has been more than one country inquiring about his services.
While representing the Proteas is the ambition, Ireland and Scotland both showed interest and although it isn’t something Snyman is ruling out in the future, right now his full focus is with his homeland.
“Cricket Ireland and Scotland were after me asking to come over and play for them,” he added.
“It was great for me that other countries seen me and wanted to give me recognition for my performances and try to qualify on that side.
“Always in my heart I’ve had the goal of playing for the Proteas, so I’m keeping my options open at the minute.
“I want to play for the Proteas but if not then in a few years time I can move over and pursue my career on that side because cricket is everything.”
The pause in any cricket action will delay those lofty ambitions for a while but Snyman is trying to have a positive outlook on the break and is eager to push himself in order to achieve his dreams.
“This is tough and a big eye-opener,” he said.
“It’s difficult to train cricket but it’s a great time to work on your fitness and work on some personal fitness goals.
“You can’t just forget about cricket so I’m still reading up on the game. I’ve been reading articles and watching a lot of Instagram videos, especially the Indian ones because they are so technical.
“I’m thinking about how I can change my game here and there and then doing some drills with a tennis ball to keep my eye and not losing it.
“The question is how will you do after it? You can sit back and just relax but others are working harder than you on their fitness, whereas you can be the one working harder and taking over a few players who aren’t working as hard.
“I’m one of those guys and I’m working really hard at the minute.”
Only time will tell if he gets the chance to make it back to Carrickfergus at some point in 2020 but if he does, Snyman is confident that the current crop of players are capable of achieving something special.
“At the minute, we don’t what’s happening,” he added.
“I’m speaking to the club every week. I feel like last season we had a really strong team and a good chance of winning the league.
“The club can achieve a lot of success because we have a well-balanced side.
“It’s difficult because you don’t know what’s happening yet.
“In my mind, I’m thinking that I’m going but there is also that part that says there’s a chance you won’t be.
“If that happens, sooner than later I will move back to my province for this year and get things going there.”