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Last Updated:  Thursday, 13 February, 2003, 18:50 GMT

Tributes paid to legend Rhodes
By Martin Gough
BBC Sport in Johannesburg

It is not simply Jonty Rhodes' fielding or his batting that South Africa will miss for the rest of the World Cup, and most likely in future if he calls an end to his one-day career.

Rhodes had an x-factor that was worth a place in the side on its own.

"He was very important both as a batsman and as an overall contributor," says Kepler Wessels, South Africa's captain when Rhodes made his debut in 1992.

"His contribution to the team and the help that he gave Shaun Pollock was immense and this will really hit morale in the team."

Wessells believes that, although never considered for the captaincy of the national side, he provided much of the power behind Pollock's throne as a "right-hand man".

Former South Africa skipper Clive Rice ended his provincial career with Natal, where a young Rhodes was captain.

JONTY RHODES
Number of one-day innings: 220
Aggregate: 5935
Average: 35.12
Highest score: 121 v Pakistan 1996
50s: 33
100s: 2
Number of Test innings: 80
Aggregate: 2532
Average: 35.66
Highest score: 117 v England 1998
50s: 17
100s: 3

"He was effervescent," Rice recalls. "I couldn't believe that he could keep up that level of energy throughout the day without dropping dead.

"He had a great ability to score runs and get down the wicket - when we were batting together I did all of the calling because I wasn't sure if I could keep up."

Former South Africa coach Bob Woolmer describes Rhodes as "a great one-day batsman who became a good Test batsman."

And while Rice is not so fulsome in his praise of Rhodes ability with the bat he will concede the 33-year-old was effective in the way he scored runs, and the rate at which he did so.

But it was as a fielder that Rhodes' career will be best remembered, with highlight reels still packed with his awesome stops at backward point.

"He could lift a side dramatically with his fielding," says Rice.

"He was worth 20 runs and he would probably also run out the key batsman."

As a bowler, Rice was particularly grateful for the young firefly in the field.

He made you look good when you were bowling
Rice on Rhodes

"He made you look good when you were bowling," he says. "He could even cut off runs from bad balls."

South Africa must now regroup, and reorganise to include the arrival of batsman Graeme Smith if their dream of becoming the first side to win the World Cup on home soil is to be realised.

"It has messed up the balance of the side to bring in an opening batsman," says Rice.

"They will have to work out whether Herschelle Gibbs will continue to open the batting with Gary Kirsten or if Kirsten will move down for Smith. "

Woolmer led South Africa to the World Cup semi-final in 1999, and believes the team should still be able to do better this time around.

"It will be a blow for South Africa but they have to get over it," he says.

"One man can make a bit of a difference but it shouldn┐t make that much difference to an entire team."

"'I'm very sad that it happened," he goes on.

"It's a shame his career had to end like this."





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