Marnus Labuschagne will be supported by several of his South African family when he plays for Australia in the first one-day international against South Africa at Boland Park on Saturday.
Some of those family members share his surname –- but not the way it is pronounced.
It has been a source of some amusement for South Africans to hear the way Australia’s rising batting star’s name is pronounced –- Lab-u-shane, quite different from the more guttural Afrikaans Lab-u-scargh-nay.
“Lab-u-shane is my taken name now because I’m Australian,” he said on Friday in his first press conference in the land of his birth.
“Obviously there is the traditional way it is pronounced over here but I’m not bothered at all. I’m not concerned how it is pronounced.”
Born in the mining town of Klerksdorp, Labuschagne’s father, Andre, accepted a mining job and took the family to Australia when Marnus was nine, about to turn 10.
The ‘Australian’ way of saying his name started when he began school in Australia. “There’s been a lot of variations and a fair few nicknames but Lab-u-shane is what it is.”
He was already keen on cricket when the family emigrated, he said.
“I did grade one, two and three in Potchefstroom so I played a bit of cricket there but obviously the rest of my cricket has been in Australia.
“I’ve never played over here (at the top level) so it’s very exciting to play in front of my family over here. They’re all very excited and it was nice to spend a couple of days with them.”
– ‘Bit of Afrikaans floating about’ –
The support base will multiply when he gets to Potchefstroom for the third and final match on March 7.
How many of his South African family will be in Potchefstroom, which is near Klerksdorp and where he started school?
“It depends how many tickets there are,” he laughed. Grandparents, uncles and aunts and friends will be there, together with his mother, Alta, who has flown from Australia.
“More than 20,” he said.
It will probably also be an opportunity to speak the language of his early childhood.
“I went to an Afrikaans school until I was in grade three so I’ve still got a bit of Afrikaans floating about.”
Although he regards himself as fully Australian, the links with South Africa have remained strong.
“We’ve come back quite regularly,” he said. And he visited South Africa on honeymoon in 2017.
Labuschagne was outstanding in Test cricket in 2019 after replacing Steve Smith as a concussion substitute during the second Ashes Test against England at Lord’s.
He finished the year as the world’s leading run-scorer in Tests with 1,022 at an average of 68.13.
He is a novice in the one-day game, however, and keen to establish himself in the format after scoring 46 and 54 in his first two innings in India in January.
“India was crazy,” he said. “I loved the pressure, the atmosphere over there. It was a great opportunity to play.
“That role at number four is something I want to make sure I continue to improve and make that a spot I can continue to be successful in.
“It was disappointing that I wasn’t able to kick on. That was a learning experience for me as well.”