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Labuschagne eager for South Africa reunion

By AAP Newswire

Marnus Labuschagne's excitement about his family reunion in South Africa is matched only by his eagerness to pick up a bat again.

The self-described "cricket nuffie" has spent the past two weeks in the nation of his birth catching up with relatives while Australia's Twenty20 squad played a three-match series.

Labuschagne is set to break that unwanted cricketing drought on Saturday in Paarl when he plays in the first of three One-Day Internationals (ODIs).

The batting prodigy, who barely spoke a word of English when he and his family moved to Brisbane just before his 10th birthday, was born in Klerksdorp, some 30 minutes away from Potchefstroom which will host the third ODI.

Dozens of relatives and friends are set to attend that game, as well as the preceding fixture in Bloemfontein.

"(It) depends how many tickets there are," Labuschagne said. "It's probably the first time they've seen me play cricket since I was a very small kid.

"They saw me as a little kid just loving cricket and growing up, and they've seen my career from a distance but haven't been able to see it unfold live.

"It's going to be a really nice moment to share that at the next two venues."

Having scored endless runs in a Test summer for the ages, Labuschagne was parachuted into Australia's ODI squad for the tour of India last month.

Since then, the 25-year-old has only had a few Big Bash games and one Sheffield Shield innings for Queensland to slake his enormous cricketing thirst.

"It's actually been tough the last couple of weeks because I haven't played," he said.

Labuschagne's obsession with batting has led to inevitable comparisons with former national skipper Steve Smith, with whom he has developed a close friendship.

Smith's lack of interests away from cricket was perceived to be a factor in his captaincy unravelling during Australia's last tour of South Africa but Labuschagne is not concerned about his career becoming similarly all-consuming.

"For me it's never been about trying to get away from cricket to relax, it's been more about bringing it together and it being part of who I am," he said.

"It's not like I specifically try and get away from the game and not talk about it because for me at least, that's quite difficult."

For South Africa, a miserable summer continues with the news that Kagiso Rabada will miss the entire ODI series against Australia after suffering a groin injury.

The Proteas pace spearhead strained his groin during the recent T20 series, which Australia won 2-1.

Rabada, the No.4-ranked ODI bowler in the world, will also miss South Africa's tour of India next month and is in some doubt for the start of the Indian Premier League at the end of March.