JONTY Rhodes may be absent, but South Africa could not have asked for a better replacement. Derek Crookes, a 27-year-old from Natal, was South Africa's star with both the bat and the ball as he helped the defending champions into the second stage of the Cathay Pacific/Wheelock NatWest Hong Kong Sixes yesterday. Crookes' firebrand batting in the opening Red Group match, in which he scored 34 runs off eight balls, steered his team to a comfortable 37-run victory over Sri Lanka. Although he failed with the bat in the second match against New Zealand, Crookes took two wickets in three balls as top seeds South Africa secured a nine-run victory to win the group. 'I'm pleased with my performance. It's a good tournament and I think we have a good chance of doing well here,' said Crookes, who has played seven one-day internationals for South Africa. Crookes only realised he was in the team for the Hong Kong Sixes on Tuesday when last year's Player of the Tournament, Rhodes, pulled out because of a recurring hamstring injury. Against Sri Lanka, Crookes hit five sixes and one boundary to share the batting honours with Richard Snell, whose 34 runs featured two sixes and five fours as South Africa scored an imposing 109 for one off five overs. Sri Lanka were then restricted to 72 for four. Adrian Kuiper and Bradley Player came to South Africa's rescue against New Zealand as their team recovered from 10 for two to score 85 runs.