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This is Part 2 of a series of articles by Malvory Adams about the feats of yesteryear's black heroes and some emerging stars on the sports field

By unknown | Jun 05, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

A new brigade of sportsmen has now emerged from the townships, effectively zipping the mouths of the merit choir.

A new brigade of sportsmen has now emerged from the townships, effectively zipping the mouths of the merit choir.

Leading the charge are marauding Bull Gurthro Steenkamp, ably supported by Bryan Habana, Akona Ndungane and Heini Adams. For the Sharks, JP Petersen, Waylon Murray and Adrian Jacobs are at the front.

Cricketers Herschelle Gibbs, Ashwell Prince, Charl Langeveldt, Makhaya Ntini, Alviro Petersen, JP Duminy, Goolam Bodi, Ethy Mbhalati and Thandi Tshabalala constantly have the opposition at sixes and sevens.

These special talents follow in the uncelebrated footsteps of all-time greats such as Themba Ledwaba, Peter Jooste, Daniel September, Irvine October, Godfrey Simons, Peter Mkata, Norman Xhoxho and Ronnie Korkee.

Others are Cassiem Jabaar, Julian Smith, Joslin Ontong (cricketer Justin's uncle), Karriem Rasdien, Anton Arendse and the two Debbos, Desmond Kramer and Desmond Booysen. Players with flair and an eye for the slightest gap.

Few people know that Eric Majola, father of the chief executive of Cricket South Africa, Gerald, was one of the greatest flyhalves ever produced in South Africa.

Like his father, Gerald played flyhalf for the mighty Kwaru (KwaZakhele Rugby Union) and that, for a short period as a student at the Peninsula Technikon in Cape Town, he represented Tygerberg Rugby Union. He also represented Eastern Province (the black EP) in cricket.

It was sheer joy to watch the genial Western Province scrumhalf of the 70s, Jabaar, who had the amazing ability to snap-drop from behind the base of the scrum.

Vincent Barnes, the Proteas' bowling coach, was the best paceman in the Sacos (South African Council on Sport) era yours truly has ever seen.

Gelvandale, a former coloured township in Port Elizabeth, is one of many cradles of sporting excellence across South Africa. The Gelvandale Cricket Club celebrates its 30th anniversary in August this year.

Many provincial and international cricketers were groomed by Gelvandale and progressed through its junior section, most notably Protea batsman Ashwell Prince, spinners Shafiek Abrahams and Robin Peterson, opening batsman Alviro Peterson and fast bowler Garnett Kruger.

Former Eastern Province and West Indian all-rounder Eldine Baptiste was a prominent member of the club in Gelvandale's early years with the EP Cricket Board. This township also produced great rugby players such as Desmond Kramer, Charles Kleinbooi and Edgar Maree.

It comes as no surprise that Stormers captain Luke Watson considers Jabaar and ex-WP and Saru captain, lock Salie Fredericks, as his childhood sporting heroes.

Luke's father, Daniel "Cheeky" Watson, one of a trio of brothers (the others being Gavin and Vallance), took on the might of the apartheid machine in Port Elizabeth by joining Spring Rose in the Kwaru league.

It took a brave stance (cheeky, if you must) to define the significance of sport as a symbol of apartheid, in this case the Springbok rugby team.

The selectors were preparing to select the Springbok team for the first Test against Andy Leslie's star-studded '76 All Blacks, and Watson was considered a certainty.

On the brink of achieving what every young, white rugby-playing kid dreamt of, Watson decided to follow his conscience and join the rival Saru (South African Rugby Union) out of protest against the racist and oppressive white rugby structure, the South African Rugby Board.

Typical of the history of black sportsmen, Watson and his peers form part of a long list of unsung heroes who displayed their sporting talents in mostly barren and grassless fields in pursuit not of glory, but of a people's freedom.

As a result of this noble stand, their outstanding rugby talent could not be seen on a TV screen. The closest you'll get to visuals of that glorious period are back copies of Percy Qoboza's World, The Post and Cape Herald.

Modern day cricketers would do well to learn from the poignant stories of one of the finest cricketers during the 70s, Yacoob Omar, and Gerald Majola's brother, Khaya.

Omar's story underlines the unequal opportunities afforded to black and white South Africans, the legacy of which was hastily forgotten when cricket unity was negotiated with obscene haste in 1991. Majola played a key role in the transformation of cricket into a truly national sport.

Still there are positive signs. Sharks coach Dick Muir has broken that frustrating tendency of South African coaches to substitute a black player with another black player. It was no more evident than in the 1999 World Cup - Deon Kayser in, Breyton Paulse out. Paulse in; Kayser out. The switch was deliberate and hardly tactical.

Throughout the Super 14 season, Muir played Murray and Adrian Jacobs at centre - even if Jacobs came on as a substitute. A huge leap in the right direction.

lWatch out for Part 3, which will be the final article


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