Posts by Jono Cook

Westville is in Director of Sport Waylon Murray’s heart

29 June 2020 – Sport has played a defining role in the life of Waylon Murray. As a schoolboy, it led him to Westville Boys’ High (WBHS), then on to a professional rugby career, during which he wore the green and gold of the Springboks, and then, more recently, it led him back to WBHS.

In his primary school days, he attended Berea West where he initially excelled at cricket and athletics. “I really enjoyed my time there and I had a lot of positive people steering me in the right direction, especially with regards to sport,” he said in a recent chat with KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan at WBHS.

His mother did not want Waylon playing contact sports, but an approach by the Principal Philippe Paillard led to her consenting to Waylon playing rugby in grade 5. He ran out at eighth-man but, he admitted, he was undersized.

“Even when I got into high school, I was tiny in comparison,” he reckoned. “I had a growth spurt in the middle of grade 9 and into grade 10. I was also a year younger than most of my classmates. I finished school at 17.”

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Waylon’s move to high school also coincided with a move to the backline due to his speed and footwork. “I enjoyed tackling, so I gravitated towards centre. It was close to the action. I started in the pack and then ran away from it when I got into high school,” he said with a laugh.

Although many of his classmates made the move to Westville, for a long time Waylon had no idea what lay in store for him regarding a secondary school destination. He explained: “At that time, I didn’t come from a privileged background. Philippe Paillard suggested, with the help of a few teachers, that I apply for a scholarship. I didn’t know where I was going to be. I was very fortunate that sport gave me an opportunity at Westville.”

As the son of a single mother, he would not have had an opportunity to attend Westville without that scholarship, Waylon said. “Nestor Pierides and Trevor Hall decided to take a chance on me and I came to the school.”

Initially, it took him a little time to adjust to Westville because he was, in his own words, “very introverted”, but he felt protected because of the support of Nestor and Trevor. “They were very supportive and they gave me a lot of opportunities to excel at school. My mom lent on the school a number of times when she couldn’t manage and every time they helped and were there for me.

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“Being involved in team sport, even though I was socially awkward to a degree (in grade eight, I was still trying to figure out who I was), I was very grateful that I played with many good leaders and good people. It was helpful that I could play sport, coming in as a small fish into a big pond.”

Westville has a well-earned reputation for academic excellence and that, fortunately, was not a difficult transition for Waylon. He explained: “I have always been a disciplined person…and I assumed the role of head of the household (at least in my head) because my mom was a single parent.

“I always carried that weight of expectation with me. Whatever I did when I was at school, I was incredibly disciplined, which helped me in my [rugby] career. Obviously you need talent, but I wasn’t the most talented rugby player to ever have a professional career, but I did know how to be a professional and work hard. That helped me jump start my career.”

Sport helped Waylon integrate into life at Westville and he excelled in many different sports, playing for the 1st football team for three years, the 1st cricket side for three years, the first rugby team for three-and-a-half years [before the introduction of Bok Smart, which nowadays would have prevented that happening]. He also shone in athletics: in hurdles, long jump and the triple jump.

In 2018, Waylon presented his Springbok blazer to Headmaster Trevor Hall. The blazer now resides in the WBHS Griffin Room. (Photo: https://www.facebook.com/westvilleboyshighschool/ Westville Boys’ High on Facebook)

He named Doc Cowie as being a big influence on his cricket. Waylon was an opening bowler and middle order batsman who in matric played with future Dolphins’ batsman Martin Bekker and future Dolphins’ all-rounder Robbie Frylinck, who would go on to play T20 cricket for South Africa.

“I used to bat a lot in the middle order with Robbie Frylinck. He’s obviously matured and got a lot better after school,” he smiled. “I remember a lot of innings where we batted together, and we also bowled together, of course.”

In his matric year, when he was also the Head of School, he found that he had lost some of his love for cricket because of the long hours it demanded of its players. He started to turn his focus towards rugby. “I thought that was maybe a sign that I needed to concentrate more on rugby, even though I continued to play first team cricket. In football, I was never amazing, but because I was good at most sports I could manage to some degree.”

He added: “I enjoyed playing different sports. Looking back on it now, I am very grateful that I knew every season Nestor would come to me and say what he needed me to do. It was quite refreshing; after a long rugby season you look forward to football, and after football you look forward to cricket.”

In matric, though, there was disappointment when he missed out on selection for the KZN Schools rugby team. “I had a good year, but I was a bit young at only 16-and-a-half,” Waylon said.

The Westville 1st XV of 2003 included Waylon Murray as captain and Njabulo “Jabz” Zulu, his centre partner, who today coaches the Westville 1st XV with Jeremy McLaren.

“The Sharks at that time expressed an interest in me and they wanted me to do post-matric. I came back and fortunately I made the Craven Week team. I wasn’t on the radar for SA Schools or anything like that. But I played all the Craven Week games. We had a really talented team.”

The KZN line-up included Alastair Hargreaves (DHS), who captained SA Schools, future England international Brad Barritt (Kearsney), who also made the SA Schools side, and Westville’s Chris Micklewood (who would make SA Schools the following year) and Njabulo Zulu, among others. Zulu, Waylon’s partner at centre for Westville, is now coach of the Westville 1st XV with Jeremy McLaren.

Throughout his high school career, Waylon had paired with Brad Barritt when turning out for Pinetown and Districts. Missing out on the Craven Week team in 2003 was a big blow, but reuniting the following year was an enjoyable experience, he said: “It was good to be back with him that year and to finally get what I felt was recognition for my talent at the time.”

He joined the Sharks Academy in his first year out of school, but was in for a nasty shock when he didn’t crack the nod for the College Rovers under-20 side. But that proved to be fortuitous.

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“Someone approached me at the Union and said there was an opportunity for me to go to Jaguars and play in the Premier Division, so I would jump a few levels. He felt I had been overlooked.”

It proved to be a fantastic move for Waylon. At Jaguars, he joined up with players, many of them from the Sharks Academy, who were part of the development programme.

“It became one of the best teams in the Division at that time,” he said. “JP Pietersen was in that side, Dusty Noble ended up playing for the Sharks, Howard Noble played Springboks Sevens, so we were a bunch of misfits in a sense and we landed at Jaguars. We just exploded. We were beating teams with a really young side. Most of us were under-20, under-21.”

Dick Muir was coach of the Sharks at that time and re-introduced club trials which, again, proved to be to Waylon’s benefit.

“Dick Muir had three rounds of trials. The Sharks players could watch. At the final trials, if you were chosen (I think there were 30 players), you then had a chance to have trials against the Sharks.

“Dusty, JP and I ended up making it all the way through. From not making College Rovers, to going to Jaguars, to going to Currie Cup trials and being chosen for the Currie Cup squad that first year was an incredible, fairy tale start for me.”

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It was a remarkable elevation in a very short time and it was mind-blowing for the young centre. “I was star-struck. I was a year out of school and suddenly playing with these professionals I looked up to,” Waylon said. “But I was very fortunate that the Sharks had a very experienced group of leaders at the time. A lot of youth was injected, so there was a really nice mix.

“John Smit, AJ Venter, Percy Mongomery, all these guys that were in that group did so much for the development of the young guys. It was a really nice culture. You weren’t afraid to fail. It was a good place to be. We went on to have a good season a year after.”

His debut for the Sharks came against Griquas at King’s Park. In a game he doesn’t remember too clearly, one incident stood out: “I remember chasing through a kick and thinking I was about to score a try and Henno Mentz came in and got there before me,” he said with a rueful grin. “It’s all these weird memories. The pace of the game meant there was no let-up. For me, the whole game was over in a flash.”

Waylon had started studies in marketing when he joined the Sharks Academy, but his rapid ascent to the senior team soon put them on hold. In retrospect, he said, that was a good thing as marketing was not something he was interested in at all.

A screenshot taken from a YouTube conversation, dated 25 April 2020, between Waylon Murray and Jabz Zulu during the Covid-19 lockdown (Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9HxFTxaywQ)

By 2007, Waylon was in the Springbok reckoning and when Jake White opted to rest his frontline players ahead of the Rugby World Cup, Waylon got to pull on the famous green and gold jersey during the Tri-Nations.

Then, when Jean de Villiers was injured in the first game of the World Cup, it appeared that he was in line for a call-up to the biggest tournament of them all. Jake White, though, had other plans and opted for Wayne Julies, a player he was more familiar with, but one who had played little rugby for the Bulls that season. It hurt, Waylon admitted.

Nonetheless, during that season he got to spend valuable time with a very experienced Springbok squad. “I absolutely enjoyed being a part of the set-up,” Waylon said. “That Springbok team was really special in terms of talent. They knew how to win and they were a different breed.

“I stayed with them for a couple of months, even in the games I wasn’t playing, as part of the tour party. That was enjoyable. I got to spend time with incredible players, some of the best to ever grace the game.”

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In 2007, Waylon also helped the Sharks top the Super Rugby table. They then downed the Blues 34-18 in the semi-finals at King’s Park to secure a home final against the Bulls. In a thrilling back-and-forth showdown, the Sharks were pipped 20-19 in the dying moments of the title-decider after a Bryan Habana try which had resulted after a disputed steal in the loose by Pedrie Wannenberg. It is the closest the Sharks have yet come to lifting the Super Rugby title.

As a young player making his mark, considerations of playing elsewhere were not at the forefront of his thinking but, after a very good run of over five years with the Sharks, Waylon found himself with a crucial decision to make when the Lions made an approach for his services.

“I think it is a crossroads for every professional rugby career,” he said. “You mature with the game and you learn to have honest introspection with yourself, including when it is the right time to go. I remember at the time the Sharks still wanted me to stay, but I had had a couple of injuries. I went to the Lions.

“It was a hard decision to leave, but I was probably going to get more opportunity with them. It was difficult leaving my safety net. As a competitive person, you want to prove people wrong and show you can come back from injury, even stronger. There was unfinished business. Going to the Lions felt like a fresh start.”

The transition was difficult in the beginning, and Waylon questioned himself, asking why he had made the move. But those misgivings disappeared. “When you push through an uncomfortable space and just stay and hang on, you get the reward,” he said. “That was the case with Joburg. I absolutely loved it. I loved playing for John Mitchell. It was nice to get the full backing of a coach.”

Mitchell has earned a reputation as a tough coach, but it was his straight-forward nature that appealed to Waylon and he took lessons from that approach. He explained: “John didn’t skirt around honest conversations and I enjoyed that. That’s how I have tried to maintain my relationships afterwards with coaches. You tell me exactly what you are thinking, rather than let me assume what it is. To have those hard confrontational talks, especially in pro sports, can be difficult. But I would much rather have that honest feedback.”

Towards the end of his time with the Lions, Waylon underwent a knee operation, which ultimately led to him leaving the union and signing with the then Southern Kings. Injuries, he said, are something every player has to deal with through the course of a season.

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“I think every rugby player, to a certain degree, never comes into a match fresh, even if they are injury-free. You are always carrying some sort of knock. It’s about trying to get through the season and staying as fresh as possible, which is, I suppose, the nature of the game. Injuries are tough [to deal with], especially when you get a bit of momentum. I was hurt at different times when I had built up momentum.”

Recalling the first time he had to deal with a serious injury as a professional player, he said it was challenging, but also a time of growth: “The first time around, it is quite a dark place to be. You can’t see the finish line and you are forced to focus day in and day out on what you are doing. It’s quite tough to find motivation. In that time, I learnt to find some inner resilience, in terms of being more professional and setting new goals, smaller goals, and managing them.

The Southern Kings’ experience was memorable, he said, because of the people of Port Elizabeth and how they wholeheartedly supported the team.

The next five years were somewhat nomadic as he turned out for the Bulls, the Sharks again, and the Kings after that. In 2016, he tied the knot, marrying Nicci Goodwin in a wedding that was shared on Top Billing. Then, in 2017, he moved abroad to join the French Fédérale 1 club Mâcon. It proved to be a pivotal decision in Waylon’s life.

Waylon’s wedding to Nicci in Durban was a stylish affair which was featured on Top Billing

Recalling that time, he said: “I went to France. My son Grayson was born there. It was an incredibly difficult time, but I loved France. I was there for 16 months, not very long. I should have gone earlier. I was with Mâcon, so I was close to Lyon. It was always a dream of mine to get overseas. I was not playing in the top division, but it was still a chance to travel.

“That season put a lot of things into perspective. I didn’t feel a pressure not to achieve – I was always professional and I worked hard, no matter where I went – but understanding where I was in my life, what I wanted next, and what I wanted for my family became clearer and the decision became a lot easier as the season went on. I could have milked another one or two seasons, but I thought it was time to have a little bit more stability.” The question became what form would that stability take?

“I had spoken to [Westville Headmaster] Trevor Hall throughout my entire career,” Waylon said. “I had reached out to him when I first got to France and asked how things were going at the school. We started to talk a little bit more and he told me that if I wanted to come back he would create an opportunity for me, which would give me a chance to give back to the boys through my experiences.

“At the time it wasn’t at the forefront of my thinking, but near the end of the season, after my son was born, I wanted to start afresh and try something different, and put my mark on a different project.” The move to Westville was agreed upon.

Waylon with Guy Coombe, who coached the 2003 Westville 1st XV that also featured Jabz Zulu, and senior sports officer Thomas Jackson. (Photo: https://www.facebook.com/westvilleboyshighschool/ Westville Boys’ High on Facebook) 

When he arrived at the school, Waylon was tasked with guiding, counselling and supporting high-performance players across all sports. But the position of Sports Director was soon to become available.

He explained: “When I came here, Sharmin Naidoo was the Director of Sport, but he was in the process of leaving. I had the opportunity to start something different with the Sports Department. Sharmin was here for 10 years and he did incredible work, but I wanted to do things in a different way.

“I wanted to educate and help the kids to understand that sport is great and we would like [some of them] to have professional careers, but what is more important is your contribution to the world and how well-rounded you are when you come out of the school. It is about managing expectations and trying to create good individuals that are going to return to our legacy when they leave school.

“If they make it as professional sportsman, so be it. For me, what keeps professional sports going are the kids that continue to play after school, including socially. That’s why I always encourage kids that if it is their passion, in rugby, for example, but you’re not making it professionally, just play because you love it. There is a shelf life to your sporting time and you won’t have those gifts forever.”

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It is important, too, that boys should enjoy the process of learning and growing together and not just focus on fixtures and results, he added. “I tell kids they always think about their big match on the weekend, but the actual room for growth is in the week.

“I recently spoke with Brad Mooar, who is an assistant coach with the Crusaders, and he was a really good mentor for me, because he was with the Kings before he went to the Crusaders, and he always used to tell me not to worry about the weekend, the week is where you have fun and grow. The matches are extra. As soon as you look too far ahead you stumble.”

Returning to Westville has been an enjoyable experience, Waylon said: “It is a very supportive environment and I think that’s always what makes Westville unique. It’s a really comfortable place where you feel you can be yourself.

“For me, it’s that mind-set of being of service to others, so I felt when I got here there were so many people that wanted to help. I am the type of leader that doesn’t want to have all the answers. I want to lead and grow with people. You learn from others and you get ideas from them.

“I am really grateful to be able to come into a place where I can be creative and try to do something special in a school that has changed, but which has maintained the foundations it was built upon.

“For me, it’s kind of a fairy tale [to return to Westville] because during my rugby career it was tough going contract to contract and moving to new places. Now, I have come to a place where I can finally breathe and relax, where I don’t have to worry about getting up and performing. It’s a different type of pressure. Being in this environment is very conducive for growth.”

Back in the Westville colours and loving his job as Director of Sport, Waylon Murray.

Casting an eye to the present day, 2020 looked poised to be a memorable year for Westville sport, especially the winter sports of rugby and hockey. The rugby team was expected to be one the school’s best teams yet, while the hockey side was coming off an undefeated 2019. But then Covid-19 flipped school sport and the world on its head.

Reflecting on what Westville and the school’s leading sportsmen have missed out on, Waylon said it would have been great to have outstanding teams, but the focus has switched to helping the boys deal with the disappointment of missing out on their season: “We’ve tried to be in constant conversation with the boys in terms of what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling and not concentrating on the loss, because that is what it feels like.

“Expectations were high and they wanted an unbeaten season, but it is sport. We hoped the season would turn out that way. We don’t know now and will never know [how it would have turned out]. We know who we are and we understand the boys are most important to us.”

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He expects them to deal with the setback well, he added, saying character and resilience define the Westville boy.

“We’ve got a great leadership group under Gavin Sweet, who does our leadership,” he added. “I work closely with Gavin and share a lot of ideas. We do a lot of videocasts, interviewing people, so we are really like-minded in that sense. We definitely support each other when we are dealing with an issue. That culture of collaboration is vital. We grow as people, so leadership and emotional intelligence are important.”

Concluding, he said: “It’s been incredible coming back to see what has happened at Westville, the successes the school has had, the good years and the bad years. There has definitely been a shift since I was in school, with Westville continuing to rise and excelling in sport and academics.

“We always say sport is a good outlet for the boys, but academics is their primary focus. They need to understand that.” And those words, coming from a former professional sportsman and the school’s Director of Sport, are sage and pleasing words indeed.

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Should schools reward skills or talent?

Seth Godin, who writes an insightful daily blog on anything and everything pertaining to the human condition, has this to say today.
I’d like to know what you think.

Over to Seth: “Talent is something you’re born with. Skill is something you earn.

“Skill comes from commitment and practice and self-discipline. The skill of earning skills is a lifelong advantage.

 

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“Without a doubt, encouraging boys to leverage their talents is a skill. And yet…

“Who gets to be the playmaker in the boys’ basketball first team – the tall kid? Or the one who practises the most diligently and brings the most teamwork to the game?

“Who gets an ‘A’ in maths – the one who can breeze through the tests or the student who asks intelligent questions and challenges the assumptions?

 

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“Who gets into a fancy varsity…

“You get the idea.

“Leaders talk about developing real skills and encouraging people to develop into their full potential but – too often – we take the short-term path of betting on raw talent instead.

 

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“And of course, what looks like raw talent might not be. It could simply be our confusion about first impressions compared to the power of commitment and persistence.”

*A couple of words have been changed to suit the KZN10.com theme.

 

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Top waterpolo player, top cricket coach, and now CEO of the DHS Foundation

15 June 2020 – Andrew Shedlock, as the CEO of the DHS Foundation, is a well-known figure at Durban High School and in the school’s community. Before taking up his position in 2019, he enjoyed a successful career as an international waterpolo player before turning to cricket and making his mark as a coach on professional and schools’ level players alike.

As a young boy at DPHS, he excelled as a swimmer and represented Natal Schools in the pool in 1973 and 1974. He also had aspirations of success on the cricket field.

When it came time for high school, he moved to DHS where he continued swimming and playing cricket, which was a challenge at times. In a recent interview, he said: “In those days the swimming galas used to take place on a Saturday morning, so I, on the odd occasion, would go to a gala and swim (I was the number one swimmer in my age group), and from the gala I used to go to cricket matches. That happened in second form (grade 8) and third form (grade 9). In third form, I swam for Natal Schools.”

The following year, he was appointed captain of the DHS under-15 A cricket team, but then something occurred that was to have a huge impact on his life. He went to watch his brother playing a waterpolo match and when his brother’s team found themselves short of a player they asked Andrew to play. He did.

“Being swimming fit, it was fine. I jumped in the pool and I enjoyed the game and I said ‘this is me’. I had one or two cricket games left and I said ‘at the end of this I am giving up cricket’. I went and finished my cricket games.”

As the return of summer sports approached after winter, he started swimming again and told the waterpolo coach he wanted to play waterpolo. He was then selected for a Stayers tour of the Eastern Cape.

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“Now, everything was flying and I was training and I understood that I was giving up cricket. The last week prior to the tour I was called into the Headmaster’s office, who was then the legendary Des ‘Spike’ Thompson.

“He turned around to me – and every time I go into that office now I have these visions of standing there in front of him – and from where I stood you could see the whole school from the windows, and he said to me ‘Shedlock, you are not allowed to give up cricket. The major sports at this school are cricket and rugby. They take preference and I am not allowing you to play waterpolo. I want you to go from office to the cricket practice (because I was captaining the under-15 A team at the time) and that is it! Don’t ask questions.

“I said, ‘but sir, I don’t have my cricket kit with me’. He said, ‘that’s fine. You go to waterpolo today. But when you come back in the fourth term, I expect you to play cricket’. I went from there to the waterpolo practice and went on the waterpolo tour. Then, when I came back in the fourth term, I said to the waterpolo coach, Mr Nico Lamprecht, ‘What must I do?’ and he told me to go to waterpolo.

“I played first team in the fourth form, which in those days was unheard of. I was still under-15. I went on and played SA Schools in 1980 and I captained SA Schools in 1981. I never looked back.

Andrew captained the South African Schools waterpolo team of 1981.

“One day I asked Nico what happened with my situation at DHS. He said he went to the Headmaster after the tour and said to him, ‘Mr Thompson, what takes preference, first team waterpolo or under-15 A cricket?’, so Spike told him it was obviously first team waterpolo. Nico said ‘Shedlock’s in the first team’. That’s how he got around me being able to give up cricket.

“Funnily enough, I became the reference, not only for DHS, but also for other schools. When guys wanted to give up, they would point to Shedlock at DHS, who was able to do it. People after that used me as an example.”

Andrew Shedlock and Steve la Marque proudly display their SA Schools’ colours.

After school, Andrew went to Stellenbosch University. As part of his degree, he did a level two cricket coaching course. Later, when he returned to Durban, he did a level three course.

During his time at Stellenbosch, in 1986, he also represented the South African men’s waterpolo team. In 1989, he completed his studies, having qualified as a biokineticists. He needed to do an internship and, fortuitously, the man he did it under was Richard Turnbull. Turnbull had earned himself a highly respected reputation and, as a result of that, was involved with both the Natal cricket and rugby teams.

While at university, Andrew was selected for the South African men’s waterpolo team in 1986.

Andrew, who was living in Durban, drove up to Pietermaritzburg every day to work with Turnbull, who, besides running a successful gym, Body Dynamics, where a number of other biokineticists were doing their internships, also worked in the Sports Office at the local university. Future international cricket coach Graham Ford worked there too. When Turnbull decided to set up a Body Dynamics Gym in Durban at Collegians Club, he chose Andrew to run it.

Back in Durban, cricket again entered Andrew’s life. “I got involved with the Natal cricket side. In those days, Mike Procter was the coach. Kim Hughes was the captain. There were guys like Peter Rawson, Neville Daniels, and Rob Bentley. I became friendly with Kim, and the Aussies were probably a bit more advanced than us in those days [in how they utilised sports science]. Fitness was quite a thing for him, so he used to come into the gym quite often and encouraged all the other guys to come.

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“In 1990, Richard [Turnbull] worked closely with Ian MacIntosh and the Natal rugby side (which was, of course, the first year that Natal won the Currie Cup). Because Richard couldn’t come to Durban that often, I used to deal with a lot of the rehabilitation of the players. That year I rehabbed Dick Muir when he injured a hamstring, Jeremy Thomson popped a shoulder, and Wahl Bartmann was another player I worked with. I did the rehab for a lot of those Natal players. Biokinetics in those days wasn’t a recognised profession. It was really, really tough.

At that time, too, Andrew was still playing top level waterpolo. In fact, the next South African national team to tour internationally after the ground-breaking cricket tour of India in 1992 was the waterpolo side and it was not a gentle introduction.

“We went to a pre-Olympic waterpolo tournament in 1992 in Hungary and played against Hungary, the USA, the Netherlands, Czechoslovakia and Italy [who would go on to claim Olympic gold],” Andrew recalled. “We played against all the teams that were two months out from the Olympic Games, so they were peaking and those were their Olympic sides.”

Six members of the Natal waterpolo team of 1992 were selected for the national team, including Andrew Shedlock.

By then, Andrew had also moved to the Health and Racquet Club in La Lucia. Then, Graham Ford took over from Mike Procter as Natal cricket coach.

“Because of his association with Richard at Maritzburg University, Graham wanted Richard to work with him,” Andrew said. “But Richard couldn’t because, being in Maritzburg, he couldn’t get down to Durban all the time. So I went and helped. I used to go to practices and warm-ups for games.

“On Saturdays and Sundays, during a four-day game in Durban, I would be there and act as a fitness assistant. There were players like the legendary Malcolm Marshall, Clive Rice, Peter Rawson, and then our local talent which included Andrew Hudson, Jonty Rhodes, Lance Klusener, Shaun Pollock, Errol Stewart, Neil Johnson, Dale Benkenstein, Mark Bruyns and Doug Watson.

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Being around the players so much proved to be a valuable learning experience. “In those days, you spoke cricket. Can you imagine sitting next to Marshall, Rawson, and Rice? Sometimes we would leave the ground at 19:00 or 20:00, having listened to these guys’ stories until it was late.”

After some time, Graham Ford asked Andrew if he would be interested in working as a full-time trainer out of the Natal Cricket Union’s indoor centre. He said a gym would be added on the side. Andrew agreed to it and turned his sole focus to cricket.

It was an interesting time. Under the leadership of Malcolm Marshall, the approach of the Natal team was changing. Some players, like Marshall, were full-time professionals, while others, like Peter Rawson, Mark Logan and Errol Stewart, held down jobs, which meant different practices times for different players. In addition, a number of Natal players had to travel from the Pietermaritzburg daily to attend practices. There was a period of adjustment needed.

The Dolphins celebrate winning the Standard Bank One Day Cup in 1996/97.

It also became a valuable learning environment for Andrew. He said: “Fordie would go and throw and he would, for example, say Jonty was coming in for a net and I would throw to him. I had quite a strong arm from playing waterpolo and I got the nickname ‘Wayward Wally’. Every time Fordie would coach I watched and listened. It got to the stage where guys would ask me to throw to them when Fordie was busy. I got to teach myself about the game.

“I had guys in those days, like Jonty and Andrew Hudson, while Lance [Klusener] and Polly were coming through. Often when I threw to them, those guys knew their games, so they taught me what to look for. I learned and developed.”

In 1998, Graham Ford joined the Proteas as an assistant coach to Bob Woolmer. When he did that, he asked Andrew to take over the Cricket Academy at Kingsmead. Andrew subsequently took charge there and started coaching the under-19 team, while staying involved with the senior side. During that period he also built up a particularly strong relationship with another former DHS boy, Lance Klusener, and Jonty Rhodes.

Andrew hanging out with Lance Klusener. He built up a particularly close relationship with the DHS Old Boy during his time with Natal cricket.

“They would have no one else coach them, no one else throw to them other than me,” Andrew said. “I spent a lot of time with Lance prior to the 1999 Cricket World Cup, and also with Jonty.”

Klusener, of course, went on to be named Player of the Tournament at the Cricket World Cup after a string of devastating match-winning performances. The South African challenge, sadly, ended in the semi-finals when, after playing to a thrilling tie against Australia, they were eliminated from the tournament.

“Lance and Jonty taught me a lot,” Andrew said. “I would get a phone call from Lance from the West Indies, for example, and he would ask if I had watched him bat and how did he do. If I didn’t watch, he would shit all over me.

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“Through the course of time, people like [DHS old boy] Hashim Amla came through the system. [DHS old boy] Imraan Khan came through the system, and people like Mark Bruyns, Doug Watson, and [Zimbabwe international all-rounder] Neil Johnson. Natal was a formidable team. It was great to be involved with them.”

Change is inevitable, though, and one day, in 2003, it announced itself. “A letter got slipped under my door to say thank you very much, but your services are no longer required. I was a bit upset and I tried to fight it, but I was fighting a losing battle.”

Resetting, that same year, in March, he set up the Shedders Cricket Academy. It has been in operation ever since. Andrew explained: “I started at DPHS. From there I moved and coached from home. Then I ended up at Northwood for 10 years.” There he served the school as a professional coach, assisting all teams. He was subsequently appointed the Director of Cricket and also coached the 1st team.

Gareth  Orr (right) was one of the first boys Andrew coached when he started his cricket academy in 2003. Gareth went to Maritzburg College, played for KZN Inland, and then went to study at the University of Pretoria. When he decided to start playing cricket again in 2020, he once more turned to Andrew for coaching.

After leaving Northwood, he moved to DHS. The Shedders Cricket Academy now operates out of DHS and, coming full circle, DPHS, where it all began.

Reflecting on his manner of work, his coaching style, and what he has to offer as a coach, Andrew said: “One advantage I’ve always felt I had was that I had played international sport and I knew the pressures of playing at that level.

“I feel a lot of my coaching is focused on motivation, encouragement, and positive reinforcement. Cricket is one of those sports where it is so technical that you can find a fault with every shot or ball. I try to avoid that and make it a lot more positive.”

Interestingly, his coaching has also impacted on some prominent England internationals. Craig Roy, had played provincial and international waterpolo with Andrew, so when Craig’s son, Jason, was starting to make his mark with Surrey he arranged for him to come out to South Africa to spend six weeks with Andrew to work on his game. It wasn’t the last time Jason, who went on to earn his England colours as a hard-hitting top order batsman, sought out his coaching.

Andrew has worked closely with England international Jason Roy, the son of his former waterpolo team-mate Craig Roy.

Kevin Pietersen, too, when he was in the wilderness in Natal cricket, before his move to England where he became a mainstay of the national side, turned to Andrew for coaching and that resulted in many hours spent at Kingsmead with the pair working on Kevin’s game.

Andrew also spent time coaching future England one-day international captain Eoin Morgan, and that led to one of the few regrets of his coaching career. He said: “I worked a little bit with Eoin when he came out and spent six months at Saint Henry’s as a schoolboy. It was at a time that [future Proteas’ assistant coach] Adrian Birrell was just finishing off as the Ireland coach and Ireland were trying to persuade Eoin Morgan to keep his Irish citizenship and play for them. I worked with him and I got offered a job at Malahide Cricket Club, which is now a test venue for Ireland cricket. You look back and wonder what if I had taken the job?”

Cricket, though, did take him abroad to the hot bed of India and it almost resulted in a position in the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL). “I got quite involved in the Indian Cricket League (ICL), which was the one that got banned,” he said. “I was coaching in that league and I had a phone call from [the first chairman and commissioner of the IPL] Lalit Modi prior to the IPL starting, but we were already down the road with the ICL. You look at those things [and wonder], but I have no regrets.”

One of the true greats of the game, Sri Lankan batsman Kumar Sangakkara, with Andrew at the 2016 Masters Champions League.

Nowadays, as CEO of the DHS Foundation, Andrew has an office on the school’s grounds and the Shedders Cricket Academy makes use of the High Performance Cricket Centre, coaching in and around school practices. He is no longer involved in the day-to-day running of the Academy, but takes the occasional session. He has three coaches in his employ.

Still, coaching provides him with a sense of satisfaction. “It is a lot about motivation and encouragement, about boys enjoying themselves and the time they spend with me.

“I’m very happy to coach a boy that plays in the under-11 D team and the very next session I will coach a provincial player. It’s about adapting, and I get as much enjoyment out of coaching the under-11 D players as I do out of coaching first team or provincial players,” he commented.

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He feels encouraged and is so positive by what is currently happening at DHS. “DHS is most definitely on the up and, crucially, DHS is gaining the confidence of its Old Boys again. Boys and parents alike are now choosing DHS, where not too long ago they might not have even considered it as an option. Our academic structures are constantly improving, and our sport is again starting to compete at top levels.”

“There are so many good things that are happening at DHS, for example, the introduction of Cambridge and the Nonpareil extension programme,” Andrew said.

“Under the school’s leadership of Tony Pinheiro and his staff, it is so pleasing to see where his team has taken the school to in such a short period of time. I am not just standing and preaching it, it is genuinely happening. The school is constantly evolving and looking for ways to improve. We all market our school with passion. We are getting there. Our numbers are up, our boarding establishment is full and as mentioned earlier, DHS now offers the Cambridge system.”

While Andrew now focuses on his work with The DHS Foundation and his passion for DHS, the legacy of Shedders Cricket Academy continues in the capable hands of his son Ross (seen here on the occasion of his last match for the DHS 1st XI) and his loyal and dedicated coaches who, overseen by Andrew, continue to coach cricket with the same coaching principles of passion, hard work and positive coaching mentality.

From Westville to the world, leading tennis commentator Robbie Koenig

9 June 2020 – Born and raised in Westville, Robbie Koenig turned a love for tennis into a pro career and when that was over he took his connection with the sport to even greater heights by becoming one of the world’s leading tennis commentators. KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan chatted with him recently.

As a young sportsman at Berea West Senior Primary school, Robbie also showed talent in cricket and was good enough to represent Natal B as “a bit of an all-rounder, jack-of-all-trades, but master of none.” But tennis was the sport he excelled in and when he moved on to Westville Boys’ High, which his brother had also attended, he became part of a remarkable hotbed of talent.

“Westville was number one in the country,” Robbie recalled. “I’ll tell you the team that won the national schools championships. It was the top four players in the team, playing singles and doubles. It was me; Ellis Ferreira, a Grand Slam champion in doubles; Roger Mills, who went on to play College tennis in the states; and Kirk Haygarth, who went on to play on the Tour as well. Myles Wakefield might have been there already. Maybe it was six guys. Myles went on to a good career on the Tour too.

“Westville in those days and Natal, in particular, were unbelievable. I remember we played one of the Joburg schools in Joburg, and the winners got a trip overseas.

“We had such a rich history. Going back a number of years, there were people like Royce Deppe, Grant Adams, and Bruce Griffith.”

The Westville 1st tennis team of 1988 included three players who would go on to play the game professionally: Robbie Koenig, Myles Wakefield and Kirk Haygarth.

“School was just a happy place for me,” he said. “The environment at Westville was just so positive. You had people like [future Headmaster] Trevor Hall, who was the Deputy Head when I was there. He taught me some accounting. Again, an ultra-positive guy, so supportive of the tennis environment, because he was a former tennis player.

“Overall, my over-riding feeling was that it provided such a supportive framework. Whether you were excelling in academics or sport, you were given the same credit. Doing well at tennis, I was made to feel as good as the guy who was dux of the school. It is testimony to the teachers that were there, so many good people. They knew people skills.”

From an early age, Robbie was coached by John Yuill, who had ranked as high as 52nd in singles in the world during his career. “He was far and away the most instrumental influence in my career,” Robbie acknowledged.” John’s outstanding ability as an exponent of the serve and volley game would later help Robbie become a four-time Grand Slam semi-finalist, three times in mixed doubles and once in men’s doubles.

An incredibly talented squad of youngsters until the tutelage of Yuill also helped Robbie develop his game further. Then there was his uncle Guy (Gaetan) Koenig, who had represented South Africa in the Davis Cup. He served as an inspiration.

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In club tennis, he learnt lessons playing mixed doubles that would later prove invaluable. “I remember playing mixed league on the weekends at Westville Tennis Club when I was 15, 16 years old. Ladies of a certain age, around 45, didn’t move that well, so I had to learn how to cover 90 percent of the tennis court,” he said.

“You become unbelievably good at reading so much more. You learn how to help your partner and close down the gaps on the doubles court, things that a lot of other people maybe don’t learn. Playing much more structured league, like men’s doubles, you don’t have to worry about your other half of the court because that person has got it covered.

“I’ll tell you what, Barbie Walker made me do a lot of covering when I was playing at Westville. I probably have got to thank her for a couple of my mixed doubles semi-finals at the Grand Slams as a result of that.”

Anyone who has heard Robbie commentating on tennis will know of him as a tremendously enthusiastic and positive person. Those traits come from his dad, he explained: “My dad was one of the most outgoing, positive people to be around. I think I inherited a lot of that from him, a love for life and my enthusiasm. People like to be around me because of my positive energy. I definitely got that from him.”

Wimbledon 2017: Robbie Koenig with one of his former doubles’ partners, John-Laffnie de Jager; Wayne Ferreira, who was part of the same generation of young South African tennis talent; and David Friedland.

As a rising talent in a generation of top South African youngsters, Robbie received offers from Pepperdine University and the University of Miami, but a decision by Tennis South Africa to establish an Elite Squad to go along with the previously formed Super Squad, which included players like Wayne Ferreira and Marcos Ondruska, meant Robbie chose to forgo the university route.

The support from the national federation lasted 18 months and helped get him into the pro ranks. Seeing players like Ferreira and Ondruska (a player he regularly beat as a junior) perform well at Wimbledon and the French Open respectively, also provided inspiration that he could make it as a professional.

Reaching that level, though, took a lot of hard work because, Robbie admitted, he was not one of the most talented of the young South Africans. Kevin Ullyett, who became a three-time Grand Slam champion in doubles, described him as a never-say-die, fight-for-every point type of player on court, which Robbie appreciated.

“That’s awesome to hear that coming from a guy who had the career he had. But I needed to be the toughest fighter because I didn’t have the talent he had. I’ve always had a great work ethic and good discipline, but that was because I didn’t have the talent of guys like Ellis Ferreira and Ully, especially. He was unbelievably talented.”

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On the ATP Tour, Robbie enjoyed some success in singles, but quite early on in his career he had to deal with knee problems. As a smaller player – five-foot eight and no more than 70 kilograms at his heaviest – his body was not prepared for the demands of life as a pro. He had to endure two knee operations, which sidelined him for 13 months.

“I came back after that a lot smarter,” he said. “I used to do a lot more bike work, a lot more non-impact stuff. I wish I had known that when I was 16.

He also decided to focus on doubles which, with the benefit of hindsight, he wished he had done a little earlier in his career. John Yuill’s coaching and days spent playing mixed doubles at the Westville Tennis Club were about to pay off. The fact that a lot of South African tennis was played at altitude in Johannesburg was another plus, he added.

“Many of us grew up playing or competing at high altitude, which almost made it a necessity to be able to serve and volley. That became an important part of your game and you learnt that skill from a young age. Obviously that translates so well onto the doubles tour.”

Furthermore, in doubles one had the advantage of being able to share the load with a partner, whether in victory or defeat, and the switch proved to be an easy one.

The world-renowned tennis commentator with his former doubles’ partner and former South African Davis Cup captain John-Laffnie de Jager.

“When I teamed up with John-Laffnie (de Jager), I couldn’t believe how easily I made the transition to top level doubles. It came very quickly. The first big tournament we played together was the US Open. We qualified there and made the quarter-finals.

“That was my decision to give up on my singles, really, because in one week at the US Open I made more money than I had made in the previous eight months playing singles.”

Robbie went on to make four Grand Slam semi-finals in his career, one in men’s doubles and the other three in mixed doubles.

Early on, there was a tendency to look to partner with South Africans. Later on, it was about finding players whose games melded with his, which created opportunities to win, Robbie said.

“I always felt if I had a decent partner alongside me I could do some serious damage. For a while, I think in some of the partnerships I had I was the slightly better player, but I needed someone who was better than me. When I played with guys who were better than me, I found it easy to win.”

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Robbie achieved his biggest successes in mixed doubles, teaming up with the Belgian, Els Callens. He remembered teaming up with Annabel Ellwood, an Australian, and playing Els and her South African partner Chris Haggard at Wimbledon one year. They won, but he thought to himself that he and Els would make a good team.

“I bugged her for about a year or two [to play with me]. At this stage she must have been a top 20, if not top 10, player in women’s doubles. Eventually, she said ‘Okay, Robbie, let’s play’.

“It was easy to win with her. We beat some good teams. I remember beating Martina Navratilova and Leander Paes at the US Open. We made the semis there, the semis in Oz, the semis at Wimbledon in mixed. I wish she had stuck around a bit longer, or I had got hold of her a little earlier, because her game fitted perfectly with mine.”

One of his most memorable matches was the aforementioned quarterfinal with John-Laffnie de Jager at the US Open because the victory made a telling difference in his life.

“In the quarterfinals, we played Piet Norval and Neil Broad. They were top dogs at the time. The difference between losing in the quarters and losing in the semis was that the prize money had started to double by then.

“My wife was pregnant and I knew if we won this quarterfinal match and made it to the semis of the US Open we would have more than enough cash to put down a substantial deposit on my place in London. I remember being pretty nervous going into the match.

It was also played before a clash between Andre Agassi and Karol Kucera, which had to be completed, with their contest locked at two sets-all on Louis Armstrong Stadium.

“They always put a match before a match that needs to be completed,” Robbie explained. “We walk into the stadium, 8 000 people, a full house! They weren’t there to see us, they were there to see the end of the Agassi match, but everybody wanted to get there early and make sure they had a seat.

“We played a really good match in a hostile environment. We ended up winning it. It was a great match, we played unbelievably well and ran away with it in the end [winning 5-7, 6-4, 6-2].

“That was one of the coolest matches I ever played because I remember the relief when we were winning, thinking I’m going to buy that apartment in London now.

“It carried so much significance, with my wife being pregnant and now we were going to move in there. I could finally afford my own place, because we had been sharing houses in London with other people. I think from a significance point of view, making my first semi-finals at a major, it was big at the time. Obviously winning titles was big, but that’s the one that sticks in my mind a lot.”

Halfway through his final season on tour, he turned his focus to coaching. Mahesh Bhupathi, then ranked number one in doubles in the world, asked him to be his doubles’ coach and Wesley Moodie asked him to be his singles’ coach. “Basically, I had two people in my stable, so I could retire from tennis, knowing that I had a gig.”

The timing was good. Robbie had endured a frustrating time with the chopping and changing of his doubles’ partners. He had partnered with Thomas Johannson, the Australian Open doubles’ champion, but fate stepped in to bring about a change his plan when Johannson suffered an injury from a mishit ball, which struck him in an eye and put him out of tennis for half a year.

“That would have been my doubles partner, which left me without anybody to get into the events with. It’s amazing how fate turned out. I would have been relying on Thomas to get into tournaments and the next thing you know the guy is injured for the next six months. Who knows how the chain of events thereafter would have unfolded,” Robbie said.

Fate intervened again shortly after that when Robbie had a serendipitous meeting. “I was living in the UK. I’ve got an apartment just across the road from Wimbledon. It just happened that the guy two driveways up from me was a guy named Jason Goodall.

Robbie and Jason Goodall just before commentating on the Masters 1000 final in Toronto in 2014 between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Roger Federer.

“I am walking to Southfields Tube Station, Jason is walking back. We meet each other at the corner. We were pushing our prams and I was with my wife and kid. Jason and I hadn’t seen each other for a while. I knew him vaguely.

“He stops me and asks me ‘Hey Robbie, how is it going? Long time, no see. What are you doing here?’ He said he lived just up the road. I said me too. He asked me what I was doing and I told him I was coaching Mahesh and Wesley. I asked him what he was doing and he said he was working for a company, ATP Media, and he was doing some commentary on the Masters 1000 events.

“I asked who he did it with and he said John Barrett (a Wimbledon commentator for almost three decades). He asked if it was something I would ever be interested in doing. I said not really. I said I had a good coaching gig. He said ‘If you ever want to get into it, or try it out, you’re going to be at these tournaments anyway, here’s my number. Get in touch if you want to give it a go.”

Later, at tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami, Robbie realised why Jason had invited him to give commentary a go. “At that stage there were only three commentators. There were the two of them and there was this guy from the States and the workload was insane.” And John Barrett, then about 80 years of age, was about to retire.

In Indian Wells, after finishing training one day, Robbie went to see Jason. He helped with commentary for a set or two. “It was fun. I wasn’t looking for a job, but I was very natural. Two days later, the same thing happens. I go in for a set here or there. The same thing happens in Miami and the same thing happens in Hamburg, when that was a Masters 1000 tournament. I would do a couple of sets in a row, but didn’t think anything of it.”

Robbie showing Andrew Rueb, a former doubles’ partner and current coach of the Harvard men’s tennis team, the booth at the ATP World Tour finals in London in 2014.

But then, after Wimbledon, Wesley Moodie decided he no longer wanted to work with Robbie. “Suddenly, I am only getting 50 percent of my income, because I was only working with Mahesh. That’s when I realised how fickle a coach/player relationship could be. You don’t have any contracts. When a guy says he doesn’t want to work with you anymore, you’re kind of left in limbo. It was right after that happened that I thought hang on, this commentating gig might be a nice long-term security thing for me.”

In Cincinnati, Robbie did some more commentary work and was then approached by the Head of Production with an offer for a full time job the following year. After a little back and forth, terms were agreed and the stage was set for the next stage of his career. “The bonus was I going to get paid in pounds and they paid for all your expenses,” Robbie said.

“I started in 2007 in Indian Wells. Those were the early days of ATP Media, the world feed. The first couple of years were brutal, just three commentators working 10 hour days. You basically did two sets on, one set off, the whole day. The beauty about that is that I learnt all the skills very quickly. I learnt how to do colour commentary and I also learnt how to do the lead. If I had joined an international company, like ESPN, I would have only been doing the colour commentary.

“My biggest asset was that I had always had a very good mentality on how to see a tennis match. That was my greatest strength, the ability to analyse a tennis match. I think that came across well to the viewers from early on, and certainly to the guys in the production team. My natural analysis of the match was on point. I was reasonably articulate. I didn’t have a funny accent. I had a nice neutral accent, which was for a worldwide audience, and Jason and I bounced off of each other very well.”

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Since then, it has been a fulfilling journey for the Westville old boy. Last year, he joined Amazon Prime, which has taken over tennis in the United Kingdom from Sky Sports.

“You won’t hear me as much now in South Africa,” he said. “You’ll hear me at the majors, except the French I don’t do. I do the world feed for three of the majors. Now for the ATP 1000s and 500s, all of them I do for Amazon Prime in the UK. They’ve got the men’s and women’s rights now. Last year, they signed a four or five year deal for the ATP rights, and now they’ve got the women on board, so it is all on one platform.”

As a commentator, two matches have stood out as being very significant to Robbie personally: “The 2017 Australian Open final because, remember, Federer was 3-1 down in the fifth, he had just got broken. I put off my microphone and I looked at my co-commentators and I said ‘I can’t believe it, Nadal’s got him again.

“It looked like Rafa was going on to win it and what happens? Roger wins five straight games to win the match. It was incredible. The drama in that match was off the charts. Roger had just come back from injury and the atmosphere was mind-blowing. That was right up there, if you talk about big matches.

As a commentator, calling the 2017 Australian Open final between two of the all-time greats, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, was an incredible experience for Robbie Koenig as he witnessed the Swiss maestro capture his 18th Grand Slam title five years after his 17th. (Photo: YouTube)

“The other one, I did for radio at Wimbledon was when Andy Murray won Wimbledon for the first time. He beat Novak Djokovic in the final. It had special meaning for me.

“I first came across Andy when he was 15 and Chris Haggard and I played doubles against him at Nottingham, which was one of the warm-up tournaments before Wimbledon. We played this wildcard pair, and he was half of that team, and I could not believe how well this kid returned serve. Chris was a lefty and had a nasty lefty serve on grass. In the first five games, this kid was incredible. If I crossed, he went down my line. If I didn’t cross, he returned it on Chris’ shoelaces. We were staring at him, trying to intimidate him.

“Anyway, we ended up playing everything to his partner, Martin Lee, who we both knew well. He eventually crumbled. This 15-year-old kid, Andy Murray, was as steely as could be.

“After the match, he walked over to his mom and his mom put her arm around him. I was speaking to my family and I walked over to them. I said ‘this kid of yours, if you’re the mother, he’s fantastic, an unbelievable talent’. Of course, it was Judy [Murray]. She said ‘Thanks very much, Robbie’. I said ‘If he just keeps it up, this kid is going to be a proper talent and I hope he can go on to do good things because he’s a proper player.’ Andy was standing there.”

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Robbie kept following Andy Murray’s career and that included seeing him make a couple of Grand Slam finals before being beaten at the final hurdle each time.

“Eventually, he wins at Wimbledon. I remember – this is what made it so cool – I didn’t know for sure if I was going to be calling the final or not, because there is a big team of people. After he won his quarter-final match, I was lying in my bed one evening and I thought if I get to call the final what am I going to say if he wins? Because I often script. I have two scripts, one for each player in the finals, if they win. I want to do it justice.

“Something came to me that evening that Murray was going to win, and I had better have a good line when he wins because I had watched his journey.

“The words that I used were something to the effect that ‘There will be tears in Dunblane today, but they won’t be tears of sadness. They will be tears of joy because one of their own has won the greatest title our sport has to offer, and in doing so he has beaten the best player on the planet, Novak Djokovic’.

“That was my reference to the sadness that had gone down in Dunblane, because Andy was part of that shooting (16 children and one teacher shot dead and 15 others injured by Thomas Hamilton in March 1996).

“He was at that school. He wasn’t in the gym. He was in the next class to be in that gymnasium where that guy shot everybody. His mother had given lifts to the guy who had opened fire on the kids at the school. So, it was a subtle reference to that. It came to me in that moment.

Commentating on Andy Murray’s victory over Novak Djokovic in the 2013 Wimbledon final was an emotional experience for Robbie Koenig because of his connection with the British star. (Photo: YouTube)

“Andy won it, and that feeling that I had when he won makes me emotional even now when I think about it. I watched his whole journey take place, and I was part of it. I remember the Head of Production said to me that was one of the best closing lines for a match that he had ever heard. It was inspired in that one moment, lying in my bed at night. That’s why that sticks with me.”

A question he has often been asked is how he copes with being the father to three children and having to spend a lot of time far away from home. It turns out, it’s not an issue. In fact, if anything, it’s been a good thing.

“The big difference is that it is all my kids have ever known. It’s completely normal for Dad to come and go. My wife, Giselle, has been amazing.

“You still miss out on stuff, but I have often said I probably get to spend more time with my kids than a lot of parents who work a normal job, because when I am home I am free. I don’t have any work when I am here.

“I am at work 24 weeks a year. I always remind people I have 28 weeks’ holiday. How many people have 28 weeks’ holiday? That’s how you have got to think of it.”

He might spend a lot of time away from home, but Robbie Koenig gets to spend more time with his family than most fathers.

Travel, too, is not a chore. “There is nothing to complain about,” Robbie said. “Working for Amazon, you fly. What a company to work for, unbelievable. You’re flying business class everywhere.

“I’m watching the most golden generation of tennis and talking about it on a daily basis. I’ve got to visit some of the most beautiful cities in the world. If I am complaining about my job, I need a reality check. That’s the thing: I am so blessed to do what I do. I know very few people who absolutely love their job. I count my blessings every day. I get to do something and be involved in this generation of the Big Three.

“Now, my kids are a bit older. The family is starting to travel a bit more with me. We all went to Wimbledon last year, which was super-cool. We went down to Australia and New Zealand at the start of the year. They came to the ATP Cup for a few days before heading home.

“Hopefully I can keep it going for a few more years and my kids can get to see the world at the same time as me.”

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Grand Slam champion Kevin Ullyett talks tennis and influences

4 June 2020 – Born in Zimbabwe, Kevin Ullyett moved to South Africa at a young age. He attended Atholton Primary School in Umhlanga Rocks before moving on to Beachwood (which less than a year after he finished there amalgamated with Northlands and became Northwood) for high school. At the beginning of his matric year, he left school to pursue a career as a professional tennis player. It proved to be an excellent decision. He spent 18 years on tour, winning 34 doubles titles in total, including three Grand Slams.

Speaking with KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan, he said sport was an important part of life in the Ullyett household. Kevin’s dad, Robert, played Currie Cup cricket for Rhodesia and also represented the country in hockey at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. His older brother, Clive, was also a good tennis player who would go on to play professionally, but without achieving similar success to Kevin.

From an early age, the boys were subjected to an active lifestyle and from the latter days of his junior school career that meant early morning tennis coaching for Kevin, between 05:30 and 06:30, under the tutelage of Peter Waters. Then it was off to catch a bus to school at 07:00.

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Peter Waters coached Kevin from a young age. He eventually retired in mid-2019 after a coaching career that lasted 55 years.

“As I started putting in the hours,” he recalled, “I started having some decent results and realised I liked it more than the other sports, I suppose.”

Becoming a top junior player meant his holidays were often filled with tournaments. “Every holiday, from under-12, about standard five, I would go to Johannesburg, because it’s always been the place where the tournaments were held. Then, at the end of the year, there were the East London and Port Elizabeth Sugar Circuit events. From under-12 through to under-18, I did that every year.”

Tennis at Beachwood was strong. Practices took place a couple of times a week and then there were matches, too. Westville Boys’ High, at that time, was also exceptionally strong and Kevin often played against those players, who included, among others, Robbie Koenig, Ellis Ferreira, Grant Adams, Kirk Haygarth and Myles Wakefield, all of whom went on to successful professional careers.

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Robbie Koenig, who has become a world-renowned tennis commentator, was a good friend and rival as they grew up. “Robbie and I played so much junior tennis together. We had such good battles throughout our junior career, and we would go and practice together on weekends, all day. He was quite instrumental in my game, because he was probably the best competitor out of all the juniors here, like a Pit bull, never-give-up kind of attitude. He broke my heart so often in the juniors. It toughened me up a lot. We spent so much time together. It was good.”

While Robbie might have broken Kevin’s heart at times, Robbie wasn’t having any of it when discussing Kevin. “Don’t take his BS,” he said with a laugh. “When it really mattered he got one over me in the seniors, when there was big money up for grabs. Over the course of his career, he cost me a boatload of money on the Pro Tour.”

Remembering his time at Beachwood, Kevin said: “We had a really good Headmaster, Mike Ellis, when I was there. Back in those days, there was a lot of structure and quite a lot of discipline. Nowadays, I think the kids get away with murder, but back then there was no stepping out of line. Mike Ellis went on to become a politician for the DA and Mr Robinson, the Vice-Head, stepped in. That structure and discipline helped me in tennis. My dad also got us to focus on a hard work ethic.”

The teachers, too, were really good, he said, and the competition provided by other nearby schools, like Glenwood and Northlands, helped keep the standards high.

At the Inter-provincial Schools Tennis Tournament in Bloemfontein, with Damian Mustard (Pinetown), Garth Furmidge (Michaelhouse), Ryan Fitzwilliam (Northlands), Roger Mills (Westville), Kevin Ullyett (Beachwood), Clint Lishman (Grosvenor), teacher Gary Coombe (Beachwood) and Kirk Haygarth (Westville).

When Kevin reached matric one of the pivotal moments of his life occurred three weeks into the first term. He explained: “During that time, tennis in South Africa was at a stage where there were a lot of local events, challengers and satellites, where locals were getting wildcards, guys like Wayne Ferreira and Marcos Ondruska.

“There were eight to 10 guys who were getting world rankings points and doing really well in those tournaments. They were all leaving school, so I convinced my dad (I don’t know how) that I should leave school as well.

“I completed my schooling through correspondence and split it over two years, so that I could play tennis and travel to all of the events around the country, while I was still under-18. I played against all the Defence Force guys who were doing their national service. That’s what I convinced my dad about and he bought into it.”

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Nowadays, without the tournaments that existed back then, it is so much harder for South Africans to make it onto the ATP World Tour, but at that time the satellite and challenger events drew players from overseas. And the high altitude of Johannesburg favoured the local players, Kevin recalled.

“The conditions in Joburg were quite different and the ball flew around. They weren’t used to that. Living here, it was a great opportunity for the young guys, who were getting wildcard opportunities, to get some scalps of the guys who were coming over and ranked 200-300 in the world. That was a good springboard, but it is much harder now starting out, because you have to fly to other countries and play in tough conditions to fight for points.

Hanging out with visiting players for a Challenger event in Durban. That’s Ryan Fitzwilliam (Northlands) on the right, opposite Kevin, in front. 

“If you did well in those tournaments back then, you could pick up 10 or 30 points in a Challenger and ramp up your ranking. It was easier, but now you have to get out there, find some places you can get in. There are also more people playing, and it takes cash to travel now. We were lucky back then that the South African Tennis Federation assisted a lot of the juniors to get into tournaments.”

The fact that a group of talented juniors, many of them from KwaZulu-Natal, were emerging at the same time helped them make the jump into the professional ranks. “That’s key,” Kevin said. “That’s why I think the Spanish and the French have done so well. They’ve had 15 to 20 guys all at once [coming through].

“You don’t to want to lose to the one guy and he makes some points, and you want to match him. It’s a good rivalry to have and we had that, with about six to eight guys in Natal, and then there were the Joburg guys, so there was a good pool of kids. We had the numbers, but I feel they have now dwindled a little and it’s difficult to get that now.”

Support from the national tennis federation also played a crucial role, with a Super Squad, under the coaching of Glenwood old boy Keith Diepraam, featuring Wayne Ferreira, Marcos Ondruska and Grant Stafford, while just below them was the Elite Squad, which included Kevin. It was coached by Kobus Botha.

“Those couple of years, 1991-1994, with Kobus really helped me, especially mentally,” Kevin said. “He was really good on the mental side of competing and we worked terribly hard, and that’s what gave me a good springboard. Peter Waters gave me my whole life as a kid but, when I left Durban and went to Joburg and overseas, Kobus was the one that pushed me to get onto the circuit and to play bigger events.

Coach Kobus Botha (left) played a very important role as Kevin transitioned to life as a professional tennis player.

“In 1995, Kevin Curren coached and mentored me, which was also a key stage in my career. He taught me how to think more of the ‘bigger picture’ and play the right way and not be results/cash-driven, which took some pressure off of me. He encouraged and helped me to put on five kilograms with the help of a trainer in Austin, Texas, to try add more pace on shots and move more explosively. I was very fortunate to have someone like Kevin Curren, who had competed at the highest of levels of the game, guiding me.”

Kevin enjoyed some success as a singles player, with his ranking settling in between 100 and 300 in the world from the time he was 19 years of age. But there was a problem: clay courts. “I was more of a classical player, playing on fast courts. I had to bypass the whole clay season because I couldn’t actually move on the stuff. My results were too inconsistent to keep my ranking at 100 or below on a regular basis. I had to rely on a couple of good weeks every year, and it showed in my singles rankings.”

Some of the older pros, who were playing doubles, suggested to him that he should focus on doubles. He made the decision to follow that path in 2000, strangely enough after his best year in singles in 1999.

“It takes a lot of hard work to stay high up in singles. It was a career decision to hang up my racquet and do something else or to give doubles a crack, like all the other guys were doing, and see what happens. It turned out that I had eight really good years of doubles.

With the benefit of hindsight, he admitted: “I should have done that earlier. I felt I still had something to offer in singles, but the [good] results were too intermittent.”

Young and with a full head of hair, practicing to make it to the top.

Doubles also had the benefit of having a partner. “The singles is more cut-throat,” Kevin said. “In doubles, it’s nice to play as a team. You can practice together. It’s a lot more beneficial. If you just play singles, it can be quite solitary. The doubles’ players generally get on really well. There is a lot of camaraderie.”

Finding the right partner is important, though, especially with matches often being decided by small details and margins. He explained: “It’s like trying to find a girlfriend. What was important to me was finding someone to fit my style of play. I was decent at the net, but I wasn’t as consistent at returning, so I needed someone who could return really well. That’s what I looked for. If saw someone who was solid on returns, those were the people I would target.

“You just have to go up and ask. You just say why don’t we try a few weeks and the worst they can say is no. You try it and work, and then you commit to play the next year, and then you’ve got to give the bad news to your current partner that you’re breaking up with them, and it happens in reverse. Your partner might tell you they’re moving on, which is fine. It’s a career decision. I think everyone understands that. You’ve got to look after number one, unfortunately.”

His doubles exploits started with Pietie Norval, who had partnered Wayne Ferreira to an Olympic silver medal in Barcelona in 1992. “We were mates and we spent a lot of time together in London, and we did well for a couple of years. It was just people I knew,” Kevin said.

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Despite leaving Zimbabwe at an early age, the country came to play a role in Kevin’s tennis career and the Black family, which produced professional players Byron, Wayne and Cara, were a big part of it.

Looking back, Kevin said: “We left Zimbabwe pretty early. I remember Wayne, we were a similar age, playing juniors at under-eights. Then I didn’t see him for my whole junior career, but bumped into him again as we were all turning pro.

He and Wayne then formed a very successful doubles partnership, including teaming up to play Davis Cup for Zimbabwe. Their tie against the USA in Harare in 2000 is a match that Kevin reckons was the most memorable of his career.

“It was at the Sports Centre, which had a corrugated iron roof, and we had 5 000 people banging drums in between every point. It sounded like a festival. The Americans included Andre Agassi and John McEnroe was the captain. It was phenomenal. We had a packed Harare crowd and we managed to win 7-5 in the fifth set [against Rick Leach and Alex O’Brien]. That was probably the greatest moment and most intense match I was a part of.” The victory gave Zimbabwe a shock 2-1 lead over the USA, but they were unable to hold on to it and eventually went down 2-3 after a tremendous battle.

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Playing in the Davis Cup brought a different dynamic to competition and it was something that Kevin enjoyed. “It was amazing. Our Davis Cup matches in Zim were always a nice week back there. We practiced hard and the crowds were really vocal and it was fun. We would have a really good time. We didn’t really put that much pressure on ourselves. It was really something to play in a team event for your country.”

In 2001, Kevin and Wayne Black claimed a major title, the first for both of them, when they landed the US Open crown with a 7-6 (11-9), 2-6, 6-3 victory over the American duo of Donald Johnson and Jared Palmer in the title-decider.

New York: Kevin Ullyett and Wayne Black celebrate victory in the 2001 US Open. It happened just two days before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre’s Twin Towers.

Remembering what it took to get there, Kevin said: “We would often get to the quarters or semis, one or two matches away, and it builds up a lot of pressure. In losing a few heart-breakers, you learn some hard lessons and you feel terrible afterwards. But two, three, four years down the line, you get in a similar situation again and the experience from those hard knocks before is valuable.

“You also see mental coaches and follow those kinds of processes to try and put yourself in that situation again and see what and how you would do things differently. That all goes into a mixing pot to improve yourself. Once you got yourself into a similar position again, you were ready.”

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The following year, in 2002, Kevin captured another Grand Slam title, teaming up with Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia to takes the honours at the Australian Open. That was an unexpected result.

He recalled: “It was by chance that I played with Daniela. Her coach was a good friend of mine, Nigel Sears, and we were in Cape Town. We used to go there every year before the Australian Open, and she would fly from Europe to practice with him there. I was looking for hits and would hit with her. We put in some practice sessions and just said let’s play some mixed doubles. Our first tournament we played in we won and it was the Australian Open, so it was perfect!”

Kevin and Daniela Hantuchova lift the trophy after claiming the Australian Open mixed doubles title with a convincing 6-3, 6-2 win over the Argentinian pair of Paola Suarez and Gastón Etlis in the final.

His third and final Grand Slam win came in 2005 at the Australian Open when he and Wayne Black beat the most successful doubles team in history, the twins, Bob and Mike Bryan, 6-4, 6-4.

“I always had a dream of winning a Grand Slam. But, if I am honest with myself, I never really thought I would,” Kevin said. “It didn’t feel like we were good enough at one stage, but things started to happen. The next thing we had a Grand Slam title to our name and from there the confidence got really big. Once you’ve achieved that kind of milestone you want to win more. It was a surprise in a way.”

Apart from the three Grand Slam wins, he also made the Wimbledon final in 2008, partnering Jonas Björkman, along with six further semi-finals and 12 appearances in the quarters of the Grand Slams.

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In mixed doubles, he made the Wimbledon final with Daniela Hantuchova in 2002 and made it to the semis with her in 2003. Two years later, he teamed up with former South African, Liezel Huber (now an American citizen), to reach the Wimbledon semis once again. That same year, he and Huber were beaten in the Australian Open final.

On the top rung of the ATP World Tour, Masters 1000 events, he recorded wins in Miami and Hamburg in 2004, in the Canada Open in Montreal in 2005, Hamburg again in 2006, and Paris in 2008. The first three titles were with Wayne Black, who retired after the 2005 season, while the latter two were with Paul Hanley (Aus) and Jonas Björkman (Swe). There were eight further finals appearances, 13 semi-final slots, and 14 appearances in the quarter-finals.

Kevin Ullyett and his long-time doubles’ partner Wayne Black won the Masters 1000 title in Miami in 2004.

During the course of his career, he amassed over 500 victories and was ranked as high as fourth in the world in doubles.

As a fan of the game, he selected two matches as the best he has ever witnessed and both of them were singles finals at Wimbledon: the 1980 final between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, which Borg edged 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (16-18) and 8-6, and the 2008 final, an incredible shot-making classic, between Roger Federer and Rafael Nafal which the Spaniard won 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (8-10) and 9-7.

In 2004, Kevin married Marylou in Hillcrest. In 2005, their first child, Jemima, was born. As a top sportsman travelling the world, with a child in tow, life had become more complicated.

He explained: “After 9/11 airline travel became so much more difficult, especially travelling with a kid and prams. You would go the airport for a 14:00 flight out of New York and you would get there at 11:00 to deal with the stringent security. It was becoming so tedious, so you really had to work hard on your schedule, and you needed a good travel agent to make sure that you were not flying via this place, via that place, and another.”

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Inevitably, Kevin began considering the next step in his life, the one after tennis. Finally, after he made the decision to retire, he ended his career at the 2010 South African Open, partnering Wesley Moodie in the doubles.

“At that stage I was 36 and the travel was getting tough. I was a little over-cooked by then. I had been on tour for 18 years. It was quite a difficult decision, but in hindsight sometimes you get a bit clouded by the travel and losing some matches. That life is actually phenomenal.

“You get into the ‘real world’ and you realise how good playing tennis and making a living is. You’ve got your own time, you’re outside, playing a sport you love, and you’re getting paid.

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“Just the kids and the travelling and, maybe, being away from them led me to think about doing something else. By default I fell into property development through my brother-in-law and a friend back in South Africa, just as I was trying to figure out what I was going to do for the next 20 to 30 years of my life.”

For a while, he and his young family lived in London following his retirement, and soon another son, Nicholas, was born. They then made a decision to return to South Africa and a home on the north coast. Back in South Africa, Florence, his fourth child, became the only one of his children to be born in South Africa.

Now, with four children – Jemima, Sebastian, Nicholas and Florence – it’s a very different life, revolving around family and plenty of time spent at home. There is time, too, for golf and he’s excelled there, winning the SuperSport Shootout in 2015 and multiple Umhlali Club strokeplay titles.

Travel is no longer an unavoidable part of his life. And Kevin’s very happily enjoying the change.

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Saints’ old boy SJ Erwee is a Dolphins’ stalwart

Saint Charles’ old boy SJ (Sarel) Erwee has been one of the most successful and consistent Dolphins’ batsmen of recent seasons, bringing stability and runs to the top of the order, and performing well in all forms of the game. KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan caught up with him to talk about how his former school had helped develop his love for the game and about how he became a success at franchise level.

His home language was Afrikaans, so he attended Piet Retief in Pietermaritzburg until the end of grade three, before switching to Pelham from his grade four year on. During his time at Pelham, while playing in Midlands’ cricket trials at Saint Charles, he scored 60, an innings that was witnessed by two Saint Charles’ matric boys, Glenn Addicott and Brad Moses, both of whom would go on to play for the Dolphins.

Afterwards, they asked him which school he was planning to attend for high school. His initial thoughts had been Maritzburg College, but, he admitted, he was not about to tell the two Saint Charles’ boys that. They told him they would help make sure he moved to the school. Then, when he thought about it, as an Afrikaans boy, Saint Charles began to make a lot of sense.

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He explained: “I think, as an Afrikaans boy going into an English school, you’re looking for a bit more one-on-one help, in case you’re battling with school work when it’s your first time in an English class. Saint Charles had small classes, maximum of 20 in a class, so you got individual attention if you needed help. That was what drew me toward the school, knowing I would survive in an English environment as an Afrikaans boy.”

Also, the two matric boys had made a very favourable impression on young SJ: “Having matrics caring for youngsters and wanting them at their school, that was quite special as well,” he said.

SJ’s dad, Sarel, had enjoyed a successful career as a provincial rugby player, and it was his favourite sport, but when SJ said he wished to concentrate on cricket, his dad backed his decision.

“As a youngster, I guess all parents want you to do well and they obviously push you to do well, and they do what is necessary to give you the best opportunity to do well, things like extra coaching. As a sportsman, he wanted that for me. He was very strict as a father, but very supportive. He knew what it took to succeed at a higher level.”

“He wanted the best for me and my cricket. Whatever it took, he was that pillar that supported me in those decisions. Him knowing what it took, and the things that you need to stay away from if you wanted to make it in sport, I learnt from those things. He kept me grounded.”

Celebration time with the Dolphins.

Another big influence on SJ was Saint Charles’ 1st XI coach, Dave Karlsen. “He believed in me from a young age,” SJ said. “I started training with the first team at the end of my grade eight year. I trained with them for a bit during my grade nine year. I think I played a couple of games in the Michaelmas Week in grade nine. He always believed in me and pushed me. During PE lessons, he would actually do a bit of coaching with me. He saw the potential in me from an early age.”

He was also encouraged by other boys at the school. “The brotherly community and family attitude at Saint Charles was nice. We had a lot of guys, like Glenn Addicott, who helped me. Also, his brother Denzel and Brad Moses, they were always willing to help and willing to throw balls. There were a lot of senior guys (they know who they are) when I was a youngster at first team practices willing to learn, and they were willing to give advice and willing to help.”

During his time at Saints, SJ earned provincial representation for KZN Inland at under-15, under-17 and under-19 level, which he achieved for two years in succession.

Straight out of school, he joined the Dolphins Academy, but on his arrival there he realised he would need to adjust his goals. He explained: “I used to be a bowler that could bat a bit. When I went to the Dolphins Academy, there were much better spinners than me; Keshav [Maharaj] was there. Our Academy coach just said to me, ‘You can bowl, but work on your batting’.

“I suppose I just fell a bit more in love then with batting than bowling. It was more fun batting and whacking bowlers than bowling. That’s when I changed into a batter.”

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During his time at the Academy, SJ made his first class debut, but it was a hit and miss affair, and he was in and out of teams. KZN Inland, where he was to later enjoy a lot of success, was not run in an especially professional manner.

“I was batting at three, then at seven, then nine, then five. I was all over the show, so I never really had a set plan about how I wanted to bat and where I wanted to bat, because I was chopping and changing week in and week out. That probably affected my stats negatively,” he said.

His cricket career, though, took a decided turn for the better when Grant Morgan joined Inland as coach from the 2012-13 season. His leadership and coaching turned the fortunes of the long down-trodden team around and soon they were winning trophies, something which had appeared unthinkable previously.

SJ was batting at five when Morgan arrived at Inland, but the new coach had seen something in the left-hander and pushed him up the order to number three. He explained to SJ how he wanted him to play, told him to back himself, and assured him he would stay at three for the rest of the season. With that, SJ’s game began to mature.

“Then I figured out I didn’t want to play for Inland for the rest of my career. I wanted to move up.

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“I had a look at the Dolphins side and where there could be an opportunity. I am very good friends with Divan van Wyk and obviously Imraan Khan, our coach now, we get along very well. We had a good relationship when they played for Inland and they’ve helped me quite a bit through my Inland career and my cricket career. I have got a lot of respect for them. I still speak to Divan and ask them for advice, likewise with his brother, Morné. They’ve helped me a lot.”

“I saw the middle order was packed with youngsters and guys that were consistently doing well. But there were only the two openers, Divan and Imraan, and I thought there was an opportunity there. I was going to try and take it. If it worked out, I could have a successful career. If it didn’t, well I gave it a bash. Divan and Imraan were very supportive of that. It seemed to work out.

“Whenever they were playing for the Dolphins, I would open for Inland. Things started going nicely and they were backing me. In the training sessions, they would help me. We would train with the new ball and they would tell me what it takes, the mind-set and technique. It’s funny how it works out that way.”

SJ Erwee has excelled in the shorter forms of the game, averaging over 40 in the 50-over format. (Photo: Hollywood Bets Sports Blog https://blog.hollywoodbets.net/)

Another important event in his development occurred when SJ was appointed captain of the KZN Inland team. At the time, Grant Morgan was moving to take over the Dolphins, while former Inland captain Shane Burger took up the reins as coach of the side.

“They thought if I captained the team it would give me a bigger responsibility to actually take things more seriously. It ended up exactly that way. I felt that it wasn’t just about me personally as a player trying to do well. I was doing it for the team. That’s where Grant Morgan changed the whole Inland set-up. That’s how we started to win trophies, by playing for each other. We ingrained that into our game plan.”

The one thing that was missing, though, was a century. Many times, SJ would make an eighty or a ninety, but then miss out on three figures. In February 2016, that all changed and when he achieved the milestone he went very big.

Facing a decent Namibian team in a Sunfoil 3-Day Cup match in Pietermaritzburg, he and Divan van Wyk put on a huge 306 runs for the opening wicket before Van Wyk departed for 152. SJ, though, was far from done. Coach Shane Burger had predicted that he was due for a big innings and it duly arrived as SJ, in a knock lasting almost seven hours, struck 23 fours in an innings of 200 not out.

“To get a double-hundred after getting a lot of eighties and nineties the years before, there was a sense of relief,” he said. “I also felt like I wasn’t finished. I was relieved, but there wasn’t any massive celebration. But it was a case of this is what it feels like, I need to get more and more. Then the celebrations become a bit bigger and you feel a bit happier. To get a double-hundred was nice, but it was the start of everything.

“Once I got that double-hundred, I then got a list A hundred for the Dolphins, and then a first class hundred the week after that, for the Dolphins again.

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“You get a taste of something and you pick your way through your innings afterwards and see what you did right, what you can do better. You find a process and that’s what clicked for me. Those are processes that you try to repeat day in and day out. That 200 just kick-started me.”

The Inland team also taught SJ life lessons about the vital role of teamwork in cricket, and about taking knocks but then getting back up and fighting. Many of the Inland team were players that other provincial sides had rejected, but they pulled together and won both the 3-Day and T20 provincial titles, convincingly defeating teams that had once deemed them not good enough.

“That’s what Grant Morgan instilled in us. With him getting Shane Burger there, he was a great leader, a great human being, and a great coach afterwards. Our blueprint was yes, you get rejected somewhere else, and things might not go your way, but ultimately there is more to life than just cricket and being successful on the cricket field. It’s the relationships you build around you. You train together every day. You might as well have a good time with each other. That’s how friendships build. Most of us stay in contact with each other, wherever we are around the world, because of the relationships we built in that team during that era.”

Morgan and Burger played crucial roles in SJ’s growth and he regards both men as mentors who were able to extract the best out of him.

On the attack for KZN Inland in the Africa T20 Cup, which the team won in 2017. (Photo: Hollywood Bets Sports Blog, https://blog.hollywoodbets.net/)

One of the most important lessons from Grant Morgan, which he carries with him still, is something one of Morgan’s coaches had told him: You make your mark before lunch, you get in after lunch, and you score your runs after tea.

“That’s the kind of mentality that instilled in me,” SJ said. “Even in the white-ball format, you don’t have to go to a 150 strike rate from the start. Get yourself in and batting gets a touch easier. I’ve tried that over the years and it seems to work.”

In 2017, he had the rare opportunity to represent South Africa in the Hong Kong Sixes. “The Hong Kong Sixes was incredible,” he reckoned. “I watched it as a youngster and it was always something that looked like fun. It was incredible. You saw a small field and balls flying everywhere.

“The guys were had in our side were good guys. We had a lot of fun over those four or five days and we won! I don’t think anyone expected us to win. We got sent to the airport and that was the first time we met with each other. We didn’t have any travel kit. We got to Hong Kong and tried to enjoy our trip. It’s not every day you get to go to Hong Kong and just whack a ball around while experiencing a new country and a new culture. We tried to make the most of the days we had there. It seems like if you try to enjoy something you’re going to do well and that is exactly what happened.”

And even though it wasn’t a major tournament, it was still special to represent the country. “When you hear the national anthem playing and you hear your name announced as playing for South Africa, it is still a privilege. It’s not the ‘real thing’, but to know there are seven of you representing South Africa at a world tournament is quite cool.”

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The coronavirus pandemic has prevented SJ from playing club cricket in the UK this season, but he is hopeful that will happen next year. Coming up, hopefully, though, is duty for the Dolphins. “I think I’ve got to be back in Durban for training on the 15th [of June]. We’ll train in small pods.”

As one of the more established players in the team, and as someone now into his thirties, he still continues to lead, but simply through the example he sets for the younger players.

“As the younger guys come through, they talk to you about things. They look at what you do and not just what you say. We have got a lot of leaders in our side, older guys or more experienced guys. Leadership is not always just about talking, it’s about doing. If I keep performing, training hard, and setting the example for the guys coming through, that’s also leadership.”

SJ remains a faithful supporter of Saint Charles and an inspiration to the boys of the school.

While his school days are long past him now, SJ says there are lessons from Saint Charles that he has carried with him throughout his life. “Saint Charles is a small school. There are a lot of talented and hard-working people at the school. You are expected to show good manners as a Saint Charles’ boy and you need that a lot longer than sporting achievements, because sport only lasts for that long. Life after sports and the relationships you build during your sporting career are very important. Humility and manners, how approachable you are to people are very important.”

He maintains close ties with the school and eagerly follows their cricket programme, which has enjoyed some outstanding successes in recent times, including winning 21 matches in succession in 2019 and reaching the final of the National Schools T20 competition.

“I am very excited to see what Saint Charles is achieving,” SJ said. “It’s nice to see Morné van Wyk as the cricket pro. It shows how seriously they are taking their cricket and it’s shown in how well they have done over the last couple of seasons. Morné will only do good things there. He has always been a hard worker and he has got different ideas and techniques, which will help the kids, not only at school, but also after school.

“I am very, very excited. I follow the sport at Saint Charles closely. I try to stay in contact with the Master in Charge of Sport, Rowan Irons, and Morné. It is brilliant to see how well they are doing and what is going on at the school.”

Ex-Clifton hockey ace Matt Lewis thriving Down Under

29 May 2020 – Matt Lewis was a standout, highly skilled, all-round performer for Clifton in 2018 when the school went through the hockey season unbeaten before losing their very last game of the season, which he missed through injury. His contributions on the field throughout his Clifton career were eye-catching and memorable, leaving many predicting a bright hockey future for him. That future, however, is not in South Africa, writes KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan.

In 2019, Matt and his family moved to Australia with one of the primary reasons being to give him a chance to pursue his hockey dream.

Thoughts of moving Down Under started in 2016 when he went to Brisbane for a school exchange. “I just loved the country and the quality of hockey that they play at and I thought that’s it, we have to move here,” he said.

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With his father, Terry, being an Australian citizen, and Matt a truly gifted hockey player, the family began to look into the possibility of the move. But grade 12 had to be dealt with first. “I wanted to finish school first as I felt matric was an important part of my life and I was extremely close with my friends,” Matt said.

“In 2019, the move began to Australia and my family is loving it here. My mom and I have just recently become permanent residents, which is awesome to have as there are so many benefits from it, and it gives us a sense of belonging here.”

Matt, who attended Clifton from grade R to matric, began playing hockey at the age of six at Riverside Hockey Club. It was the nature of team sport that captured his heart and a burning desire to win. “I have not looked back since,” he reckoned.

The foundation he received at Clifton was integral to his development, he said, citing very strong coaching from experienced coaches, which is “exactly what players want”. There was also a very important lesson to always be humble in striving for achievements.

At Clifton, Matt played in the first team from 2015 to 2018 and earned selection for the KZN Coastal and South African under-16 A teams in 2015 and 2016 and the KZN Coastal under-18 A side in 2018, when he was also chosen for the SA Schools B Team.

Missing from the above is 2017. That’s because Matt suffered a knee injury that needed surgery. It had been tough, but he wasn’t concerned that he would no longer be able to perform to the best of his ability. “I was more excited than ever to get back into hockey in 2018, I had absolutely no worry about my knee going into 2018 as I had done all the right rehab that would allow me to be 100 percent,” he said.

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Matt received the Hockey Player of the Year award from Clifton in 2018.

Blessed with good finishers and a gritty defence, Clifton put together a superb season under the guidance of coach Keegan Pearce, who Matt credited for helping him take his game to the next level.

They played 24 matches, won 20 of them, drew three and lost only their last game, when they had to play without goal scoring aces Matt and striker Declan Bradfield.

“The loss to Michaelhouse was a tough one to watch from the side line as I ruptured my ATFL ligament in an ankle,” Matt recalled.

But there were many highlights as the Clifton first team put up almost four goals a game on average, while conceding just less than one. Interestingly, during the season they played five schools twice – Saint Alban’s College, Uplands College, Saint Stithian’s College, Saint Andrew’s School, and Saint David’s Marist Inanda – and in every case won by a better margin the second time around, which showed progress and the ability to learn lessons from previous encounters.

Their three draws came against Cape Town powerhouse Bishops Diocesan College (1-1), a loaded Maritzburg College team (1-1) and Saint John’s College (2-2).

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Maritzburg College, as a long-standing national power, was always a game that brought the Clifton team extra motivation, said Matt. So a 1-1 draw in Pietermaritzburg was a good result. Saint Charles, which has a lot in common with Clifton, was another game that the team always got themselves up for, he added, while Northwood and the Durban north derby was also a big one.

“My most memorable match of 2018 would probably have to be the 2-1 win against Northwood as they had a good side and I had a lot of mates in their team, so it was nice to get one over them.”

In May 2018, he was interviewed by KZN10.com’s Jono Cook, with whom he shared one of his goals: “Winning gold at [the under-18] IPT is another goal on my mind as I feel we, as KZN Coastal, have a very strong team to do so.”

In a tournament that underlined the strength of hockey in the province, the final came down to a showdown between KZN Coastal and KZN Inland, with Coastal coming away with the win. Mission accomplished, goal achieved.

A tale of two teams: the victorious KZN Coastal team celebrates after defeating their rivals, KZN Inland, in the final of the Under-18 Interprovincial Tournament in Pietermaritzburg in 2018.

His most memorable match ever with Clifton, he revealed, had taken place in 2016 on an overseas tour of the Netherlands and Belgium, two of the leading hockey-playing nations in the world. There, Clifton made the final of an under-18 tournament, where they faced the Polish national team in a game which they lost after a penalty shootout. “I had never seen so many people watching the game. It was just unreal,” he said.

In matric, Matt was selected to represent South Africa in the Africa Youth Games, which was another highlight in a career that had already included many.

Clifton recognised Matt Lewis’ achievements in hockey when he shared the 2018 Sportsman of the Year Award with William Dowsett and Todd Howard, who represented South Africa in waterpolo.

“I was extremely fortunate enough to go to a school like Clifton and I encourage every boy at Clifton to make the most out of it and wear the badge proudly,” he said in a message for the Clifton family.

With matric completed, the Lewis family made the move to Perth, Western Australia, which is a hot bed of Australian hockey. Matt explained: “The hockey system in Australia is just on another level and it shows in the results that the Kookaburras [men’s national team] and Hockeyroos [women’s national team] have achieved over the years.

Indeed, the Kookaburras have long been one of the world’s great teams, compiling a superb record that includes being the three-time World Cup winners, one-time Olympic champs, three-time World League winners, champions of the Pro League last year, and 15-time winners of the Champions Trophy.

“All the men’s and women’s national players live in Perth, so that they can train together. This means that the clubs will receive national players based on how many draft picks they have. This allows the competition to be extremely strong as you play against some of the best players in the world every weekend.

“The school boy level in KZN is stronger than here because all the hockey is played at club level here.”

The standard of play that Matt Lewis is facing in Australia is reflected in this photo of him in action for Hale Hockey Club: Matt is in possession, about to take a shot, and the man on the right is Matt Swann, who is closing in on 200 caps for Australia.

The fact that the move to Perth, which is known for having a large community of South Africa expats, went smoothly was a great help. “I knew only a handful of people coming over, but my dad knew loads of people who were his mates from school. I can’t thank them enough for making our move so easy.”

A smooth transition was also aided by former South African goalie Dave Staniforth and Jamie Dwyer, who knew about the Lewis family’s move and Matt’s hockey prowess. Not bad when one of the greatest to ever play the game is there to help.

Matt plays for Hale Hockey Club, which is coached by Staniforth. Last year, they made it to the league final where they were beaten by WASPS Hockey Club. In 2019, he was also selected to play for the Western Australia under-21 team that finished third in the Inter-state Championships. Sadly, those have been called off this season.

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Another big feather in Matt’s cap was receiving an invitation to train at the Western Australian Institute of Sport where he got to spend time playing, training and conditioning with some of Australia’s best juniors.

Matt’s currently doing a Bachelor of Finance degree at Edith Cowan University, with his studies and hockey being his main focuses.

He has set his hockey aim high: “My long term goal is to one day play for the Kookaburras. It would be a dream come true as it has been a goal of mine for some time now.”

Matt Lewis on the run, taking the game to the opposition.

CLIFTON 1ST XI 2018

Clifton 7-1 Thomas More College
Clifton 9-1 Fourways High School
Clifton 6-1 DHS
Clifton 5-1 Saint Alban’s
Clifton 1-1 Bishops Diocesan College
Clifton 4-1 Uplands College
Clifton 3-2 Saint David’s Marist Inanda
Clifton 5-0 Saint Stithian’s College
Clifton 2-2 Saint John’s College
Clifton 5-0 Uplands College
Clifton 3-1 Nelspruit
Clifton 4-2 Saint Andrew’s School
Clifton 3-0 Saint Alban’s
Clifton 7-1 Trinity House
Clifton 2-0 Crawford College La Lucia
Clifton 4-1 Saint Charles College
Clifton 3-0 Glenwood
Clifton 2-1 Northwood
Clifton 1-1 Maritzburg College
Clifton 5-1 Saint Andrew’s School
Clifton 7-1 Saint Stithian’s College
Clifton 1-0 Helpmekaar
Clifton 3-1 Saint David’s Marist Inanda
Clifton 1-2 Michaelhouse

Played 24, won 20, drew 3, lost 1, goals for 93, goals against 22

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Westville swimming phenom Luca Holtzhausen dreams big

20 May 2020 – When Chad le Clos blazed his way to multiple swimming records in his time at Westville Boys’ High it was reasonable to expect that they would last many decades. Yet, only a decade later, incredibly, many of his records are falling to grade 10 learner Luca Holtzhausen, writes KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan.

A chat with Luca at the school, just before it closed due to Covid-19, suggested that there could be significantly more to come from the 16-year-old standout when, while discussing the demands of training, he admitted: “I will say that towards the end of last year I told myself that this is what I want to do and nothing else. Now that I have matured a bit, I have put my head down and said this is the time to really graft and really do well one day, maybe win at the Olympics.”

A young man who is bettering an Olympic champion’s records might have a long way to go to climb onto the top step of the Olympic podium, but he is on the right path.

The best boys’ school swimming team in South Africa 

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Luca attended Kloof Junior Primary and it was during that time that Candice Crafford, a former Olympic swimmer, saw him in action and recognised his potential. She approached Luca and his family and asked if he would like to try training with her.

“I eventually trained with her my whole junior primary career until grade three,” Luca said. “She then told me to move from her ‘Learn to Swim’ programme to a club in Pinetown [Seagulls], which is my current club now.

At Seagulls, he showed further improvement, and during that time he also made the move from Kloof Junior Primary to Westville Senior Primary. He trained under a few coaches at Seagulls as he climbed the ladder before landing with Delon Dannhauser. When Delon made a move to Malta at the end of 2018, Luca joined Olympic swimming coach Graham Hill.

“With Graham, as soon as I joined the club and got to know all the different coaches, he was always a person that I wanted to impress,” Luca said. “When I was training with Delon, Graham didn’t take me. But as soon as Graham arrived at training, I would push that little bit harder so that he would notice me. He has always driven me to be the best I can be. I feel like I can train really well if he is pushing me.”

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Recalling his rise through the ranks, Luca said: “The first squad I was in was not that competitive, but when I moved up to Delon he saw some talent and wanted me to push myself, and he really helped me. Then, along the way I met some good swimmers, like Chad le Clos and Myles Brown, while they were swimming in the bigger squads. I was just below them with a few of my peers and age group. Just seeing them swim really fast pushed me to want to get to where they are, and to be in the squad they were in. Now, eventually, I am at that level.”

During his primary school days, Luca’s talent was regularly on show at galas and it didn’t go unnoticed by high schools. He received a number of offers from those schools, but his choice was always going to be Westville, which his brother had attended before him.

“I was in grade seven when he was in matric, so when I got here he left. But I think from grade five, six, a few high schools offered me places, but my parents and I knew I was going to go to Westville, even if I wasn’t a swimmer. Having Westville as one of the top swimming schools in the country, made it a given to go to the school, and also because of my brother having been here. We did look at offers from other schools, but it just didn’t make sense not to go to Westville, and they offered a scholarship,” he said.

In every way, Westville was the logical choice, Luca added: “I think this school has always been good at sport, all sports, and the academic standard is very high, and it’s required of sportsmen, too. Westville does it really well, and all sports are equally embraced.”

Westville Boys’ High’s swimming team has been unbeaten for 13 years. (Photo: Brad Morgan, KZN10.com)

Swimming has opened his eyes to opportunities and possibilities, he said. When Luca was 13, he participated in international competition for the first time, travelling to Egypt. Last year, it was the Junior World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, which he attended at 15 years of age. It made a big impression on him.

“It was an amazing experience. Just to see the pools they have there. I remember swimming my first race. I knew it would be stressful, but not as stressful as it was. When I was getting ready for the race and was on the blocks, it blew my mind. You think it’s simple, but everything that happens is completely different. It’s important to travel at a young age, so you get used to that and the competition.”

Luca also tasted senior competition against some of the world’s best swimmers in the Mare Nostrum Series, in Monaco and Cannes. Unfortunately, while he was in Monaco, Princess Charlene, a former South African OIympic swimmer and big supporter of South African swimming was in New York, but Luca did get to visit the castle.

Being at Westville, a powerhouse of school swimming in South Africa, has helped stir his competitive spirit and challenge him to be improve, Luca said.

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“In grade eight, I remember breaking one of Chad le Clos’ records. I didn’t even know it existed, but then I broke it and people were congratulating me. I made a goal for myself that I have been breaking his records since. I challenged myself to get all the records, not only his, but all or most of the others.”

Being an all-round competitor, has helped him chase them down. “I’ve always done all the strokes,” he said, “which has made me a good individual medley [IM] swimmer, but now in the last two years I have really picked up on my freestyle swimming, so I have been doing pretty well in freestyle and IM. Just been concentrating on those, I guess. But, from time to time, it is always good to swim in other events that aren’t your main events.”

At present, his favourite distance is 200 metres. “I used to do everything, and it wasn’t too bad. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the 400s, but it gets tough sometimes. Sometimes it hurts. I still train it,” he said.

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So what does a typical day look like? Luca explained: “I have training at a quarter-past-five in the morning. I wake up at half-past-four. My dad will make me a Future Life. Luckily he still makes it for me. I’ll drink that and slowly get ready. I stay only 15 minutes away from the pool, so we’ll get there about five o’clock and stretch a bit. Then, we start at a quarter-past-five, and we finish at around a quarter-to-seven, so it’s about an-hour-and-a-half.

“After that, the school bus takes four or five of us to school. Then, training starts again at twenty-past-two, until about four, ten-past-four.

“I swim twice a day on Monday and Wednesday. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings I have gym. Every day of the week I am up at half-past-four, getting ready to do some sort of training. Every afternoon I train, except for Friday, when I have the afternoon off.”

“By Friday afternoon, my body is absolutely shattered, so I don’t have any guilt about resting.”

While swimming tends to focus on the individual, school competition and being part of a team helps bring the best out of him, Luca explained: “Even for me, I sometimes swim faster than I would in an individual race in the relay, just because you have this team around you. It is a little less serious because you are racing with people. But, at the same time, you can swim really hard and have a good time.”

Luca Holtzhausen, Westville Boys’ High Head of Aquatics Jarred Appelgryn, and swimming captain Ian Brijlal with the winner’s trophies from the Alan Burt Gala, the Nestor Pierides Inter-provincial gala, the Kwa-Zulu Natal High Schools Top 10 Gala and the Durban and Districts Gala. (Photo: Brad Morgan, KZN10.com)

Inevitably, the questions turned to the swimmers who inspire him and he mentioned three men: Michael Phelps, the man many regard at the greatest swimmer of all time; Adam Peattie, Olympic 100m breaststroke champion and world record holder; and Chad le Clos, who has blazed a trail for South African swimmers competing on the world stage.

“There is something about Adam Peaty. I follow him on Instagram and I just see a lot of hard work goes into what he does, and his results are crazy. Just seeing all the things he does motivates me, and shows me where one can get to one day.

“Chad, because he beat Michael Phelps in one of his prestige races [the 200m butterfly]. And he didn’t come out of one of the best facilities. But he beat him and changed his life.

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“My coach was talking to me about it the other day. I am lined up to do the same as Chad did, but in terms of Junior Worlds last year, World Short Course at the end of this year, next year is the Youth Olympics. All of these events, Chad did, and I can now follow exactly in his footsteps, and hopefully even do better.”

If they take place, Luca is hoping to make the South African team for the Fina Short Course World Swimming Championships, scheduled for 15 – 20 December in Abu Dhabi. It would his first selection for the South African senior team.

With two more years at Westville still ahead of him, it’s just a guess to think about the heights his swimming career is headed towards. But the trajectory is very promising. And the path has been laid out by a former Westville Boys’ High swimmer, a man whose records Luca has been dismantling…

A golden era of DHS cricket

13 May 2020 – It is a remarkable photo: a collection of supreme cricket talent, all from Durban High School (DHS). Within the photo, taken on the occasion of the centenary of DHS in 1966, are eight test cricketers and three provincial players, writes KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan.

(In photo: back row, left to right: Grayson Heath, Jack Kaplan, Peter Dodds, Barry Richards, Lee Irvine.
Front row, left to right: Richard Dumbrill, Hugh Tayfield, Dennis Gamsy, Leslie Theobald, Trevor Goddard, Geoff Griffin, Colin Wesley)

At the time, the Springboks were one of the leading cricket teams in the world, soon to become recognised as the best, before South Africa was shut out of test cricket from 1971 to 1992 due to the apartheid policies of the country’s government.

Pride of place in terms of achievements from that team must go to Barry Richards, who was 21 at the time of the centenary match.

He played only four test matches in 1970, but went on to make such an impact with Natal, Hampshire and South Australia, with other stints at Gloucestershire and Transvaal too, that Sir Donald Bradman, he of the 99.94 test batting average, named Richards in his Dream XI in 2001. Bradman chose his side from a pool of 69 players and excluded, among others, Brian Lara, Viv Richards and fellow South African, Graeme Pollock. That’s a remarkable statement from the man regarded as the greatest batsman to have played the game.

In late 1970, playing for South Australia against Western Australia, Richards struck an unbeaten 325 runs on the opening day of the four-day Sheffield Shield clash, played on the WACA, which was notorious for its pace.

The Western Australia attack included Graeme McKenzie, who opened for Australia; the great Dennis Lillee who would make his test debut a couple of months later; leg-break bowler, Tony Mann, who played test cricket for Australia; slow left-armer, Tony Lock, who appeared in 49 tests for England; and Aussie international Jon Inverarity. Ian Brayshaw was the sixth bowler in the innings and the only one of them not to appear for his country.

Richards’ stunning innings was for many years the most runs scored by a batsman in first class cricket. It was finally beaten by Brian Lara in 1994, when he made 390 runs against Durham for Warwickshire. Durham had no international bowlers at the time. In fact, they had begun playing first class cricket only two years earlier.

Richards went on to tally 356, out LBW to Mann on a ball that the bowler admitted pitched on leg stump and was a wrong ‘un, set to turn further down the leg.

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During his career, Richards totalled 28 358 runs at 54.74, with 80 centuries. In his only test series, the famous 4-0 whitewash of Australia in South Africa, he scored 508 runs at 72.57. His performances were highlighted by a remarkable stand with Graeme Pollock – in the second test in Durban, appropriately – during which he reached 94 by lunch before going on to make 140, while he and Pollock flayed the Australian attack to all corners of Kingsmead, putting on 103 in an hour.

In 1969, he was named one of Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year. In their article, Wisden notes: “Richards recognises his debt to Butler, to Wilf Isaacs, who is always ready and keen to help cricket and cricketers in South Africa, and to Leslie Theobald, his cricket master at Durban High School.”

“When Richards captained the South African Schools side in England in 1963, Mr. Theobald was manager, and their partnership produced outstanding results.”

The article concluded: “Richards’ horizons seem limitless, and it will be fascinating to see how far his talents will take him. Few, anywhere in the world, have his possibilities.”

A photo of Barry Richards in his DHS honours’ blazer alongside a bat signed by Richards and Graeme Pollock.

Lee Irvine, a year older than Richards, also played just four tests in 1970 against Australia. Like Richards, he also excelled. He scored 353 runs at 50.42, including 102 in his final test innings on his 26th birthday.

He played 157 first class matches, for Natal, Essex and Transvaal, tallying 9 919 runs at 40.48, with 21 centuries. It should be mentioned that in those days pitches were tailored to a more equal battle between bat and ball. Nowadays the balance has tilted in favour of batsmen with television’s focus on providing entertainment. Thus, an average of 40, which is very good, would, arguably, have been closer to 50 in today’s conditions.

Ali Bacher, the captain of the 1970 Springboks, once called Irvine the most under-rated batsman in South Africa. “He seemed always to live in the shadows of Barry Richards and Graeme Pollock. What I saw of him during the five-year period we played together, he was certainly in their league,” he said in a newspaper report in The Citizen in 2014.

Interestingly, Irvine and Richards played together for two years at DHS – Richards was a year younger – and Irvine, in his matric year, performed better than Richards managed in any of his three years in the 1st XI, scoring 1 310 runs at an average of 68.95.

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“There was no question he was a world class batsman. He was light on his feet, had terrific footwork and he was a beautiful timer of the ball, very similar to AB de Villiers,” Bacher said.

Leading cricket commentator Mark Nicholas compared Irvine, a wicket-keeper, to Australian Adam Gilchrist, high praise indeed.

After his playing days were over, Irvine became a familiar voice to radio listeners and television viewers of cricket.

As if two world class talents were not enough in the centenary match of 1966, there was a third: off-spin bowler Hugh Tayfield. For many years, he was South Africa’s leading test wicket-taker and in 1956 he was named one of Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year.

DHS old boys: Jon “Pom Pom” Fellows-Smith, Geoff Griffin, Colin Wesley, Trevor Goddard and Hugh Tayfield. all members of the South African national team that toured England in 1960.

In an article about his selection, the publication wrote: “In the seventeen Tests played by South Africa from 1952 to the end of the 1955 tour of England, J. E. Cheetham’s spin bowlers accounted for 109 batsmen. Of these, no fewer than 87 fell to the guileful, tenacious Tayfield, an average of four out of every five.”

It also recognised the development of Tayfield at DHS: “As a boy, Hugh bowled out of the back of his hand and though his batting and fielding were sufficient to keep him in the Durban High School XI his opportunities with the ball were limited. The turning-point in Tayfield’s career occurred when the school captain, also a leg-break bowler, suggested that Tayfield should try his hand at off-breaks.

“At his first attempt Hugh took two or three good wickets and promptly resolved to concentrate on his new-found art. Tayfield cannot recall being coached or modelling his technique on that of any other bowler, but he progressed so rapidly that soon after his seventeenth birthday he made his first-class debut for Natal. The following season, 1946-47, he helped Natal to win the revived Currie Cup competition and attracted special attention by taking six for 27 and six for 46 in friendly matches against Rhodesia and Transvaal respectively.”

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The 13 for 165 he took against Australia in Melbourne in 1956 remains the third best test return ever by a South African bowler and he, alone, is the only South African to take 13 wickets in a test twice. His 9 for 113 in England’s second innings in Johannesburg in 1957 is the best return in an innings by a South African, and it also saw the Springboks to a narrow 17-run victory.

Tayfield’s test career spanned 11 years – from 1949 to 1960 – and 37 test matches (South Africa played only England, Australia and New Zealand in those days), during which he took 170 wickets. His obituary in Wisden in 1994 noted that he took more wickets per test than Jim Laker (he of the famous 19 for 90 against Australia in 1956) and more, too, than the great West Indian, Lance Gibbs.

Tayfield also holds the test record of sending down 137 balls without conceding a run against England in Durban in 1957.

He played in 187 first class matches, capturing 864 wickets at just 21.86 per wicket. His test economy rate was just 1.94 runs per over and his first class economy rate of 2.06 was very slightly higher.

He also scored 862 runs in tests and 3 668 in first class cricket, with a best of 75 in tests and 77 in first class games.

To this day, Hugh Tayfield remains, comfortably, the leading test wicket-taker all-time among South African spinners.

Trevor Goddard, a left-handed all-rounder, was also part of the legendary Springbok side of 1970. But he enjoyed a much longer test career, having played for South Africa for the first time in 1955.

He played 41 test matches, scoring 2 516 runs at an average of 34.46. A century, though, eluded him until his 62nd innings, when he scored 112 in the second innings of the fourth test against England in Johannesburg in 1965, having made 60 before being run out in the first.

Goddard also captured 123 wickets at 26.22. He gave little away with the ball and his economy rate of just 1.64 runs per over is the best in test history for bowlers taking 30 or more wickets.

He is also part of a small, select group of players who have opened both the batting and bowling in the same test for their country. Interestingly, one of the other South Africans to have achieved the feat was Herbie Taylor, who did it twice in 1914 against England. Taylor also attended DHS and, like Barry Richards and Hugh Tayfield, was named one of Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year, with his recognition coming in 1925.

According to Sir Donald Bradman, Goddard was “a very fine cricketer”.

Goddard played 179 first class matches, scoring 11 289 at 40.60, including 26 centuries, and took 534 wickets at 21.65.

Geoff Griffin is an interesting name among these great DHS old boys and cricketers. He played only two test matches, but he achieved a first by a South African, which can never be taken away from him

In the second test of South Africa’s tour of England in 1960, Griffin claimed a hat-trick, removing MJK Smith, Peter Walker and Fred Trueman. Not only does his hat-trick remain the only instance of a South African taking a test hat-trick, it is also the only instance of it occurring at Lords, the home of cricket.

Unfortunately, he was also no-balled in that test on a number of occasions for throwing. His throwing issues stemmed from an accident when he was in school which left him unable to fully straighten his arm. The no ball calls led to Griffin, remarkably, claiming a hat-trick in his second and last test.

Sadly the throwing problem was never resolved and Geoff Griffin’s first class career came to an end at the age of only 23. He captured 108 wickets at 21.61 and scored 895 runs at 17.90.

It is a credit to Griffin’s character that when a lawyer offered to represent him in court on the subject of his action, Griffin, as reported by Cricinfo in his obituary, declined as he did not wish “to sully the great game further”.

A remarkably talented all-round sportsman, he won Natal schools’ titles in long jump, high jump, triple jump and the pole vault. He also played hockey for Rhodesia.

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Wicketkeeper Dennis Gamsy was another member of the 1970 South African team, who played in the first two tests before making way for the experienced Denis Lindsay, the hero of the 1966/67 series against Australia.

Easily recognised by his distinctive glasses, Gamsy also played 93 first class matches for Natal, scoring 3 106 runs at 23.70, with a batting best of 137. He took 278 catches and effected 33 stumpings.

Richard Dumbrill also donned the green cap of the Springboks, playing in five tests in the mid-sixties. In fact, his last test, against Australia, started on 31 December 1966 at Newlands, therefore in the centenary of DHS.

His first test, a draw against England at Lords in July 1965, was his most successful. He took 3 for 31 in 24 overs in England’s first innings and followed up with 4 for 30 in 18 overs in the second to finish with match figures of 7 for 61.

Dumbrill’s first class career lasted 51 matches. In that time he tallied 1 761 runs at 23.48 and claimed 132 wickets at 22.03, with a best return of 5 for 34.

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Colin “Tich” Wesley was selected for three tests during South Africa’s 1960 tour of England. Like Dumbrill, he played just 51 first class games. He scored 1 892 runs at 27.02, including three centuries, with a high score of 131.

A part-time bowler, Wesley picked up 15 wickets at a healthy average of 23.60, conceding 2.31 runs per over.

The remaining three players in the photo all played provincial cricket. Grayson Heath turned out in 46 first class matches, scoring 2 029 runs at 31.21, with a top score of 159 not out. He also claimed 36 wickets at 29.08.

Importantly, he also oversaw the merger of DHS Old Boys and the Pirates Kismet Cricket Club at a time when the DHSOB club, previously home to a long list of top cricket stars, went through a downswing. Today, that club is the DHS Rhythm Cricket Club.

Peter Dodds turned out for both Natal and Transvaal. A slow left-armer, he took 120 wickets in 39 first class games at 29.07, including a best of 7 for 51.

Jack Kaplan, a right-hand batsman and wicketkeeper, played in eight first class matches between the 1948/49 and 1951/52 seasons. He batted only 11 times, recording a high score of 62. He also bagged 15 catches and a remarkably high eight stumpings.

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About the centenary match, which was played at the DHS Old Boys’ Club: It was a two-day, two-innings, contest between the DHSOB XI and a Natal XI.

The Rest of Natal XI featured four Springboks: captain Jackie McGlew, Peter Carlstein, Mike Proctor and Pat Trimborn. It also featured another two DHS old boys, namely Charles Sullivan and Peter Marais.

In the game, Richard Dumbrill struck 114 and shared a partnership of 127 with Lee Irvine in the DHSOB XI’s first innings, but they found themselves trailing by 64 runs. The Old Boys were subsequently set a target of 188 runs to win in two-and-a-half hours and managed it in just an hour and 47 minutes for the loss of seven wickets to claim a three-wicket victory.

To this day, no school has produced as many South African test cricketers as Durban High School.

DHS come up just short as Northwood take tight victory

http://kzn10.com/dhs-come-up-just-short-as-northwood-take-tight-victory/

Captain Matkovich guides Westville to win at DHS

http://kzn10.com/captain-matkovich-guides-westville-to-win-at-dhs/

Thoughts on a lost season: Westville hockey star Ethan Matkovich

8 May 2020 – The Covid-19 lockdown has been a shocking blow from the viewpoint of winter sports in schools, especially for learners in matric, set for one last hurrah, as the stars of their various teams, writes KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan. For Westville Boys’ High hockey captain, Ethan Matkovich, it’s meant missing out on an opportunity to follow up on a brilliant 2019 season, both individually and from the standpoint of the side.

Last year, Westville went undefeated, beating some of the top teams in the country, including Jeppe, whom many had considered to be number one before they met the KZN side, giving Westville a legitimate claim to the top spot.

Although he was in grade 11 at the time, Ethan was one of the key players in the Westville line-up, which was reflected in his selection for the KZN Coastal team and then the SA under-18 hockey squad.

Just before the lockdown began, that achievement was recognised when Ethan received his merit tie [a level above an honours’ award, given to boys who receive national honours] from Westville, along with Luke James (SA gymnastics) and Troy Botha (SA softball).

Westville vs Kearsney match report 2019

http://kzn10.com/westville-boys-vs-kearsney-college-hockey-match-report/

Westville vs Hilton match report 2019

http://kzn10.com/kzn-school-hockey-match-report-hilton-college-vs-westville/

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There was uncertainty when schools closed early as to what it would mean for the winter sports’ season. Now, sadly, it has become clear: all schools’ hockey and rugby matches and inter-provincial tournaments have been cancelled.

“It is obviously something no one expected, or even thought this could ever happen. It is really tough,” Ethan said on Thursday.

“I think of all the build-up that we did, and all the training from last year that we haven’t been able to use. It’s a big shock for everybody. I was certainly expecting a lot of big things this year. Unfortunately it didn’t pan out and we’ve just got to try and find a way forward.”

Cleaning things up at the back, Westville hockey captain and centre half, Ethan Matkovich.

“It has been quite frustrating,” Director of Hockey, Cameron Mackay, said in a phone call. “I think it is more frustrating for the boys, especially for the matric boys who have gone through five years, always waiting for their matric year.

“Hopefully we can do something for the boys before the end of the year. It has been frustrating to be unable to do anything. I like to get onto the turf as much as possible, so it’s been tough.”

“There’s a couple of guys who have been in the system for a number of years. Keegan McCallum was injured last year, so he didn’t get to IPT, so this was his year to make up for that, but it’s tough because the guys have worked hard to get fit and get to where they are.”

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There were many fans of hockey who were looking forward to seeing Westville in action this season, and they were not just supporters of the school. After their outstanding exploits of 2019, many wanted to see what kind of follow-up Westville would produce.

Mackay explained the make-up of the 2020 team: “We lost quite a few matrics from last year, but we still had Ethan. Our back four and goalkeeper were all gone, except for Ethan, then we kept two of our three starting midfielders, and we still had half of the forwards. We lost quite a few guys, but the grade tens coming through are quite decent as well. We had a good side for this year.”

It is worth noting the strength in midfield and up front because if there is one shortcoming in South African hockey, generally speaking, it is finishing. Then, having a general at the back, controlling matters, like Ethan Matkovich, goes a long way to providing a reliable and effective defensive unit.

“We have always had a philosophy at Westville of managing our back four the best we possibly can,” Mackay said, “and creating that platform first and then going forward from there. It’s been a good system in the last few years.

Always calm and composed, and a leader, Ethan Matkovich.

“A guy like Ethan is a blessing. He is just so controlled at the back. He controls the tempo of the game and he has a really good head on his shoulders.

“He keeps it simple and does the simple stuff better than anyone else, which is quite a strange thing to see in schoolboy hockey. You look for that at under-21 level, sometimes not even then. He has the maturity of a man at the back, which is cool.”

For Ethan, it is about leadership. He’s been a captain throughout his school career, in every team he has played in, excepting when he made teams as a player a year younger than the other boys.

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Captaincy has always been a positive force in his sporting achievements, he said: I think it helps my game. It gives me more responsibility, which means I can’t lower my standards. I enjoy it.”

Like Westville’s approach to hockey, his leadership style is not flashy, it’s more of a blue-collar thing, getting down to work and setting the example. The word that keeps coming up is “simple”.

“We just have to keep things simple. The simple things are most often the things that win you games. Always work hard. You can’t beat hard work.

“We know, as Westville, we don’t have those flashy players and the ‘best players’, but we, as a team, will work harder than anyone else. We’re happy to play our way and do the hard work. If we win by one or we win by 10, we’re still winning the game.”

The Westville 1st XI of 2019 celebrate an undefeated season after a 3-1 victory over Kearsney College. Ethan Matkovich is on the left. (Photo: Highway Mail, https://highwaymail.co.za/)

That outlook is reflected in coach Cameron Mackay’s overall programme for Westville hockey. “We’ve set quite a good platform for ourselves where the kids are learning the same thing from grade eight,” he said.

“We might not always get the best kids [talent] in the province. We get a good type of kid, hard workers. We get good hockey players, too. But then you also have good cricketers who are good at hockey, and good soccer players who are good at hockey.”

“We have good depth, and we end up with kids who maybe didn’t come to Westville as hockey players, but they end up loving the sport.

“We set out a programme a few years ago – Sharmin Naidoo and I – where we put together a full programme that we wanted the boys to learn from under-14 to under-18, so all of our coaches spoke the same language. We kept it as simple as possible and we tried to make the philosophy that we will just do the basics better than anyone else, as opposed to trying to be really flamboyant and doing different things while allowing our coaches to do their own thing. I think that has been our biggest strength.”

In action in the famous black and white of the KwaZulu-Natal Coastal team.

It’s a no-frills approach, but it works very well. Ethan said: “Hard work is key. We hear from other players, at provincial tournaments, or at provincial training, they say they are a little intimidated to play us. Not because of the fancy stuff we do, but because we are always pressing and coming at them hard. I think that is shown in all aspects of the school. In academics, we generally have people in the top 10 percent of the province. In all sports, we generally have a group of boys performing at the top provincial level.”

As far as hockey is concerned, since Ethan has been at Westville Boys’ High (having attended Westville Pre-Primary, Westville Junior Primary, and Westville Senior Primary) the school has always been a top 10 team in South Africa. While he might not have the opportunity to continue that superb record this season with the school, there is at least some light on the hockey horizon for him.

Ethan is a member of the national under-18 squad and had been set to play for the side at the under-21 Inter-Provincial Tournament (IPT) this year. That opportunity has passed, but there is still a big event set for next year.

“We received an email the other day [from the South African Hockey Association], saying that for the under-18 squad they’re going to try and create contact time between the squad and the staff of those groups. They’ll try and do some video calls and mental training, speaking about a way forward.

“The Junior World Cup happens at the end of next year and hopefully a few of us will be able to go on that tour. They’re trying to be proactive, to connect with us, and making sure we’re okay. I assume they’re going to be doing this soon and showing us a way forward.”

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The Westville hockey team, meanwhile, has not been idle. “We are trying to stay positive as a group,” Ethan said. “We are doing some fitness challenges and posting them on our WhatsApp group. Obviously everyone is hurting from this.

“We do simple stuff, like seeing how many push-ups you can do in a certain amount of time, a few silly things like that to keep us going.”

Besides being an outstanding hockey player, Ethan is also a top cricketer and has received his provincial colours in the sport. He is, naturally, captain of Westville, a player with a good head on his shoulders, and a composed batsman who plays with enviable fluency.

Ethan Matkovich on his way to an unbeaten fifty, which saw Westville to a hard-fought victory over DHS in the first term. (Photo: Brad Morgan)

The first term, he admitted, was an up and down time for the 1st XI, a very talented side on paper which, too often, found different players firing at different times and seldom together. In some games the bowling was on song, in others it was the batting, but, as happens in cricket, form can be a fleeting thing and the margins between winning and losing can be extremely fine.

Ethan was at his unruffled best in a win over DHS, leading his team from 50 for 5, chasing 146 to win, to victory without the loss of another wicket on a pitch that had some turn and an outfield that was very heavy, a fact that was reflected in the DHS innings which produced only two fours.

“We had a really good side on paper, but we battled to win the key moments in games,” Ethan said. But, with only four matric boys in the line-up, Westville was always a competitive team, which suggests good things are on the horizon, with lessons learnt from a challenging season set to become valuable assets. And the example set by the skipper is one of the biggest among them.

One thing that one can be pretty sure about, Ethan Matkovich will continue to lead, in good times, in bad times, when challenges are fun, when challenges are daunting, even in this unprecedented time. With that approach, whether the hockey season or any semblance of one happens this year, it is surely not the last we will hear about his sporting exploits.