Who was the first black South African to play professional football in Europe? Who’s the most economical bowler in cricket history? Who kicked the most drop- goals ever in a rugby test match? Which sportsman can claim to have suffered the most jet-lag?
Take a quick spin through our assortment of South African sports trivia.
Pule ‘Ace’ Ntsoelengoe, the midfield general of many fine Kaizer Chiefs teams of the mid-1970s to mid-1980s, was inducted into the US Soccer Hall of Fame in October 2003. One of the North American Soccer League’s all-time leaders for both appearances and goals, “Ace” was voted onto the NASL’s All Star line-up in 1979 and 1982. Former South Africa coach Clive Barker – among many others – rates Ace as perhaps the best player South Africa has ever produced.
Long before Lucas Radebe made his mark at Leeds United, becoming “The Chief” in the club’s central defence, there was another South African who served the club with distinction. Albert Johanneson was a left wing who represented the All Whites in 200 matches in the 1960s, netting 68 times.
Who is he? He’s had a street in Amsterdam named after him. He’s had a book written and a film made about him. He was the first black South African to play professional football in Europe. After signing for English club Coventry City in 1955, he went on to achieve superstar status playing for Dutch side Heracles and later for Torino in Italy, becoming one of a few players in Europe to earn £10 000 a year. Who is he?
Springbok flyhalf Jannie de Beer holds the world record for most dropped goals in a test match. Playing against England in the quarterfinals of the Rugby World Cup in October 1999, De Beer kicked five dropped goals, all in the second half, as South Africa won 44-21. De Beer scored 34 points.
From 23 August 1997 to 28 November 1998, the Springboks won 17 successive rugby tests to equal the world record. Their record included three wins against Australia, two wins against New Zealand, two wins against England and two wins against France.
Kitch Christie, who coached the Springboks to World Cup success in 1995, was in charge of the Boks for 14 tests. Those matches all ended in victory.
Long before South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, Errol Tobias sealed his place in South African rugby history by becoming the first black player to start a test match for the Springboks, when he faced Ireland at Newlands on 30 May 1981. He was 31 at the time. In the four matches that Tobias played at flyhalf, South Africa scored 122 points, running in 18 tries, 12 of them by backline players. He played 15 times for the Springboks, including in six Tests – all of which South Africa won.
Jonathan Kaplan set a world first by becoming the first referee in the history of rugby to take charge of 50 tests when he took the whistle in the 2009 Six Nations contest between Scotland and Ireland at Murrayfield.
Graeme Pollock’s test batting average of 60.97 is the second-highest in history, the highest ever by a left hander, and he is one of only four batsmen to average over 60 in a Test career. In February 2009, Pollock was voted into the International Cricket Council’s Hall of Fame as a member of the inaugural class of inductees.
Who is he? In just 41 Tests, having made his test debut at the age of 34, he scored 2 484 runs at an average of 40.06, with five centuries and 15 fifties. He also captured 47 wickets at an average 39.55 runs per wicket. He never represented South Africa, yet he was nominated as one of the country’s cricketers of the 20th century. Who is he?
Geoff Griffin is the only South African to take a hat-trick in test cricket. He achieved the feat against England at Lords on 23 June 1960. Later in the match he was no-balled for throwing – one of only 11 players to suffer that fate! It proved to be the final test of his career.
Among bowlers that played 20 or more tests, South African all-rounder Trevor Goddard is the most economical bowler in history, conceding only 1.64 runs per over.
Mike Procter shares the world record with CB Fry and Sir Donald Bradman of scoring six first-class centuries in succession. Showing that he was a fine all-rounder too, Procter is the only cricketer in history to capture two all-LBW hat-tricks.
Barry Richards once scored 325 runs in a day, playing for South Australia against Western Australia. He went on to score 356, the highest first-class score by a South African batsman. In January 2009, Richards was inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame as one of the initial 55 players to be honoured.
When left-handed opening batsman Gary Kirsten scored 150 against Bangladesh in October 2002, he became the first batsman in test history to score a century against all nine other test-playing countries.
And who can forget …? He had shortcomings as a batsman, but was effective and consistent. His third test century was South Africa’s fastest in terms of balls faced. He holds the world record for the most catches – five – by a non- wicketkeeper in a one-day international. Yet his story is definitely not told by his career statistics. Do you remember that run out?
Umpire Rudi Koertzen made history on 11 July 2009 when he became the first man to umpire 200 one-day internationals. On 16 July, he became only the second man to stand in 100 tests when he took to the field in the second Ashes test between England and Australia.
Reggie Walker won the 100 metres at the Olympic Games in London in 1908 – the only South African, and African, to have won the Olympic 100 metres title.
In 1979, Matthews ‘Loop- en-val’ Motshwarateu became the first South African to run the 10 000 metres in under 28 minutes, in one of the most sensational performances in SA athletics history – only three other South Africans have since beaten his time of 27 minutes and 48.2 seconds. “Loop-en-val” was also the first black South African athlete to break a world record, and still holds the SA 10km road record. Check out the full story – and origin of his nickname, which translates as Run and fall.
The Comrades, widely regarded as the world’s greatest ultra-marathon, belonged to one man throughout the 1980s. Bruce Fordyce won the event one nine occasions: in 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1990. He didn’t win in 1989, but then again he didn’t run that year …
Two of the biggest names in triathlon history grew up in Durban, South Africa, but never represented the country. Paula Newby-Fraser, representing Zimbabwe, was an eight-time Ironman world champion, while Simon Lessing, representing Great Britain, was a five-time world champion.
Okkert Brits is one of only 15 athletes in history to clear six metres in the pole vault. He became the third man in history to achieve the feat when he cleared 6.03m in 1995.
After boxer Brian Mitchell won the WBA junior-lightweight title in 1986, he successfully defended it on 12 occasions before retiring as an undefeated champion. All of his title defences took place outside of South Africa. In December 2008, Mitchell was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame, the first South African boxer to achieve the honour …
… but not the first South African. Boxing referee Stan Christodoulou , only the third man in history to referee more than 100 world title fights, and the first to referee world title fights in all 17 weight categories, was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2004.
‘Baby Jake’ Matlala, watched by former President Nelson Mandela and American actor Will Smith, brought the curtain down on a 22-year professional career on 3 March 2002 with a seventh- round stoppage win over Juan Herrera to retain his WBU junior flyweight title. At just 4ft 10in or 147cm – not much taller than the average 3ft 6in or 107cm tall Lord of the Rings hobbit – Baby Jake was the shortest ever world boxing champion.
South African golfing legend Gary Player is one of only five players to have won golf’s Grand Slam of the US Masters, US Open, British Open and US PGA titles. Player is also one of only three golfers to win the British Open in three different decades – in 1959, 1968 and 1974. (The other two players to win the Open in three different decades did so in the nineteenth century.)
During his career, Player has won 163 tournaments all over the world, jetting an estimated total of 17.5-million kilometres, more than any other athlete in history – and he’s still flying, playing, and winning.
Sewsunker ‘Papwa’ Sewgolum played at the same time as Gary Player, but apartheid prevented him from making his mark around the world. How good was he? In 1965, when Player won the US Open, the World Cup Invitational, the South African Open, the Australian Open, the World Series, the World Matchplay and the NTL Challenge Cup, he finished second in the Natal Open. Sewgolum beat him.
A self-taught golfer, Sewgolum played the game with a back-handed grip, hands positioned the opposite way to the traditional grip. The unorthodox grip has another name – the Sewsunker grip – named after him, because he used it with such success.
Golfer Sally Little first made her mark when she was named the LPGA Rookie of the Year in 1971/72. She went on to win 15 LPGA titles, including three majors, and in 1985 became the LPGA’s twelfth millionaire.
One-legged swimmer Natalie du Toit made history when she qualified for the final of the 800 metres freestyle at the 2002 Commonwealth Games – the athlete with disability ever to qualify for the final of an international able-bodied event. In 2008, Du Toit became the first athlete with a disability to compete at the Olympic Games, finishing 16th in the 10-kilometre open water event.
Breaststroke swimmer Penny Heyns, an Olympic champion at 100 and 200 metres, broke four world records over those distances in the space of two days in July 1999. She went on to set eight world records in 11 races.
Karen Muir was voted into Swimming’s Hall of Fame in 1980. She became the youngest ever world record holder in any sport in 1965, at age 12, when she established a new mark in the 110 yards backstroke. She went on to set 15 world records.
Terence Parkin is the most successful swimmer in the history of the Deaflympics, accumulating 29 medals in total after the conclusion of the 2009 edition of the Games. In 2000, he won a silver medal in the 200 metres breaststroke at the Sydney Olympic Games. He has also won the Midmar Mile twice.
Speaking about the Midmar Mile, it is the world’s largest open water swimming event and is recognised as such by Guinness World Records. It was first held in 1973 because petrol restrictions at that time prevented a group of friends from attending the Buffalo Mile in East London. Now held over two days to accommodate all the swimmers, it has drawn in excess of 17 000 competitors.
Bob Hewitt and Frew McMillan won 57 career doubles titles, including three Wimbledon crowns. After teaming up they played 45 matches before they suffered their first loss.
Wayne Ferreira was a far greater player than many South Africans gave him credit for, as one little-known fact reveals: he boasted a 6-7 career head-to-head record against Pete Sampras. He also cannot be faulted for perseverance: he ended his career having played in a record 56 Grand Slam tournaments in succession.
South Africa has one Davis Cup title to its credit – but not one that it likes to boast about. When India withdrew from the final in 1974 in protest against the South African government’s apartheid policy, South Africa became the winner by default.
Jody Scheckter is the only South African to have won motor racing’s Formula One title. He achieved the feat driving for Ferrari in 1979. The Italian team had to wait another 21 years for their next driver’s title, won by Michael Schumacher.
Motorcross star Greg Albertyn made his mark overseas, winning the 125cc world title in 1992, followed by the world 250cc title in 1993 and 1994. He then moved to the United States, where he won the 250cc motorcross title in 1999.
South African powerboat racing legend Peter Lindenberg won the national Formula One title 15 times between from 1981 to 2001. He might have won even more titles had he not also competed in the Powerboat Racing World Series.
CANOEING AND PADDLE-SKIING
Graeme Pope-Ellis won the tough three-day Dusi Canoe Marathon, contested between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, on 15 occasions, competing in both singles and doubles. Not surprisingly he was known as “the Dusi King”.
Paddle-skier Oscar Chalupsky has won the Molokai Challenge, considered the world championship of solo ocean paddling, a record 11 times. Seven of those titles came in succession, from 1983 to 1989.
The Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour is the world’s largest individually timed cycling event. It has attracted fields as large as 40 000 competitors.
Downhill mountain bike racer Greg Minnaar is a three-time winner of the overall UCI World Cup title, in 2001, 2005, and 2008. He also won the World Championships in 2003. Minnaar has achieved more podium finishes than any downhill rider in World Cup history.
Shaun Thomson won the world surfing title in 1977. Maybe a greater claim to fame for the man from Durban is that many regard him as the best tube rider of all time.
Striker Pietie Coetzee became the all-time leading goal scorer in women’s international hockey on 21 June 2011 with the third of four goals she scored in a 5-5 draw against the USA in the Champions Challenge in Dublin. It took her to 221 goals, bettering the 20-year-old world record of Russia’s Natalya Krasnikova. She retired from international hockey in June 2014 having scored 282 goals in 287 matches. Incredibly, those figures included a five-year hiatus in the prime of her career to concentrate on her studies.
Reg Park won the Mr Universe bodybuilding title in 1958 and 1965. He appeared in movies as Hercules between his two wins, and went on to become Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bodybuilding inspiration.
The South African men’s bowls team, playing in the World Bowls Championships on home soil in 1976, achieved the unique feat of winning every single title on offer. Doug Watson was crowned singles champion. He and Bill Moseley won the pairs. Kevin Campbell, Nando Gatti and Kelvin Lightfoot triumphed in the triples, and Campbell, Gatti, Lightfoot and Moseley captured the fours title.
Anneli Wucherpfenning (Drummond-Hay) enjoyed a spectacular sporting career in show jumping, winning the sport’s biggest event, the Badminton Trials, by the biggest margin in history. Among her other victories were wins in the British Championships, Bughley Horse Trials, the Imperial Cup, the Queen Elizabeth Cup, and the British Jumping Derby.
On the subject of sporting greats who grew up, or at least were born in, South Africa: Gary Anderson, the scorer of the second most points in the history of America’s National Football League (NFL), was born in Parys and raised in Durban. And Steve Nash, the two-time Most Valuable Player in the NBA, was born in Johannesburg.
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