Former Bok captain paddles for charity

Former Springbok rugby captain Corné Krige has thrown his weight behind the Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon’s support for local charities by pledging his commitment to the race in an effort to raise funds for underprivileged school children.

Krige is better known for his efforts on the rugby field, having earned 39 caps in the green and gold, but Krige is also a surfski enthusiast and is looking forward to teaming up with his long-time school friend and Cradock resident Billy van Zyl and Hansa Fish race organiser Pieter Marais in a K3 (three-seater kayak) as the trio look to complete the 84km journey.

“It’s obviously very exciting,” said Krige. “I live very close to the sea in Melkbosstrand in Cape Town, so I have my own surfski, but I use that mainly for recreation and a bit of exercise, so this is something very different to anything I’m used to.


corne-krige-250Former Springbok rugby captain Corne Krige (Photo: Prosport International)“A couple of years ago I was invited to do the Breede [River Canoe Marathon] and I really enjoyed that, but I’ve never done anything like this before and I certainly haven’t sat in a boat for anywhere near five hours, which I’m told is how long we’re aiming to take on the first day, at any one time, so it’s definitely going to be interesting.

“I’m busy preparing for next year’s Absa Cape Epic [mountain bike race], so I’ve been spending all my time training on the bike and none in the boat, so I definitely haven’t trained enough for it, but hopefully I can sit in the middle of the K3 and let the others pull me along,” he chuckled.

Having spent their time at Paarl Boys’ High School together, Krige and van Zyl have been good friends for some time, so when van Zyl suggested the idea and at the same said they would be able to support children in need, a passion of Krige’s, it didn’t take long for a plan to take shape.

“I’ve known Billy for years and he has been trying to get me to do the Fish for a little while now,” explained Krige. “Then I was in PE a little while ago when De Wet Barry went through a bad time with the loss of his child and Billy was there too,” said Krige.

“Again, he mentioned the Fish and I have a couple of friends who have done the race a few times and really enjoyed it, so I gave it some thought.


“I’m always keen to try help out, especially with kids, so when Billy phoned back a couple weeks later and explained the charity side of things and that we’d be able to donate the money not only to one charity but to lots of different charities, all involving children, I was very excited,” he added.

Besides their decades-old friendship, Krige and van Zyl have developed a unique connection and understanding of one another in recent years after both have had to overcome one of life’s most difficult traumas.

In 2009, Krige tragically lost both his four- and one-year-old niece and nephew in a freak accident on his sister-in-law’s farm, while van Zyl had to deal with the heartache and pain of losing a child of his own when his young son heartbreakingly drowned in a swimming pool a few years ago.

It is this understanding and bond that the two good friends share which is the primary driving force behind their Hansa Fish initiative and their passion to help other young children in need.


For the Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon, renowned for the work it does for the small Eastern Cape town of Cradock, this is yet another example of the remarkable impact the race has had on the region and again enforces just why it is regarded as more than just a paddling race by so many.

“The ability to give back to the community is extremely important to us at the Hansa Fish and to be able to get involved in what Billy and Corné are out to achieve is very special for us,” said Marais.

“We place a huge emphasis on ensuring every cent raised, over and above the costs of the race, goes back into the community and that can be seen by the fact that we are able to support the Cradock Cansa Care Centre, SPCA and Old Age Home all through the charity batch.

“The Round Table manages the bar, local churches have food stalls during the event, and schools are involved as well,” he added.


With the cameras in hot pursuit and all eyes closely watching the trio’s progress throughout the two-day spectacle, Marais is all too aware the heat will be on, particularly for himself and van Zyl, who are old hands on the river, come 5 and 6 October.

“It has put quite a bit of pressure on Billy and I to perform and not to make any mistakes,” chuckled Marais. “It’s just fantastic to have a personality as big as Corné come take part in our event, though.

“Everyone involved in the race is really excited to have him with us and it will really be fun to be able to do the race with such a good sportsman and for such a good cause.”

The Hansa Fish takes place in Cradock on 5 and 6 October and will decide the SA K1 River Championships.

First published on – South Africa’s Official Gateway.