Doc Danie Craven was born in Lindley in the Eastern Free State on 11 October 1910. A grand dinner in his honour was held in the Stellenbosch Townhall on Thursday evening, and two of his greatest players were especially honoured.
It is 17 years since Craven died and yet the hall was full with over 400 diners, all in a good mood, all there to honour the great man. The venue was appropriate as Craven had a great love for Stellenbosch from when he first went there in 1929. He became a Springbok there, he earned the first two of his three doctorates there, he was a professor there, he received an honorary doctorate there, his 80th birthday was in the Townhall and there was a touching function in the Townhall when he was made a freeman of Stellenbosch, the first citizen so honoured in 300 years.
In a kind of canonization, the evening was given over to honouring the great man – and to raise funds for the Danie Craven Bursary Fund which has been going since 1994, the year after Craven’s death. Two of the five recipients that year became Springboks – Pieter Rossouw and Fritz van Heerden. There were speakers, there was music and there were film insets of Craven telling his stories in his inimitable way. It was above all lots of fun. The evening kicked off with 400 men singing Gaudeamus Igitur.
Frikkie Naudé, Matie and Western Province fullback, president of the Stellenbosch Rugby Club and the chairman of the fund spoke and Jan Boland Coetzee, great Matie Springbok spoke with tenderness and anecdote. Christo Wiese, the top businessman and a student in Wilgenhof when Craven was the warden, was the main speaker.
There were Springbok captains there – Dawie de Villiers, Abe Malan, Hannes Marais, Morné du Plessis, Wynand Claassen, Divan Serfontein, François Pienaar and John Smit – Maties except for Claassen, Pienaar and Smit. There were many Matie Springboks who came forward to receive a plaque to commemorate the occasion – Dawie de Villiers, Abe Malan, Hannes Marais, Morné du Plessis, Divan Serfontein, Sakkie de Klerk, Albie de Waal, Rudolf Straeuli, Kobus Burger, Schalk Burger Jnr, Francois Louw, Hempies du Toit, Jannie Engelbrecht, Robbie Blair, Dawie Snyman, Hennie Bekker, Niel Hugo, Justin Swart, Colin Beck, Carel du Plessis, FC Smit, Mornay Visser, Pieter Rossouw and Theo Oosthuizen. In all, 166 Maties have become Springboks, the latest being Francois Louw and Gio Aplon.
Also there were Craven’s daughter Joan and his son James and a grandson. Also there was the cap awarded when Craven, posthumously, was inducted into Rugby’s Hall of Fame. He is in third place there after Rugby School and William Webb Ellis!
Two players were especially honoured – the players voted the best back and the best forward of Craven’s time, and his time as a coach stretched from 1946 to 1990. each of the players received a special commemorative blazer and each spoke of what Craven had meant to them.
The award for the best back went to Jannie Engelbrecht and for the best forward to Morné du Plessis. The master of ceremonies was the broadcaster Johan Rademan of Radio Sonder Grense, the music was provided by Die Broers, comedian Nico Nel told unlikely stories of his rugby career and then there was an auction with Mark Philip as auctioneer. There were six items for auction, the last being the last statue made of Doc and Bliksem, a smaller version of the statue outside of Jan Marais House near Danie Craven Stadium. It fetched the top price. The guests left with generous gifts and with happy hearts from an evening of laughter and fun well watered by nostalgia and touching memories of a great man.
Article courtesy of rugby365.co.zaTweet