Cradock’s Great Rugby Day

Karoo rugby
EP Kings throw-in during their match against the Cheetahs.
EP Kings throw-in during their match against the Cheetahs.

By Julienne du Toit

Pictures by Chris Marais

[dropcap]A[/dropcap] grand festival of rugby – for young and old, boys and girls – took place in Cradock at the end of March as part of the town’s bicentenary celebrations.

The culmination was a Vodacom Cup match between the EP Kings and the Cheetahs, but the whole day was special, in unexpected ways.  It started at 8am, with the little ‘pienkvoete’ – the barefoot primary school teams: Michausdal Primary, Cradock Primary, and Carinus Primary.

Karoo rugby
JA Calata and Matthew Goniwe High Schools competed against Michausdal High.

After that came the combined JA Calata and Matthew Goniwe High Schools against Michausdal High Under 19s – both sides fielding an intense, lean bunch of guys who played with increasing confidence as their game went on.

Karoo rugby
The Women’s Sevens Rugby teams, with Oukop Hill in the background.

There was also a session of Women’s Sevens Rugby, which attracted a fair amount of interest. (Overheard comment: “Nee, kom, ons wil die Cherries sien speel” – “No, come along, we want to watch the chicks play.”)

Karoo rugby
DF Malherbe High School arrived with their squad of cheerleaders.

Then came one of the day’s most anticipated matches: Cradock High School’s first team vs DF Malherbe from Port Elizabeth.

Cradock rugby
Cradock High School in yellow, won their match against PE’s DF Malherbe.

Although DF Malherbe put up a good game (and arrived with a squadron of attractive and enthusiastic cheerleaders) it ended in a satisfying victory for CHS, with several great tries that had the spectators on their feet.

Karoo rugby
Cradock High School First Team after their victory.

The local-team Match of the Day was the Cradock Barbarians against the Middelburg Harlequins. The Barbarians team was a side cobbled together from Cradock’s Evergreens, Karoo Springboks and Veritas, the first time the three teams had ever collaborated in such a way. Everyone was keen to see how the amalgam worked.

Barbarians vs Harlequins - an exciting match.
Barbarians vs Harlequins – an exciting match.
Karoo rugby
The newly formed Karoo Barbarians (dark green shirts) triumphed against the Middelburg Harlequins.

Although the Harlequins were a competent squad, the Barbarians proved the better team on the day, winning 24-14. The match featured some lively and cheerfully biased commentating from Cradock local, Lionel Stevens.

Karoo rugby
A parade of former North Eastern Cape players included former Springboks like Hannes Marais.

Before the main match of the day, dozens of veteran North Eastern Cape players, many of whom had played here, including former Springbok Captain Hannes Marais, Christo Ferreira and Eben Jansen slowly made their way around Cradock Sportsground’s tartan track to applause from the crowd.  The legendary Springbok Chester Williams had earlier made a VIP guest appearance.

Xhosa dance
The Xhosa Warriors helped rev up the crowd before the big game.

Meanwhile as the stands filled to near-capacity, the Xhosa Warriors dance group helped rev up the atmosphere, after which the Mayors of the Chris Hani District Municipality Mxolisi Koyo and Inxuba Yethemba Local Municipality Nyameka Goniwe were introduced to both teams and the ground staff.

Cradock sports
The main stadium was packed with rugby fans.

Everyone stood for the national anthem, sung by the Inxuba Yethemba choir. By the time they finished, the entire stadium was singing along, ending enthusiastically several beats ahead of the official singers.

Karoo rugby
The Cheetahs and the EP Kings lined up before the Vodacom Cup Match.

It was a special moment for EP Kings captain Paul Schoeman who is from Cradock, and who was educated at Marlow Agricultural High School. His family are still farming in the district. During the week, the EP Kings and the Cheetahs had held rugby clinics for school teams.

Karoo rugby
Local teams benefited greatly from the rugby clinics offered by the EP Kings and Cheetahs.

“As they received passes from the Cheetahs and Kings, you could immediately see the kids imagining themselves as Springboks,” said one observer.

The EP Kings before the match.
The EP Kings before the match.

The EP Kings stayed at the Victoria Manor and Tuishuise and the Cheetahs at Vusubuntu. Every single guesthouse in Cradock was full for several days, thanks to supporters who came from all over the Eastern Cape. Various Cradock eateries took turns to feed the voracious rugby players.

Although the EP Kings lost against the Cheetahs, it was a great day of rugby for Cradock.
Although the EP Kings lost against the Cheetahs, it was a great day of rugby for Cradock.

The Cheetahs (who had vocal and enthusiastic fans in the stadium) won the match 31 – 3.

Like the teams that had played during the day with such easy camaraderie, the crowd was demographically mixed and united in a love for good rugby.

Cheetah supporters were an enthusiastic bunch.

There is word that this might not be the last event like this played in Cradock. Vodacom Cup organisers were impressed with the facilities and the town’s spirit. This could become an annual event.

“That would be so good for our town,” smiled Cradock-born mayor, Councillor Goniwe, a keen rugby fan herself.

Karoo rugby

A great day of rugby for Cradock.

One thought on “Cradock’s Great Rugby Day

  1. S. Strutt says:

    Good Day. Sitting in Angola and enjoying rugby news from Cradock my birth town (Metcalf rd 16 – where I grew up) I thank the Lord that my father who played for Rovers in the 40, is stil alive, and I may be wrong but I think he is the eldest Cradock rugby player stil alive.
    (turning 93) He stayes in PE and stil enjoys his rugby on TV. His name James Sutcliffe Strutt and they called him Jimmy. Good memories!
    Kind Regards
    Sutcliffe Strutt jnr

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