RIP Piet Malan

Piet Malan, whose brainchild was the establishment of the Craven Week and, until yesterday, the oldest living Springbok, passed away in his sleep on Sunday.  He was 96.  Oregan Hoskins, president of the South African Rugby Union, expressed his condolences to the family:  ‘He was a great man.  I knew him from many years as a regular visitor to what is now Emirates Airlines Park and his passion for the game of rugby never faded.  His idea of establishing an interprovincial schools tournament in the early 1960s has left a legacy that although it bears the name of another, is a tribute to Piet’s contribution to rugby and his career in education.  He was lesson to us all.’

Malan was born a year after the ending of the First World War in Parys and was educated at the nearby Potchefstroom Gymnasium and Potch University.  He played rugby for Western Transvaal at the age of just 20 before moving to Transvaal to take up his first teaching appointment.  He played for Diggers and Transvaal in the period following the Second World War and won his sole test cap in 1949 – when international rugby resumed for South Africa after an 11-year hiatus that coincided with Malan’s best years.  He was selected for the fourth test against the 1949 All Blacks – having played them twice for Transvaal on the tour – at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth.

Malan was on the flank as the Springboks completed a 4-0 whitewash with an 11-8 victory.  He retired from rugby in 1951 but his close connections with sport continued as he was to become the first director of sport at Potchefstroom University and did much to develop the Varsity’s sports complex.  His idea of establishing a schools interprovincial tournament was inspired by the 75th anniversary of the old South African Rugby Board. The first Craven Week was held in 1964 and will continue its unbroken run ever since next week in Stellenbosch.

He is survived by his wife, Hansie, four daughters, 11 grandchildren and as many great-grandchildren.

Photo credit: Gallo Images