Former Springbok captain and selector, Abie Malan, passed away on Thursday from complications following knee replacement surgery. He was one month short of his 79th birthday. Gabriel Frederick Malan was a fiercely competitive hooker who played 18 Tests for South Africa and 44 matches in all between 1958 and 1965.
He had a reputation for toughness and repeatedly played through injuries that would have laid low other players. He captained the team in the two victories and one defeat in the shared (2-2) series with Australia in 1963 and in a fourth test – against Wales – in the same year. Malan was born and educated in the remote Northern Cape town of Kenhardt, 120km from Upington.
He attended Stellenbosch University from where he won selection for Western Province in 1955. He made his debut against the touring French at the age of 22 in 1958 and ended his international career on the unsuccessful tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1965, by which time he had joined Transvaal. In later life he became a Springbok selector and was still farming grapes on the family property outside Upington until his operation.
“I would like to pass on my condolences to Abie’s family at this time of their loss. Abie was the perfect example of the Springbok forward; tough, uncomplaining and a remorseless opponent who never gave up on the cause. He continued a legacy that our players still strive to achieve,” said Oregan Hoskins, president of the South African Rugby Union (SARU). Malan was honoured in conjunction with other former national captains when his hand prints were captured for casting in bronze and eventual installation at the Springbok Experience Rugby Museum at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.
Waratahs and Wallaby prop, Benn Robinson, earlier this year returned Abie’s 1963 playing jersey to its owner from his 1963 opponent, Jim Miller with whom he had swapped at the time. The jersey had thought to have been lost for 51 years. He is survived by his wife, three children and seven grandchildren.