South African cricket legend and Maties Cricket alumnus Peter Kirsten celebrated his 61st birthday on the cricket fields at Coetzenburg on Saturday May 14, surrounded by other former Maties attending the Maties Cricket reunion.
Maties who represented Stellenbosch University (SU) on the cricket field between 1949 and 1995 gathered in Stellenbosch on 13-14 May to share memories and rekindle old friendships.
The weekend kicked off with a golf day and dinner at the Stellenbosch Golf Club on Friday and continued on Saturday with three cricket matches in which players such as Kirsten, Adrian Kuiper, Roger Telemachus, Dave Rundle and Garth le Roux showed their skill with bat and ball.
The oldest person to attend the reunion was James Starke (85) from Stellenbosch. Although he is better known as a rugby player who travelled to New Zealand with the Springboks in 1956, he played cricket for Maties in 1950.
Jim Crowe, Colin Rushmere, Roy Justus and Brian Galgut were part of the first Maties team to win the South African Universities competition (in 1956) and Justus was the first Matie to be included in the South African Universities team.
“I’m grateful that I could meet up with old friends after 60 years. It’s wonderful,” Justus said at Friday evening’s dinner.
Various players got the opportunity to tell a story or two from their era and most of them agreed that the camaraderie they experienced and the friends they made were the things that they remember best and appreciate most after all these years.
André Parker, who played cricket for Maties in the early 1970s, said in the opening speech that he can’t recall scoring many runs but that he does remember the social side of cricket.
“Cricket is a great game and a wonderful character builder. It is important that we (Maties) recruit and produce the best players and hopefully cricket will continue to flourish because it is a special, special game.”
Former Springbok Morné du Plessis told the audience that he chose to come to Stellenbosch so that he could play cricket here. Although he later became captain of the Springboks, he played cricket for Maties in the late 1960s/early 1970s.
He emphasised that those present should also look toward the future. “Tonight is about the past and we can enjoy it but it is the future that is important,” he said.
The alumni were introduced to the Maties Cricket Legacy Fund, a fund that is focused on ensuring the well-being of the club and enabling it to provide top bursaries to ensure that the Maties Cricket Club remains competitive compared to other universities.
Plans for the envisioned Cricket Performance Centre were exhibited at the reunion. The aim of this academy will be to identify and develop the most talented cricket players.
Feedback about the reunion was overwhelmingly positive.
According to the organiser of the event, well-known cricket commentator Prof Kotie Grové, he had received numerous e-mails and calls from people who enjoyed the reunion and who thanked him and SU for organising it.
* Pia Nänny is the Maties Sport: Media co-ordinator at Stellenbosch University.