This Day in History: January 4, 1993


January 4, 1993 saw the man called the ‘Mr Rugby of South Africa’, Daniel Hartman Craven, better known as Danie Craven or Doc Craven, breathe his last.

Danie Craven was not only a rugby player of impressive talent, but he also went on to become a notable coach and rugby administrator. Owing to his efforts, South Africa remained a presence in world rugby despite not being allowed to play as sanctions against the country were enacted to bring an end to the oppressive apartheid system.

He played 16 tests for South Africa, from 1931-1938. He made the dive pass, a prerequisite for any scrumhalf worth his salt, popular and coached the Springboks from 1949 to 1956, with a win rate of 74%. He also became the longest-serving president of the South African Rugby Board, functioning in that capacity from 1956 until his death in 1993. The man known as ‘Mr Rugby’ also served spells as president of the International Rugby Board (IRB) in 1962, 1973 and 1979.

In 1988, Doc Craven went against the ruling government’s wishes and met with exiled leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) in Harare, Zimbabwe, to discuss the way forward for an integrated rugby system. The talks, denounced by the government and many right-wing supporters, eventually bore fruit in 1992 when the unified body, the South African Rugby Football Union (SARFU) was formed. Craven was appointed the first president.

A graduate of the University of Stellenbosch, his association with that institution was a long-standing one. Not only was he student there, receiving both is undergraduate and post-graduate honours there, he also taught there and coached the university’s rugby side. Seeing him and his dog, Bliksem, showing up at training became an institution in itself.

The university named the sporting complex after him and commissioned a bronze statue of him and his dog. The statue stands at the entrance to the complex.