THE 50th Coca-Cola Craven Week is almost upon us as it transforms Polokwane in Limpopo into a hotbed of Under-18 rugby action from July 8 -13.
Over half a century there have been numerous dads, sons, brothers and cousins who have taken part in the prestigious tournament and gone on to greater rugby glory.
Schalk Burger senior played for Western Province at the 1973 Craven Week and was followed by Schalk Burger junior running on the field for Boland 28 years later.
In 1984, “Groot” Schalk debuted for the Springboks, a year after the birth of his first child and Springbok flanker Schalk Junior.
“Groot” Schalk has been called the patriarch of SA rugby’s first-family because him and his son are the first ever father-son combination to both wear national colours at under-21 level and they are also a father-son Springbok combo. Of interest to note is that to date,
ten sets of fathers and sons have played for the Springboks.
Looking back to Craven Week, both donning the blue and white for Western Province, Hennie and Andries Bekker played at the tournament in 1970 and 2001 respectively. Both players are locks and Andries also holds the record for being the tallest Bok in history at just under seven feet.
Moving onto famous brothers we have the formidable Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis playing for the Free State Craven Week team in 2000 and 2001 respectively.
Jannie was selected for the Springbok squad for the 2007 Tri Nations, making his debut in the match against Australia during the Boks’ home leg.
His younger brother Bismarck made his Bok debut as a substitute in the same match while Jannie was still on the field. This made the du Plessis brothers the 23rd set of brothers to earn Springboks caps.
A famous pair of cousins are Andries and Adriaan Strauss who both played for the Free State Craven Week team in 2002 and 2003 respectively.
Adriaan is currently a Cheetahs hooker and Andries is a centre for the Eastern Province Kings. Andries’s brother, Richardt Strauss, is also a well-known player who plays as a hooker overseas for Leinster Rugby and Ireland. Richardt got to play against his cousin Adriaan when the Springboks took on Ireland on the end of year tour in 2012.
This special 2013 Coca-Cola Craven Week has more potential famous family connections in the future. Ruan Ackerman is playing for the Bulls and is the son of former Springbok lock and current Lions coach Johan Ackerman.
Interestingly enough, Johan Ackermann, at 37 years and 34 days old, was the oldest Springbok to ever play in a test match. Hanro Liebenberg is the younger brother of 2012 Baby Boks Captain Wiaan Liebenberg and will be running on the field for Boland. Daniel du Plessis will represent Western Province and is son of ex-Springbok Michael du Plessis.
Another notable rugby family is the Du Preez family from Kwa-Zulu Natal. This is the third season that the Du Preez twins, Daniel and Jean-Luc, have been selected to play at Craven Week, and following last year’s event they were selected for the SA Schools team. Their father, Robert, is a former Sharks and Springbok scrumhalf and is currently head coach
of KZN club champions, College Rovers. The older brother and flyhalf Rob, was a part of this year’s SA Under-20 side that played at the IRB Junior World Championships in France where South Africa finished 3rd after beating New Zealand.
Speaking of rugby being in your blood, Jan Serfontein’s father Boelie played for Eastern Province in his time and his grandfather, Jack Slater, played for the Springboks in 1924 – some 40 years before the inaugural Craven Week – that’s some history! Jan himself recently
debuted for the Springboks and was the 2011 Coca-Cola Craven Week Player of the Tournament.
These are just some of the famous family connections that have played –and are playing – a part in the greatest schoolboy tournament in the world. Coca-Cola Craven Week has been a part of our sporting consciousness for the past 50 years and has played a momentous role in
shaping South African rugby.
Get down to Polokwane if you can or watch the matches on SuperSport – this is “where heroes are made”.