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Saturday, November 19, 2011


Younger readers may well be attracted to a book that enables them to compare sport as it was then and as it is today. (Review by Michael Green)

The title of this book is entirely appropriate. Clive van Ryneveld captained South Africa at cricket, played rugby for England, was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, and was a South African member of parliament, advocate and businessman.

He is now in his eighties, living in Cape Town, as he has done all his life, and he has written this consistently interesting book of reminiscences.

As an MP he represented first the United Party and then the Progressive Party when the latter was formed in 1959.

As an advocate, he was involved in some unusual cases, including one in which an obviously intelligent and articulate man was sentenced to death for his part in the Paarl riots of 1962. Reproduced in the book is a letter he wrote to Clive van Ryneveld the day before he was hanged. It is, in its own way, testimony to the resilience of the human spirit. It is also, as Clive van Ryneveld notes, an awful indictment of a system that could drive a man like this to violence and be hanged for it.

But it is sport that dominates these pages, especially cricket. The author has some fascinating memories of celebrated matches and players of long ago and has some astute comments on how sport has changed with the arrival of television and super-professionalism.

He recalls that when, as an Oxford student, he was chosen to play rugby for England against Scotland at Twickenham, before a crowd of 70,000, the typed letter from the secretary of the rugby union informed him that he would have to return his England jersey to the secretary immediately after the game!

The book is well-written and readable, with a cover that shows the author making one of his classic batting strokes – a cover drive!

Its main appeal will probably be to older people (and there must be many thousands of them who remember him well), but I think that younger readers may well be attracted to a book that enables them to compare sport as it was then and as it is today.

Not the least attractive aspect of this memoir is the author’s quiet modesty. I have known him for more than 50 years and can vouch for the fact that he is the opposite of the noisy self-propagandists so common in sport today. A pleasant contrast.

20th Century All-rounder by Clive van Ryneveld is published by Pretext Publishers, PO Box 23199, Claremont 7735 and retails at R145. - Michael Green