Nestled at the foot of the majestic Raed-na-Gael mountains, in the heart of the whale country, is the picturesque Sir De Villiers Graaff oval, home of Hermanus cricket.
The Hermanus Cricket Club is widely regarded as the cricket centre of the Overberg and has a long and interesting history.
The earliest recollection of cricket being played in the then small, fishing village, was when Pietie Theron, founder of Guthrie & Theron Attorneys, played alongside Oom Joep Joubert way back in 1936.There was no formal league structure in those days and the cricket was a social occasion.
The Great War of 1939 put a temporary halt to proceedings as the locals trudged off to defend their country but the club was revived in 1954, thanks to the efforts of Sidney Steensma, a former WP “keeper’.
The first turf track was laid by a certain Sgt Alec Groenewald and this track still forms part of the current square today. Groenewald was in fact a legend in his own time and one of the real stalwarts of the club. At the tender age of 61 old Alec used to face-the new ball and apparently he wasn’t a slouch in the field either! His ashes were sprinkled over his hallowed pitch after his death and, sometimes, if you listen closely during a blustery North-Wester, you can still hear him calling for that sharp single! Sir De Villiers Graaff was elected President of the club in 1955, a position that the great statesman relinquished to his son Johan after his passing. Indeed, the entire Graaff family has been involved in Hermanus cricket at some point or another. Hermanus is no stranger to “big” names, with people like Tuppy Owen-Smith, Clive van Ryneveld, John Wiley, Dave McKay and Morne du Plessis having played there. Even the MCC touring party of 1955 have graced the oval.
Hermanus entered competitive cricket in the late 60’s and consistently brought in good results in the Junior leagues.
As is the case in many small clubs, the club went through a bit of a lean patch and the interest waned, only to be rekindled by people like Eugene le Roux, “Wessie” van der Westhuizen and Johan Koeglenberg, all of whom are still involved, with the club today in some way or another.
The “modern” era kicked off in the late 80’s as Hermanus again decided to join the leagues after playing only social cricket for many years. Mark Brumer, Herold Vogel, Johan Koegelenberg (Jnr) and Liston Davidowitz formed the nucleus of the side and this side bounded their way out of the junior leagues towards the Premier leagues.
At this stage Hermanus started their own development programme and were the first “country” club to bring in young overseas players to coach as well as to play. GaryYates, the Lancashire off-spinner, spent two seasons here, as did Somerset’s Mark Caraway. The club grew from strength to strength and is now reaping the rewards of all the hard work. There are three sides in competition at the moment, the First XI contests the All Gold Super League and the Two’s for the last two years and the Thirds compete in the Breede River League. Players who have turned out for Hermanus Firsts in recent times include Charl Willoughby, Neil Carter, Cedric English, Steven Roos, Morne Roos, Barry Chedburn, Piet Koen, Gerhard Strydom, Raynard Strydom and Con de Lange. The nucleus of the First team presently consists of Rejeanne Botha, Raynard Strydom, Steve Forde, Phillip van Vuuren and Wayne Truter and Con de Lange.
The club has hosted the annual WP – BOLAND CHALLENGE for the last few years and will continue to do so, with thoughts of expanding to a “quadrangular” format in the near future. Yes, the club certainly has come a very long way, and I’m sure that ol’ Alec Groenewald is having a quiet, contented chuckle somewhere.