When sport tickles the nostalgia gland


When sport tickles the nostalgia gland

LOUIS DE VILLIERS remembers his first cricket hero, Mike Procter. He also realises that sentimentality, unfortunately, doesn't pay the bills.


IT'S almost precisely 54 years since I first went to watch cricket at Newlands.

At 62 these days, I'm the wors for wear, as the Englishman says, and at just over 136, the old stadium is even slightly grumpier than yours truly, who these days go to the shops undisturbed in slippers and inadvisable facial hair.

It's obviously not a good look with which to host cricket Tests.


That day, the grass was, of course, greener, the clothes whiter, and the sun was shining just right.

And Western Province's Mike Procter hit five sixes, plus a single run to keep the strike, from one over by the Australian offspinner Ashley Mallett.

It took another two or three seasons before I realised this did not happen every day.

Procter, if my memory serves me correctly, hit 133*.

He was my first cricket hero.

He looked more like a surfer than a cricketer but in seven Tests he took 41 wickets at 15.02 and scored a relatively paltry 226 runs at 25.11.

In 401 first-class matches, he had a batting average of 36.01 (48 centuries!) and 1,417 wickets at 19.53 each — statistics that put him in the same company as the great all-rounders.

Lees hierdie artikel in Afrikaans:

Yes, it is always mused: imagine for a moment that he could have had an entire Test career.

Until his death on Saturday, Procter was one of my great cricket heroes because he also saw the bigger picture, unlike some of his contemporaries.

If I had to miss out on Test cricket to help alleviate the suffering of millions, I'd be happy with that, and that was always his inclination.

You hardly see him on the internet these days but here's two minutes  of this ridiculously gifted man in action:

As I've said, he could also swing the bat properly:

Procter's passing tickled that little, inactive nostalgia gland in a dusty corner of my hippocampus.

Nostalgia is a habitual liar, so imagine how uncomfortable it made me when I got so hotheaded shortly before Procter's death about the demise of Llanelli Rugby Club in west Wales.

In this era of franchises and the breathless TV advertisements, it's probably only us old guys who still remember that there was such a thing as Llanelli Rugby Club; now this monument of Welsh club rugby has closed its doors for the last time because it can no longer make a rewarding contribution to the west Wales professional region Scarlets.

Scarlets was originally Llanelli's nickname.


I was fortunate to see a game in their Stradey Park when the Welsh club hosted the Springboks at the end of 1994.

It's a memory as clear as Procter at Newlands.

Sosban Fach echoed everywhere, the local club song about nothing but a pan boiling over, saucepans for illustration on top of all four upright poles and 20,000 people belting away with that every 10 minutes.

The Prince of Wales, now King Charles III, was the guest of honour and God Save the Queen was played for the occasion, but in west Wales his jurisdiction did not extend far and only a few dozen people around him in the fanciest suite sang along.

They looked pretty annoyed as the 19,000-plus fellow spectators whistled and booed from the first to the last notes; pure music to republican ears. We laughed heartily.

As a rugby nerd since childhood, a visit to Stradey Park was, for me, 30 years less cynical then than now, a gentle pilgrimage.

The 1955 Lions loose forward and wise gentleman Clem Thomas also took me to see the spectacular cliffs over the Irish Sea and to drink a few beers in the Boathouse in Laugharne, where the great Dylan Thomas assaulted his liver for his last four years.

However, Llanelli has finally gone gentle into that good night.

Now I feel sad for dear old Clem, who two years later went over the Styx; Dylan Thomas, 71 years ago, and poor Llanelli RFC just the other day.


For the record, I firmly believe this is the best try yet — to clinch a series in New Zealand against the All Blacks out of nowhere with this kind of magic, after all, is crazy:

Most people argue that it's this one, but a festival game doesn't count as much and Bryan Williams' aimless kick would be almost criminal today:

Three of the six Baabaas who handled the ball on the way to the goal line played in their Llanelli club socks — flyhalf Phil Bennett, flanker Tom David and lock Derek Quinnell.

All of this will now slowly turn sepia, for 152 years after the club officially started in rugby's earliest years, it suddenly doesn't count any more.


I often share the bitterness of my fellow veterans about the transience of sports memories in the era of big money that determines everything.

Recently, there have been many complaints, some of which are understandable and some of which are pretty nonsensical, depending on your perspective.

South Africa sent an almost completely watered-down Test cricket team to New Zealand because its contracted players were committed to the SA20. The Proteas suffered a predictable defeat in the Test series, which would have been of virtually no value without the further emergence of David Bedingham.

But if everyone who emphasises their love for the multi-day game so naggingly and loudly (I count myself in those ranks) had gone to watch it, South Africa would not have needed the SA20 to keep the floodlights on.


Ditto the stake of 20% in the income streams of SA Rugby and the Springboks, for which Ackerley Investments of the US wants to cough up $75 million (R1.4 billion).

Twenty percent is a relatively small stake compared to how much rugby in this country can benefit from $75 million.

Of course, this can't just be rushed through immediately; the rugby public surely deserves to know how the money will be used for the benefit of the sport at all levels.

However, most laments from the public come from people who never set foot near a stadium.

After all, we know Kak and Betaal are The Law of the Transvaal, and nostalgia, unfortunately, does not pay the bills. So, either we moderate our views or show up en masse at the currently mostly empty rugby stadiums. But what are the chances of that?

So I ask for a small, sceptical cheer for all the funding plans and would rather keep my fingers crossed for them.

After all, payment is a better option than kak.


Riddle: What do you call three drunken Welshmen at a bus stop?

Answer: A choir.

At the time, I also drove past a fish shop in Pontypridd where the nimble Tom Jones is believed to have been headbutted through the window onto the pavement in the early Sixties. It didn't do anything to the old boss's vocal cords!

Tom sings Prince:

Hard rock from hilarious Cardiff punks:

OK, a Welshman and two Swiss, but a personal favourite, so forgive the details. Plus, she sings:

♦ VWB ♦

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