CRICKET SOUTH AFRICA (CSA) paid tribute to former captain Peter van der Merwe who passed away in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday at the age of 75. He had been in poor health for some time.
Originally a left-arm spinner he became a dependable middle-order batsman and was also one of several outstanding fielders for South Africa in the 1960s.
But he will best be remembered for his dynamic, innovative and attacking skills as a leader. He captained South Africa in eight Test matches, leading the team to a series victory in England in 1965 and then leading them to South Africa’s first ever series victory over Australia at home in the summer of 1966-67.
In all he played 15 Test matches, making his debut as vice-captain under Trevor Goddard on the tour to Australia and New Zealand in 1963-64 when they drew the Test series both in Australia (the best away result for South Africa in that country up to that stage) and New Zealand.
He became the first national convener of selectors when South African cricket was unified in 1991, including for the historic first tour to India that year as well as the World Cup in 1992.
“Peter made an immense contribution to South African cricket both on and off the field,” commented CSA Acting CEO Jacques Faul. “He played a major role in changing the mindset of South African cricket from a defensive to an attacking style of play. He was hugely popular with and respected by his players.
“As an administrator he was our first national convener of selectors and also served the game internationally as an ICC match referee for eight years. He was also the first president of the Eastern Province Cricket Board (EPCB) after unity.
“On behalf of the South African cricket family I extend our sympathies to his family and friends.”
EPCB president Graeme Sauls added his tribute: “I was very sad to hear that Peter van der Merwe had passed away after a long illness. It is ironic that I have just finished reading the autobiography of Peter Pollock and he speaks fondly of his former shrewd South African captain who led South Africa to series wins against England in 1965 and against Australia in 1966-67. Peter, of course, also represented and captained EP during his playing days and I would like to on behalf of everyone involved in Eastern Province Cricket to extend our heartfelt condolences to Peter's family.
“ Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult and sad time.”
He is survived by his second wife, Rhoda, and his three sons from his first marriage to Margaret who died in 2002.