Remarkable People

ID #5189

Danie Craven, Rugby Player, Coach and Administrator, South Africa.

Daniël Hartman Craven (1910-1993), more famously known as Danie Craven or simply Doc Craven, is a former Western Province, Eastern Province, Northern Transvaal and Springbok rugby player as well as South Africa's best-known rugby administrator. He coached the Springboks between 1949 and 1956 and became one of their most successful coaches of all time.

He was born in Lindley, Free State and attended Lindley High School. Later he studied at Stellenbosch University where he received his Doctorate and played rugby for Western Province.

He played his first test match in December 1931 (as scrum half) against Wales at St Helens, Swansea. His last test match was played in September 1938 as captain against the British Lions at Newlands. During the 1930s he was one of the world's leading scrumhalves but the start of the Second World War in 1939 ended his career prematurely.

Danie Craven joined the Defense Force in 1938. During WW2 an advertisement was placed in Afrikaans newspapers to attract men to join. It showed Danie Craven in his uniform, looking into the distance and announcing, “I am playing in the biggest Springbok team ever -- join me and score the most important try of your life”.

At the end of his playing career he became a national selector until appointed coach in 1949. He started his coaching career with a bang, winning 10 matches in a row, including a 4-0 whitewash of New Zealand in their 1949 tour to South Africa which left the Springboks undefeated from 1949 to 1952. Under his guidance the Springboks played 23 tests and won 17 (73%).

Craven became the president of the South African Rugby Board (SARB) in 1956. He was a member of the International Rugby Board as well as its chairman on several occasions.

The last part of his chairmanship of the SARB occurred during the country's tumultuous years. Rugby had become the national sport of white South Africans and a symbol of Afrikaner power. In the 1970s and 1980s, the ANC succeeded in isolating South Africa from sporting contact with the rest of the world. None upset whites more than the ban on rugby internationals. In 1988, in a bold bid to return to global competition, Craven met leaders of an ANC in Zimbabwe and agreed to form a single association fielding an integrated team. Many right-wing whites attacked Craven for meeting with the ANC and President P.W. Botha denounced the move. Although the deal did not lead to the immediate end of the sporting isolation, it paved the way for the formation of the South African Rugby Football Union (SARFU) in 1992, with Craven as its first chairman. He died in 1993 having served the sport for 37 years.

Danie Craven was accepted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame in 1997, the first of 9 South Africans. In 2007 he became the third inductee into the IRB Hall of Fame, preceded only by Rugby School and William Webb Ellis – allegedly the inventor of rugby. The Craven Week schools competition is named after him, as well as Danie Craven Stadium and the Danie Craven Rugby Museum in Stellenbosch. Doc Craven also had a dog named Bliksem (rascal) that is depicted on his statue in Stellenbosch. RSADC

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Last update: 2014-03-02 21:49
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.6

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