Coetie Neethling

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Legendary Cricketer

D.O.B. 20 July 1932
Provincial Representation 1956 – 1976

Western Province

National Representation 1958

SACBOC

Like most non-white cricketers in the 1950s and 50s, John Coetie Neethling learnt,with home made bats, tennis ball and oil drum wickets. He was entirely self taught, learning the game by reading library books, and making sure he was at Newlands whenever an lnternational team toured South Africa. Sponsored by their father, Coetie and his brother Poen attended all the lnternational matches they could. During the 1950s and 60s the Neethling brothers watched the like of Cyril Washbrook and Colin Cowdrey and copied their every move when they played in the streets.

He was selected to the Western Province Provincial team in 1955- Two years later Neethling was included in the unofficial non-white South African Board of Control (SACBOC ) Team to play the Kenya in East Africa.

On tour, Coetie Neethling confirmed his reputation as one of South Africa’s leading non-white cricketers by taking 4 wickets at an average of 14.14. He also scored 418 runs at an average of 32.15 per innings.

ln the late 1950s and 60s the stylish Coetie Neethling, with his neat suits and gold trimmed glasses, was a smart cricketer both on and off the field. Although he didn;t know it at the time, Neethling’s performances were being monitored far afield by English Lancashire League Club, Colne. The young south African signed for Colne in 1962.

Neethling needed help from family and friends. Elma clubmates and his Union, Maitland Parow to raise funds for the adventure to England’ Having raised the cash, Coetie Neethling caught the boat to England with D Oliviera, who returned to South Africa to fetch his family.

Neethling had to adapt quickly to the different conditions in England : he had never played on turf wickets before and also wasn’t used to the cold weather – it snowed during his first game for Colne.

Adjusting to the slower wickets also wasn’t easy and Neethling ended his first season at Colne having scored 433 runs at an average of 25.55′ At the end of the second season in 1963 his 238 was scored at an average of 14.58

ln 1974, in the twilight of his provincial career, Neethting captained an invitational side in a multiracial game against a team lead by England fast bowler Fred Trueman. This game was seen as one of the first steps towards integrated cricket in the Western Cape, and it was played on one of those treacherous matting wickets to which the board players we constantly subjected to’ For the record, Neethling’s team won by 17 runs. Then in October 1975 there was another game between Board and Union players. Again Neethling led the board team and this time the opposition, led by Eddie Barlow, included players like Peters Kirsten, Allan Lamp and Hilton Ackerman. The Barlow X1 won the game by 1 wicket.

After 20 years of provincial cricket, Neethling retired at the age of 37. He continued playing cricket at club level for Elsies River for another nine years, and in later years he served on the W.P, Cricket Association selection committee.

Despite never having played for South Africa in an official capacity, Neethling is regarded as another of the non-white players who would have staked a claim for a place in a mixed Springbok Team.

Neethling was part of the Colne team which faced a church side that featured the great West lndian fast bowler, Wesley Hall. Despite his cool temperament, Neethling scored a wonderful unbeaten 50 and took an amazing nine wickets for 45 runs. His tenth wicket would have been Hall’s scalp, but the big West lndian was dropped on the boundary by the Colne captain.

Hall was so impressed by Coetie Neethling’s perforrnance, that he went up to the young South African after the game, shook him by the hand and said – You’re a true Springbok.

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