Paul Andre van Reenen, A Man of Many Talents

BY CLEMENT DU PLESSIS

This is the first chapter of a two-part series about former top-notch sportsman Paul Andre van Reenen.

PAUL Andre Van Reenen played sport all-year round and excelled in athletics, baseball, football, rugby and, when squash was introduced to the community he also took to that like a duck to water.

He had an insatiable appetite for sport and even played golf for the Athlone Golf Club in the 1970s. He played off a 16 handicap at the time at the golf course that was situated where the Vangate Mall is now built between Bridgetown and Vanguard Drive (Jakes Gerwel Drive) in Athlone. 

Andre van Reenen won the senior men’s long jump at the Western Province Championships in 1968.

Moved to Crawford

Born in Salt River in 1950, his family moved to the cradle of sport, Crawford (Athlone), when he was six years old.

“I was born in Salt River and moved to Crawford in 1956 where I grew up. I first attended St Marks School in Athlone, then Garlandale Primary School. From there, I went to Harold Cressy High School in Roeland Street, Cape Town.”

(Athlone arguably ruled sport during the days of the Earl of Athlone since 1924 after whom the area had been named. The Earl’s name was Alexander Cambridge, born 1874 in London and died 1957 London. Athlone’s previous name was West London and had been changed when the Earl of Athlone was the governor-general of Union South Africa in the 1930s. Alicedale, across from Athlone central, was named after Princess Alice (Countess of Athlone), his wife, and granddaughter of Queen Victoria. To the west of Cape Town Central, Athlone is 12km away and, to the east in the direction of the Cape Town International Airport, 10km.)

Venues

History was stacked in the favour of Athlone for many years, and the community thrived on it, albeit in a segregated community. From Van Reenen, Ivan Masters, Alex Abercrombie, Herman Gibbs, Clive Daries, Daniel Dot Borman, Andre Alexander, Laura Kleinschimdt, Naomi Davids, the Van der Schyff sisters Lillian and Yolanda, and hundreds of others. Even the school in Crawford, Alexander Sinton High dominated athletics in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The primary schools Silverlea, Sunnyside, Athlone North and later Turfhall Primary ruled sport in the area.

Open fields in the area had been used. Sport was played on fields where the Athlone Stadium (old and new) stands today. Nearby Rondebosch Common, Rosebank, Green Point Common and Green Point Track had been used.

Uprooted

Van Reenen played on the wing in the City and Suburban Rugby Football Union when the union had been based in Mowbray, a short ride from Athlone, and subsequently evicted because of the Group Areas Act (an apartheid law) promulgated in 1950 – the clearing out of Coloured, Muslim, Indian and Black people from reserved and preserved white areas. The union was moved to City Park in Crawford in Athlone where Van Reenen excelled in rugby for Temperance, and baseball for the St Andrews Dodgers Baseball Club – the dominant club in ‘ball and subsequently at the City Park-based Western Province Baseball Union (inter-union level).

He was first a member of the Tanta Baseball Club (two years) before joining Dodgers. Van Reenen played in the outfield and was a menace with the bat, tonking home runs more often than not.

“My intrinsic love of sport was nurtured by my dad who had taken me to watch rugby matches of the City and Suburban Rugby Football Union when it was based in Mowbray,” he said.

His dad wasn’t his only mentor.

“Mom and cousin Derek Fysh also mentored me. Ellis Jorrsen, Colin Barendilla, Mr Van Niekerk, FD Eagles and Ken Eagles also helped with the development and guidance in my sporting career,” said the multi-talented Van Reenen.

*In part two tomorrow, we feature the names who made an impression on Van Reenen, including Gavin Benjamin, Peter Sables, Neville Londt, Munsoor Abdullah, Basil Cameron, Bernard Hartze, Ismail Ajam, Ismail Abbass and Andrew Wentzel.

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