Former Springbok rugby captain Dawie de Villiers died at his Stellenbosch home on Saturday night after a long battle with cancer. He was 81.
Mark Alexander, president of the SA Rugby Union, remembered De Villiers for his role in rugby and in wider society as a politician later in his life.
De Villiers held the record for the most number of Tests as Springbok captain until he was overtaken by Francois Pienaar in 1995.
Saru said he had been very involved in the talks that led to the unbanning of the ANC, the subsequent release of Nelson Mandela and the first democratic elections in 1994.
“Dawie de Villiers captained the Springboks as the winds of change were beginning to blow through the political climate of sport and his final tour was the 1969-70 ‘demo tour’ of the UK,” said Alexander.
“By that time, he had established himself as one of the Springboks’ greatest ever captains and the fact that he was carried from the field on the shoulders of UK Barbarians greats Gareth Edwards of Wales and Mike Gibson of Ireland in his final match, proves the respect and standing in which he was held.
“That respect later saw him become part of those winds of change in political life as our country moved to democracy. He was a great servant of the country.”
De Villiers was born on July 10 1940 in Burgersdorp. After he finished his schooling at Bellville High School, he studied theology at Stellenbosch University.
He was later a minister in the old National Party regime, but also in the first democratically elected government under the late former president, Nelson Mandela.
De Villiers retired from politics in 1996.
He also served as SA’s ambassador in London and had been a lecturer in philosophy (in which he completed his doctoral studies) and a reverend in the Dutch Reformed Church.
“To lead SA for as long as he did in the amateur era and to hold the record for Tests captained until the arrival of professionalism says all you need to know about his stature as a player and leader,” said Alexander.
“He was a great and loyal servant of Springbok rugby and we pay tribute to his dedication and the service he gave to the sport and SA life in general.”
He is survived by his wife Suzaan, three daughters and a son, as well as nine grandchildren.
Dr Dawie de Villiers, a former Springbok captain, passed away at the age of 81 on Saturday night after a long battle with cancer.