From world-class umpire to club groundsman: Tributes pour in for 'servant' Rudi Koertzen

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Rudi Koertzen was beloved.  (Photo by Julian Herbert/Getty Images)
Rudi Koertzen was beloved. (Photo by Julian Herbert/Getty Images)
  • Cricket South Africa joined the broader cricketing community in mourning the death of legendary SA umpire Rudi Koertzen. 
  • As tributes from all over the world poured in, a dominant theme to the 73-year-old's life becomes apparent: servitude.
  • Koertzen was still recently giving back to the game by serving as Despatch Cricket Club's groundsman. 

Much like the rest of the world cricketing fraternity, Cricket South Africa (CSA) on Tuesday expressed its "shock and sadness" at the death of umpiring legend Rudi Koertzen.

The 73-year-old, who was on his way back to Gqeberha from a golfing weekend in Cape Town's northern suburbs, was killed along with two other occupants in a head-on collision on the N2 near Still Bay.

An affable man, Koertzen put South African umpiring on the map upon the sport's return from isolation in 1991 and eventually went on to officiate in no less than 331 internationals, of which his 209 ODIs is still a record.

It's that legacy, CSA heavyweights argue, that proved the impetus for the continued exploits of local counterparts such as Marais Erasmus, Adrian Holdstock, Bongani Jele, Shaun George and Allahudien Paleker.

READ | SA's world renowned 100-Test umpire Rudi Koertzen dies aged 73

"Rudi departs at the time when cricket is beginning to enjoy the fruit of his toil. His passing has robbed us of a giant upon his foundation we now stand," Lawson Naidoo, CSA's chairperson, said in a statement.

"While this is a sad day for cricket in South Africa, we are however comforted by the many lessons of servitude and servant leadership he has left behind for us to embody and emulate."

Pholetsi Moseki, the local governing body's chief executive, echoed those sentiments.

"The passing of this titan is a sad loss for the game. Koertzen’s contribution to umpiring, to which he spent the better part of his life speaks volumes about his selfless dedication and commitment," he said.

"With his demise, another curtain of a rich legacy has fallen, but will never be forgotten. In his honour, let’s decree to embody his passion for umpiring and unearth a crop of umpires who will carry the fortunes of the game into the future."

Indeed, Koertzen was until his death still actively involved at Despatch Cricket Club, where he served as groundsman and was invariably employed as the man who spearheaded capping ceremonies.

In a touching gesture, players from the club came together on Tuesday afternoon to form a guard of honour.

Meanwhile, various cricketing greats paid tribute to the man affectionately nicknamed "Slow Death" because of how he protractedly raised his arm in giving batters out.

Legendary Proteas all-rounder Jacques Kallis notably labelled him a "gentlemen", while former dashing Indian opener Virender Sehwag shared how Koertzen once told him to play properly so that he could watch him bat.

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