'Robbed' of playing cricket for SA, Peter de Vaal still going strong on tennis court

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Tennis ball. (Getty Images)
Tennis ball. (Getty Images)

It seemed destined to be cricket "Days of Wine and Roses" for Peter de Vaal when he was selected exactly 50 years ago as part of the South African squad to tour Australia that many believe with players of the ilk of Graeme Pollock and Barry Richards remains to this day the greatest the country has produced - having just whitewashed the Aussies 4-0 in a home series.

Of course, it never happened that way for De Vaal. The tour to Australia was scrapped at the last minute and South Africa was banished from official international cricket for the best part of two decades because of the country's grotesque apartheid system, with the left-handed spin bowler and useful middle order batsman never getting the international cap that seemed already in his pocket.

But that was not the end of De Vaal in the sporting limelight. He continued to play provincial cricket for many years and in the past 20 years he has become an increasingly more successful performer on the South African Veterans tennis circuit, reaching the number one ranking in his age-group and also representing his country on numerous occasions at tennis veterans level in ITF tournaments.

"Of course it was a crushing blow to be selected for the South African cricket squad to tour Australia and then have it cancelled," says De Vaal, "after you had already packed your bags for the trip." 

And then he added jokingly: "I'm a real wine enthusiast and they make some great wines in Australia. I missed out on that as well!"

As for his sporting career, De Vaal says that while cricket had been "number one" in his younger days, he had also played tennis as well during the off-seasons.

"You know in those days," he explained, "it was not as professional as it is today and one could play more than one sport seriously."

And tennis is a pretty serious business for De Vaal today. His results appear to get better each year and he modestly explains this to the fact that he might be handling ageing a little better than his adversaries.

He was seeded number one in the 75 age-group singles at the Groenkloof Tennis Club in Pretoria for the current Nationals, but lost 6-4, 0-6, 6-3 to doubles partner Billy Kehl in a tough final.

But the pair romped to success in winning the doubles segment.

"That's the way it goes in sport," said De Vaal, "You can never be sure what will happen."

And as proof there are those "Days of Wine and Roses" he missed in Australia 50 years ago and still recalls with a tinge of regret.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
With the Springboks losing their last two matches against Australia, how concerned are you?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Very concerned! Something is not right ...
59% - 3181 votes
I'm not worried. Every team has a bad game. The Boks will bounce back.
18% - 953 votes
It's too early to tell. Let's see how they go against the All Blacks.
24% - 1303 votes