Steve Strydom passes away
A great life in sport
Steve Strydom died in Cape Town on 28 November 2005 after a great life in sport, especially in the rugby, after a brave, nine-year battle against cancer.
Strydom was a Free Stater by birth and conviction. He was born in Bloemfontein in 1938, was educated there at Grey College, went to university there, spent his working life there and rose to prominence in cricket and rugby above all. He was the principal of Grey Primary School before becoming a sports administrator for the University of the Orange Free State.
His involvement in Free State rugby started as a primary school boy when he was a ball boy or score keeper at Springbok Park where Free State then played its provincial rugby.
He played cricket for Orange Free State and in 1966 he was named one of the Five Cricketers of the Year in South Africa. That year he was the first Free Stater to score a double century in a provincial match. He and Neil Rosendorff put on 265 for the fourth wicket, a Free State record. In the second innings of the match he was out for 97, which prevented him from being the first South African to score a century and double century in the same first class match.
He played fullback or flyhalf for Free State 34 times between 1960 and 1964. His younger brothers Willie, who predeceased him, and Piet. Steve Strydom held the points' record of 252 points for Free State for many years until Springbok Jackie Snyman broke it. His youngest brother Corrie became a top rugby referee.
Strydom was the first South African to referee abroad and the first to referee a Five Nations match. His first matches abroad were two Tests between Argentina and Australia in Buenos Aires in 1979 and his first Five Nations that between Scotland and Ireland at Murrayfield in 1985. He also refereed the match between France and Wales in 1985 and then two Tests between France and New Zealand in 1986. Those were days of limited opportunities for South Africa's referees.
Naturally as a referee he was blessed with an excellent knowledge of the game from his playing days and as an educator he was a clear communicator. Playing advantage was his forte.
Strydom refereed six Currie Cup finals, a record broken later by André Watson. He refereed eight Tests altogether, then equal with the most by a South African referee, and more than 120 first class matches.
After his playing career he was involved in rugby administration. From 1976 to 1993 he was the president of the Orange Free State Rugby Union. From 1976 to 1990 he was on the executive committee of the South African Rugby Board, the chairman of Old Greys RFC, a member of the Laws committee of the SARB, chairman of the SA Primary Schools committee, chairman of South African Referees, chairman of SA Students rugby, amongst the most notable of his services to rugby.
When the South African Rugby Football Union, the body born of unification, under Louis Luyt, a team-mate of Strydom's for Free State, disbanded the SA Referees' Society, Strydom was appointed as chairman. He also served on IRB committees as an assessor and as such attended the World Cups of 1999 and 2003.
He was much honoured for his services, most notably being named Bloemfonteiner of the Year in 1986, being made a life member of the Orange Free State Rugby Union in 1990 and receiving a President's award for his services to sport from President Mbeki.
His battle with cancer was a long one but, a fighter all his life, he fought it to the death and survived it much longer than expected.
He is survived by his wife Ema (née Joubert), herself a noted netball and hockey player, their son Joubert, an outstanding sportsman who played for Free State Under-20 as a rugby player but made a greater name for himself as an outstanding cricketer and is now a national cricket selector, and their daughters Corli and Uvain who were both provincial swimmers, and six grandchildren.
Stefanus Strydom was born on 26 March 1938 and died in Cape Town on 28 October.