CAPE TOWN – Saait Magiet could easily have played in England or “sold out to the other side”, but he will be revered for playing non-racial sport.
That was one of the tributes paid by Advocate Norman Arendse on Sunday after SA cricket legend Magiet was laid to rest at the Spaanchemat River Muslim Cemetery in Constantia.
Thousands of people first went to the mosque near the Wynberg terminus, where the janaza prayers took place, before the congregation made their way to Constantia in the afternoon.
The body of Magiet, who died aged 66 while on holiday with his wife in Malaysia on Tuesday, arrived in Cape Town on Sunday morning.
His brother Rushdi – a former Proteas selection convenor – told IOL Sport that while he was sad to bid farewell to Saait, he was heartened by the well wishes from the sporting community.
“I was very, very touched to see the tremendous support from… not necessarily from the current players, but all the past players who played cricket and rugby with him,” Rushdi Magiet said.
“They were coming the whole week to pay their respects, and it gave us as a family such a warm feeling in our hearts. There were a lot of them that came.
“Today, it was full at the (cemetery), so what I am very proud is that all the people stood by us – stood by Sacos, not accepting the money that was offered to them.
“We stood by our principles. We come from Livingstone: a strong school, a principled school.
“A lot of guys who played with him would mention that whenever you gave the ball, he would take a wicket. When you were in trouble with runs, he would score.
“He was an amazing cricketer, and in fact an amazing ball-player, as he was a fine rugby player.
“When Ben Groepes, president of Cities at the time, came to Rosmead (home of Primrose Rugby Club), I would say to him ‘What are you doing here!’, and he would say ‘I just came to watch my son’, meaning Saait. He always produced something special.”
Arendse, who also serves on the Cricket South Africa board, compared Saait Magiet to former legendary England all-rounder Ian Botham.
“In true Saait Magiet fashion, he brought together an amazing gathering here today. So many people that we played against, or who one heard of or saw previously, and that you look up to – we stand on their shoulders here today,” Arendse told IOL Sport.
“Lefty Adams is still one of our living legends, Rushdi himself… In a way, it was good to be here – sad with his passing.
“For me, I was lucky to have played with him and against him, and he was probably our greatest cricketer after Basil D’Oliveira – and I don’t say that lightly.
“But he gave his life to his family, the community and for his country. He could easily have also played in England, or sold out and gone to play on the other side. But he stuck to his guns. So, very sad, but also very happy occasion today.
“He had all the attributes that you read about when you read the autobiography of Ian Botham or Garfield Sobers, or Basil D’Oliveira. They were just flamboyant. They played the game the way it should be played. They didn’t like to block the ball – played the most amazing shots.
“He could be as quick as anybody, and as canny as any medium-pace bowler. He had great hands, close-in and in the outfield, he loved occasionally to be there. He had everything you wanted as a cricketer.”
Western Province Cricket Association president Beresford Williams added: “It is a sad day, but also a day that we celebrate the life of a great family man, a great sportsman, and thousands of people came out to honour Saait Magiet, the giant and the legacy he has left behind.
“What stands out about Saait Magiet and those who played with him was that he was one of the stalwarts who did not sell out. He was a principled man, and all those offers – financial or otherwise – the man stood fast. He believed he wasn’t going to move over for the gold and silver, and he played in the Sacos era.”
Magiet was also a top-class No 8 in rugby for Primrose and Cities, and WP Rugby Union president Thelo Wakefield told IOL Sport that he had actually played in the same team at youth level.
“Saait Magiet was my Western Province High Schools captain! That was in 1968 or 67, he captained and I think I am the only member of that team here today,” Wakefield said.
“I will always remember Saait as a very humble person, a great rugby player, a great personality. A great cricketer. I’m so glad that I could be here for 80 percent of the day, just to celebrate his life. We cannot praise this man enough for what he did for South Africa.
“There will be some people who will say ‘But who is this man? We don’t know about him’, but unfortunately, that is the system that tucked him far away enough, so that other people don’t know about him.”