CAPE TOWN – Family, former teammates and friends were hosted by the Western Province Cricket Association at Newlands on Tuesday night to pay tribute to legendary all-rounder Saait Magiet.
But while his prowess with the bat and a red cricket ball in hand is well-known, Magiet – who passed away at the age of 66 on July 17 – was also a powerful No 8 for City and Suburban Rugby Union in the 1970s and 80s.
The fact that he didn’t make the Saru national team like he did the SA Cricket Board side is one of the unfortunate pieces of history in non-racial sport.
One of his rugby teammates, Riyaadh Najaar – the recently retired principal of Spine Road High in Mitchells Plain – said on Tuesday night that Magiet’s playing ability was not the reason for his exclusion from the Saru XV.
“I make no apology for saying this: Saait was not given his Saru colours because he played for City and Suburban, and not for Western Province (Green Point),” Najaar said.
“And I am prepared to debate that fact with anyone. Saait was the greatest number eight in Saru for many years. He was selected – and this was told to me by a selector who passed on, Boeta Moegamat – for one team, but he was taken out by the president just before the team was to be announced.
“And that is a great, great tragedy. So our officials in the apartheid era also did not play a fair game.”
But Najaar spoke fondly of Magiet’s days in the oval-ball game – which he called the “ultimate team sport, as the debate is still out as to whether cricket is a team sport!
“Saait was a friend, not only a teammate. Recently we shared some of our stories on the rugby field at a podium where awards were being handed out.
“What a great rugby player he was. And I can attest that he would definitely have been a rugby Springbok in any era.
“Together with a legend sitting here, my friend Edgar Siljeur – the two of them were probably the most versatile of rugby players produced in this country… When we played, Primroses weren’t renowned for having a very good backline.
“So when we played against a flyhalf that was going to give us trouble, we would put Saait on the flyhalf. If they had a centre, we asked ‘Aitjie’ to play centre! And he would do a devastating job in all positions.”
Advocate Norman Arendse – who recalled during his spinner days “looking over my left shoulder or right shoulder to see where the ball had been sent into orbit” by Magiet – said that the Primrose stalwart’s strong stance of not playing “white cricket” for the SA Cricket Union should never be forgotten.
“The fact that he excelled in rugby and cricket, and that he didn’t take up the offers to go to the other side and stuck to his guns… He had a principled approach that everybody, quite rightly, talks about,” Arendse said.
“His role in bringing about the political transformation in our country also cannot be said enough about.
“He was a very special person. One’s experience when he took to the field, is that he hated losing! Once he entered the ground, he just entered into another zone altogether because of his hunger to win.
Also a moment of silence called by MC @MoAllie1 for the late Michael Doman, former WP and Transvaal batsman and @TheCapeArgus sports editor, who passed away on Sunday night @IOLsport @IOL #MichaelDoman #SaaitMagiet pic.twitter.com/s91k1JvByh
“But when it came to off the field, he was friendly, he was collegial, he was respectful, and he was an absolute pleasure to know. And that never changed over the years.
“He was also someone who spoke from the heart, and you could trust what he said – as we say here on the Cape Flats, hy het nie doekies omgedraai nie (he didn’t beat around the bush).
“To his family, stay strong. Saait brought us great pleasure, and we are eternally grateful to him, and his memory will be forever etched in ours.”