Fadlu Davids coach of Maritzburg United during the MTN8 Semi Final Second Leg match between Maritzburg United and Supersport United at Harry Gwala Stadium. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

There is a revolution happening in Maritzburg, and it revolves around sport. Slowly, but surely, the wheel is turning and the once proudly university city is on the way to establishing itself as a fully grown hub of excellence.

It has always been known for its strong hockey heritage, and just about every major representative team in the past decade has had a sprinkling of Maritzburg in its ranks. Given the proud nurseries dotted around the pace, that fine legacy will grow and grow.

It is in other avenues, however, that real progress has been made. The Harry Gwala Stadium heaves on big match days, and you literally can’t drive anywhere near it on those nights. Happily, the ‘Team of Choice’ has swapped relegation for revelation, and there is a soft spot for their endeavour all over the city.

Fadlu Davids coach of Maritzburg United during the MTN8 Semi Final Second Leg match between Maritzburg United and Supersport United at Harry Gwala Stadium. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix


There is a sense of the underdog about most things in Maritzburg, a city that is constantly looking to prove itself. The recent Africa T20 Cup victory for the KZN Inland men’s cricket side was a proud moment for all involved, a true story of a union that has turned a corner.

There was a time when you drove into the Pietermaritzburg Oval, and the Jonty Rhodes wind vane looked like it was about to fall off, the grass looked more rugby than cricket field, and the inhabitants met you with frowns, rather than smiles.

Jonty Rhodes remains one of the biggest sporting icons to come out of Pietermaritzburg. Photo: Debbie Yazbek


There was an infamous story that emerged after the 2003 World Cup, when the then Inland president’s personal assistant was so precious about her boss’s patch that no one was allowed into his office, located in the main pavilion.

So, when the man who brought the World Cup to South Africa - and, indeed, got SA back into international cricket - Ali Bacher went looking for a bathroom, he was met by the ham-fisted PA, who hadn’t the foggiest who the pensioner in front of her was.

‘Hey, you are not allowed in here. Get out! Get out!,” she barked.

The embarrassed Mr Bacher was too bemused to get a word in, and walked outside to gather his thoughts. When it was pointed out to the PA that she had just insulted her boss’s boss, in effect, she palmed it away by saying she couldn’t be expected to know everyone.

That same woman, believe it or not, rose meteorically through the power ranks, to the bemusement of all who had cricket at heart in the city. Never has a person who cared less about the game got more out of it, but sport administration has again and again showed itself to be a case of who you know, not what you know.

Thankfully, she and her connections were eventually run out by karma, and their entire reign is now under review. The results of that investigation ought to be fascinating, given some of the grievances from clubs and players alike.

But, since the new dawn of power, things on the field have picked up, too. The T20 triumph completed the hat-trick of domestic titles, and there is a sense that there is more to come from little Inland.

What’s more, there is a family environment about the place. Everyone rolled up sleeves and helped prepare the field for this week’s Sunfoil Series contest, even with the challenges presented by the weather.

The staff are happier, and it is reflected in the way the whole place looks. Now if they could find a way to get more daylight out of the gloom of October and March - when the Dolphins always seem to try and play there - everyone else will be just as cheerful.

Then again, you can’t have it all.


Sunday Independent

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