'Sparkle' shined in cricket and rugby
Former Springbok rugby player Howard Watt, who died earlier this week at the Amberfield frail-care home in Howick, KwaZulu-Natal, was the last surviving member of the 1937 tour to Australia and New Zealand, and the last surviving pre-World War II Springbok.
Watt, who had the nickname “Sparkle”, was born on March 1 1911 and was 94 years of age at the time of his death.
A powerfully built loose-forward, Watt played eighth man for Western Province.
The 1937 Boks were the first—and so far the last—Springbok team to win a series in New Zealand, winning 2-1 after losing the first Test 7-13 at Wellington, although Watt himself could not force his way into the Test side. He played seven mid-week games on the tour.
He had been chosen for the second Test against Australia earlier in the tour, but was injured in the final practice.
The mantle of being the oldest living Springbok now passes on to Piet Malan of Transvaal, who was capped in 1949, and is now 86 years of age.
Watt was also a first-class cricketer, having represented Western Province and North-East Transvaal in Currie Cup matches as a fast-bowler.
In 1928, Watt had moved to Chicago in the US, and in early 1932, an Australian cricket team captained by renowned spinner Arthur Mailey toured the US and Canada. In the team was a young Don Bradman, who had recently set new batting records on a tour of England.
Watt, playing for an Illinois X1, bowled Bradman twice in one match, for scores of four and 13.
He caught up with Bradman in Adelaide on the 1937 tour and the batting star remembered him well. There were few bowlers who had got rid of him so cheaply.
In all first-class cricket between 1933/34 and 1946/47, Watt played 12 matches and captured 44 wickets (average 24,54), with a best return of 6-84 for Western Province against Griqualand West in Kimberley in 1934/35.
In 1938/39, playing for North-Eastern Transvaal against Wally Hammond’s England touring team, Watt took 2-59, including the wickets of Len Hutton, the world Test record-holder at the time, and Eddie Paynter, both leg before wicket. But he scored a pair in the same match.
He was believed to be South Africa’s second-oldest first-class cricketer, with only Transvaal’s DIE Anderson, who was born in 1910, older than him.
Watt had been a mine manager by profession and had lived for many years in East London before moving to Howick about 10 years ago.—Sapa