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Springbok Rugby Player JWE (Klondyke) Raaff


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13 July 1940, Salvation Army building in Crossman Road opened by Commissioner Cunningham.
13 July 1949, Springbok rugby player JWE “Klondyke” Raaff dies.
13 July 1990, Retired chief librarian Olive McIntyre dies.


Springbok March – Souvenir of the Successful Tour, 1906


John William Edmund Raaff, the son of Thomas Wilhelm Raaff and Elizabeth Raaff (nee Watson), was born on Robben Island on 10 March 1879. His father Thomas was employed on the island as an “issuer of stores”. Klondyke had at least two brothers, a sister and a half-sister, his mother being the second wife of Thomas Wilhelm.

Nicknamed “Klondyke”, he was educated at Kimberley Boys High School, and played rugby for the De Beers club, Griqualand West and South Africa, being one of the first “Springbokken” of 1906. He would play six tests for South Africa between 1903 and 1910, scoring one try in a test against Wales.
Employed by the De Beers mining company, Klondyke served during the Siege of Kimberley with the Town Guard and was awarded the Queen’s SA medal and the Kimberley Star.

Standing 6 feet three inches and weighing 86 kilograms he was a giant of a man at the time. The booklet produced for the 1906 tour of Great Britain wrote about him:

“He is a very powerful forward, very good in the loose, for he dribbles well, follows up fast, and tackles very brilliantly; at the line out he is one of the best men in the team, making full use of his great reach; he takes the ball well, and passes with judgment. In loose rushes he is exceptionally good, and if he gets the ball anywhere near the line he is an almost certain scorer. In the present tour he has done remarkably well, his line-out play, having been brilliant, whilst in the open he has had few superiors. Although born in Capetown, all that he knows about the game has been learned in Kimberley. He started playing in De Beers in 1895, and gradually worked his way into the first team in 1899. He was then a tall thin lad, giving promise of filling out, and was not considered strong enough for representative honours. In 1903 he gained his first real representative honours, playing twice for Griqualand West against the English team, and twice for South Africa, at Johannesburg and Kimberley. When he played here, although giving a hard, keen exposition, he was rather raw in the finer points of the game, and did not seem to know how to bestow his huge bulk in the scrum to the best advantage for himself and the team he was playing for. When he played at East London in 1904 for Griqualand West he showed great improvement, and during the last tournament he proved himself a finished player, and either in the open or in the scrums he proved himself one of the best forwards in the tournament.”

Leaving the employment of De Beers, Klondyke became the owner of the Royal Oak Hotel on Warren Street, before leaving Kimberley to take up ownership of an hotel in Durban. During the 1930s he was on the executive of the Natal Rugby Union and his son Stanley played for Natal. He was married to the former Elizabeth Jackson from Manchester, England. She predeceased him in 1935.

He died in Durban on 13 July 1949.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

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