27 August 1914, Kimberley Defence Rifle Association formed.
27 August 1916, SA rugby player and cricketer Tony Harris born.
Tony Harris – Kimberley’s rugby and cricket Springbok
Terence Anthony Harris, known to all and sundry as Tony, was born in Barkly West on 27 August 1916, the son of Anthony Alexander Harris and Mabel Harris. He is certainly the most talented all-round sportsman to come out of the Diamond Fields and one of very few such South Africans to be so blessed. He was a double Springbok – in rugby and cricket – and was brilliant in any other sport he played, especially tennis and golf.
Tony was an Anglican by denomination but his parents decided to send him to school at Christian Brothers’ College Kimberley, thus creating a minor problem as only Catholic children were allowed to board at College. This was only the policy for boarding as children of all faiths and denominations could attend College.
This enabled him to board at the Bishop’s Hostel of Kimberley Boy’s High School, thus becoming the most famous of all CBC pupils to do such. (He was not the only pupil from CBC to stay at Bishops, but is the only one remembered).
He was a brilliant sportsman at school, and carried this brilliance into adulthood. A short person – he stood five foot six inches – he excelled at rugby, cricket, tennis, golf, as well as in rifle shooting. In golf he played off scratch. In fact, any ball sport he played he was a born natural. He captained the CBC cricket, rugby and tennis teams.
In the early 1930s Bishops Hostel had a formidable tennis team that was strong enough to take on any adult side in Kimberley, the most gifted player in the side being young Tony Harris. While at school he won both the Junior and Senior Griqualand West Championships as well as the Western Province Under 18 Tennis Championships. In 1932 the CBC side of which he was a member won the Kimberley 1st League. By the age of 16 years he was representing Kimberley in Inter Town matches.
Selected to play for the Griqualand West Cricket team against the then Orange Free State from 15 to 17 December 1933 he scored 32 not out in the first innings and 114 not out in the second innings, this done while batting at Number nine. He was 17 years and four months old on debut.
His second match was against Natal a week later. Promoted to Number six he scored 1 and 69. By the end of that 1933/34 season he had totalled 271 runs at an average of 45.16 per innings. Not bad for a schoolboy!
He relocated to the Transvaal after leaving school and his first match for Transvaal was in January 1937 against Western Province.
In 1945/6 in official matches (but not Currie Cup) he would score two centuries while playing for Transvaal: 139 against Natal; and 111 against Western Province. Against his former province Griqualand West, he would fall short of a ton, scoring 94 runs. It was this form that saw him selected for South Africa against England in 1947. Playing only three tests, his last was also against England in 1949. His average in five innings was 25 with a top score of 60 runs.
It is interesting to note that although Tony only gained his national cricket colours in 1947 he was 12th man for South Africa in 1935.
His career statistics for first class cricket was 55 innings with a top score of 191 not out at an average of 41.47 runs.
In CBC Old Boy Mike Leffler’s memoirs he noted that Tony Harris’ blistering cover and off drives were carbon copies of those of Brother Hurley, the well-known teacher at CBC.
It is at rugby that Harris is well-known as he was the flyhalf to Danie Craven in that famous Springbok side that beat the All Blacks in the 1937 series in New Zealand. This before he had even turned 21 years old.
Playing for the Pirates Club in Johannesburg he was selected for Transvaal and then for the Springboks, for whom he played five tests, two against the All Blacks and three against the 1938 British Lions. His only try was against the Lions. An aside is that he is one of very few South Africans to be undefeated against New Zealand as his two tests against them both resulted in victories for the Springboks.
Harris played in a further eight matches for the Springboks while on tour, thus totalling 13 games in the green and gold jersey.
When Transvaal won the Currie Cup in 1939 he was the flyhalf.
Harris retired from rugby after World War II as he had become a target for the many larger players in the opposing teams, and concentrated on cricket.
World War II took six years off Tony’s sporting career. The war saw him become a Spitfire pilot with 4 Squadron South African Air Force, 103109V Captain TA Harris being shot down off northern Italy on 20 February 1945 and spending the rest of the war as a POW. When shot down he survived in a dinghy for seven days before being rescued, his main recall at the time being the many sharks circling his fragile craft! He was released on 15 May 1945 and was still on the SAAF Officers Reserve in 1968.
Tony Harris, one of South Africa’s greatest sportsmen ever, died in Plettenberg Bay on 7 March 1993, leaving a wife and three children to mourn his passing.
Pictured is Tony Harris in Springbok rugby and cricket gear.