Formative years

Daniël Hartman Craven was born on the farm Steaton, outside Lindley in the Eastern Free Sate, on the 11 th of October 1910, one of eight children, to James and Maria Craven.

Danie’s two older brothers first attended the farm school on the farm Chicago of Mr George Purchase, approximately 5 km’s from their home on Steaton. At the tender age of five Danie was also enrolled in the corrugated iron school building of Headmaster Izak Kruger. Part of the journey to education started in the mornings by being driven by horse cart to the boundary fence of Steaton and Chicago, with the last leg of the journey including the evasion of Mr. Purchase’s ostrich while on foot.As farm boys Danie and his brothers were given enough space and leeway for healthy physical and mental development. While their parental home offered the boys harmony order and discipline. During school breaks and after the farm chores have been completed, there was a myriad of outdoor activities boys could participate in. Swimming in farm dams, fishing, tree climbing, making clay oxen, playing clay-stick and also exploring nature such as finding the list of guinea fowls and learning the ways of Sungazers up close.

James Craven was a natural sportsman who excelled at cricket and soccer, and at the age of 14 played soccer for Lindley first team and cricket for the Riemland region. He always ensured that there was a soccer ball in and around his home for his children. On the farm school at Chicago the game of choice was soccer, and with the support of parents in the district, the farm school played games against the school in Lindley. This was probably Danie’s first formal sports event. At the tender age of 11 Danie was an ardent soccer player when he saw his first rugby game, this happened when Ermelo rugby club came to play Lindley. However as a soccer enthusiast he was not impressed, he was of the opinion that far too much significance was placed on scoring a try while the role of “goal posts” in rugby, sadly neglected.

Church life was integral to the Craven family. James Craven ensured that is family attended church every second or third Sunday. This implied a long dirt road journey by two horse carts into town. The boys would argue about who’s turn it would be to open and close the other 24 odd farm gates on the way. Sunday evenings would be spent in the church house, a town dwelling owned and availed of by a farming family when attending church, at the time. James Craven served for extended periods on the church council and often lead the service in the absence of the Minister.
When Danie (Biebie as he was called by his family) was in standard six he was sent to join his brothers at the Lindley High School. At the time the boys lodged with Aunt Trudy in town. The trek to school was shortened in 1926 when his father bought the farm Dagbreek 6 km outside of Lindley. The children went to shool by hose cart, and when Danie started to play rugby for the school and town, he often had to jog home in the evening.
At home Danie was quiet and introspective, but his school friends remembered him as being involved when things where happening. He was energetic a good athlete and an excellent swimmer. Although he had an above average intellect and enjoyed math’s and science, he had to balance school and sport with varying success. On occasion his headmaster commented on his rapport, “ Danie must dwell less on rugby”

In standard seven and just 14 years of age Danie reported to the schools’ rugby team. An all-round sportsman and a good soccer player, rugby had begun to fascinate him due to various factors. In the year before Danie had travelled to the town Kroonstad ( 90 km’s west) to see the English team of R.Cove-Smith in action, his first glimpse of an international team. Who lost to both the rural and provincial Free State teams, much to the delight of all. Players like Benny Osler who captured the imagination of the nation, made their international debut, and there was a renewed interest in the game rugby and its’ players.
Lindley as a town, always had strong rugby atmosphere and fervor which was compounded by rumors in the press of an imminent All Black tour to South Africa.
The two most influential people in the driving force behind rugby in Lindley, where Mr. Trivoli van Huyssteen (Headmaster) and Dan Brink ( town clerk), both of whom had played rugby for Maties ( Stellenbosch Unversity). A fact only discovered by Danie when he first attended Stellenbosch himself.
At first the young Craven was thrown in amongst the forwards, but his skill and agility made it soon apparent that he was far better suited elsewhere in the team. Although he was moved to the position under protest, before long he realised his natural potentiality as a scrumhalf, and was a great success. Mr van Hyssteen gave the young man special attention, and enlisted the help of Daan Brink (who had also played for Western Province) in developing his young charge. It was Mr Brink who taught Danie the dive-pass.

Most schoolboys had aspirations to play rugby for the town side against neighboring towns, so it was with Danie. However, Headmaster van Hyssteen would not allow a 14 year old to play against hardened older players. But soon as the headmaster was absent he made use of an opportunity to replace the town’s injured scrumhalf in a game against Lindley Road (now Arlington). This was his first foray into the world of adult rugby.

In standard 9 he was chosen to captain the school side, and was allowed to play for the town. The 1927 Lindley side was a remarkable team, all the possible four trophies in the province where won, with the Greater Free State Cup Challenge being shared with Collegians, after the game went into overtime. Not only did he play for the town’s first team, but in 1928 he was chosen as captain for the combined North Eastern Free State, schools side. At the end of 1928 Danie played for Lindley against Old Grey’s in a final for old time’s sake. In February the following year Danie left from Arlington station for Stellenbosch, Maties and an illustrious career.
Booyens, B. (1975). Danie Craven. Cape Town, S.A: Rugbyraad.