Debasis Sen, Centurion: It was a warm sunny morning as I headed to Affies school in Pretoria from Centurion. It wasn’t an ordinary school compared to other schools in Pretoria because it produced two of the greatest contemporary cricketers from South Africa. Affies reminded me of the Saradashram school in Mumbai. Master blaster Sachin Tendulkar and his childhood friend Vinod Kambli both studied at the Saradashram school like AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis at Affies.
Affies has produced world players such as AB de Villiers, Francois (Faf) du Plessis and Jacques Rudolph. The school is more famous for developing and promoting cricket for Afrikaans speaking boys and to be competitive against the dominant English schools. Coach Deon Botes has worked with the school’s first team for the last 19 years and has produced players such as Kruger van Wyk and Neil Wagner ( now plays for New Zealand) and Heino Kuhn.
On being asked who was the more talented of the two, Botes says, “AB was the most talented player while Faf was always the grinder. He always batted well under pressure and would anchor the innings and bat through. AB was more the guy who used to walk in and score a 90 odd in quick time and kill the game.”
Both AB and Faf like other young kids at school were naughty.
“They were quite naughty in the classrooms so it was lot more work for me to get their disciplines right. Faf never had his shoes on as he always kicked off his shoes. He was not a great student and AB on the other hand enjoyed his mates in the class. He probably averaged somewhere around 60 and that actually was quite good. Both of them kept our classes busy,” said Botes.
AB was a quintessential boy wonder during his growing years, creating envious records and achievements in not one but many different sports. Talking about his all round ability in sports , Botes said, “Well he was pretty good in most things he did. He excelled in tennis first in primary school. He was No.2 in the country at the primary school level. He played rugby in Grade 8 at the U’14 level. He also played hockey for C & D sides at the school. At Grade 11 he started playing rugby for the school. He was in the first team XI and even made the provincial rugby side. As a cricketer he always played for the A sides. He batted at No. 8 for the school and also kept wickets. He went on to excel in SA colts & A sides.”
De Villiers made up his mind to pursue a career in rugby before former Springboks eight man Veinam Klassen convinced him to play cricket.
AB had a few weaknesses up his sleeves and the most prominent one was with his grip. Both Motes and AB worked on the grip.
“He generated great power in the on drives since his early days. Only problem I remember was he had a bad grip pulling the ball as he had a lot of top edges. We had a bit of a chat and AB decided to change his grip,” said Botes.
De Villiers is often criticised for taking a long sabbatical from test cricket. He now chooses and pick the series he wants to play. But Motes is behind AB and supports his decision.
According to Botes, “With his children I think he needed a bit of a rest. He played non-stop cricket and wanted to spend time at home. He is a big family man and the cricket and being away from home did tired him a bit. I think he was also very disappointed with the World Cup when we fell out against New Zealand in the semi final. So, mentally it was very important for him to take a bit of a break.”
De Villiers still drops at Affies whenever he finds time. The last time he was at the school was with Ali Bacher to do the in conversation. He also spoke to the kids at the hall. He was here as well for his book launch
“He still attends the rugby games at school and they attract huge crowds around 15000 people. He sings the school songs with the young boys . He also went to the change room of the Boys High a couple of years back and had a chat with them just before the game,” signs off Botes.