Johannesburg – Former Springboks scrum-half and captain Dawie de Villiers has died aged 81 after a long battle with cancer, South African Rugby announced on Sunday.
Apart from rugby, De Villiers was a minister in the first democratically elected South African government from 1994, under President Nelson Mandela.
Earlier, he had been part of a delegation from the then ruling National Party that met the outlawed African National Congress (ANC) and helped unban the organisation.
South African Rugby Union president Mark Alexander described De Villiers “as one of the greatest Springboks captains”.
“Dawie was hugely respected as a sportsman and a politician. He became part of the political winds of change as our country moved toward democracy. He was a great servant of South Africa.”
“To lead South Africa as long as he did in the amateur era and to hold the record for appearances as a Test captain until the dawn of professionalism says everything about his stature as a player and leader.
“He was a great and loyal servant of Springbok rugby and we pay tribute to his dedication and the service he gave to the sport and South African life.”
Born in the town of Stellenbosch near Cape Town, De Villiers represented Western Province, Boland and Transvaal at provincial level between 1961 and 1970.
He played 25 times for the Springboks over nine seasons from 1962, debuting against the British and Irish Lions, and scored three tries in an era when the score was worth three points.
The death of De Villiers completed a sad weekend for South African rugby with former Springboks forward Pedrie Wannenburg, 41, killed in a multi-vehicle crash in Texas on Friday.
A flanker, Wannenburg was capped 20 times by South Africa from 2002 and was unlucky not to make the squad that won the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France.