The sporting community in Bloemfontein and the Free State was rocked on Monday with the sad news of the passing of Ewie Cronjé at the age of 80 years old.
Oom Ewie had fought a very hard battle against cancer for the past few years, and this in its own bears testament to his fighting spirit.
Cronjé was sport in the province and through his passion he touched the lives of many, especially when it came to cricket. This is something that he never did for financial gain, but purely because of his love for sport.
Born in Bethulie, he started attending Grey College from the age of 12, and eventually went on to become a teacher at his beloved Alma Mater.
As a cricketer he captained the Free State in first-class cricket, but it was with his work as an administrator where he made the biggest impact. He was the President of Free State cricket from 1983 to 1990, and during this time he took the province from a second-tier team to their first major title when they won the Benson & Hedges Nights Series final in 1989 by beating Western Province at Newlands in Cape Town.
He was not just an administrator for the Free State, but he also did a lot of the less glamorous jobs at the union, such as being the groundsman and convenor of selectors.
It was not just at the cricket union where he made an impact, but also at the University of the Free State where he served as the Director of Sport for many years. Along with Oom Tat Botha, Cronjé played a major role in developing sport at the varsity and his legacy is still seen today.
The former Proteas and Free State all-rounder and coach, Corrie van Zyl, told Bloemfontein Courant that Cronjé did so much for the sport.
“Oom Ewie, as we called him when we were still at Free State Cricket and at the university, will always be remembered for being the most selfless person who gave so much to the sport in times when it was still very unprofessional.
“In the afternoons after work he used sit on his haunches, watering the pitch for the weekend’s matches. In his suit, with his tie on and with his cigarette box, he stood and selected teams and jotted names down on that box of Van Rhyns. We all just wanted to see our names written on the back of that packet of cigarettes. Oom Ewie, you will never be forgotten, not just in the Free State, but also in South African cricket. You were an awesome person and a mentor to me. You will not be forgotten.”
The ICC Hall of Famer, Allan Donald, who grew up with Ewie’s son, the late South African and Free State captain Hansie Cronjé, fondly remembers the impact Cronjé had on his career. “He was our backyard referee for rugby, he was our backyard umpire for cricket.
“He was an unbelievable administrator for Free State cricket, and he was Mr Cricket. There is no doubt about that. He cared so much for the province and the surrounding areas, to make it strong.
“He was the first administrator in Bloemfontein who went beyond getting Mike Proctor to be our coach, Allan Lamb to be our captain, getting someone like Peter Moores, Ashley Metcalfe, Sylvester Clarke, Alvin Kallicharran, and the list goes on. We were very, very lucky in that era to have had Ewie Cronjé as our man in terms of running cricket in the Free State.”
Oom Ewie, your innings ended on a very respectable 80, now it’s time to pad up again with Hansie for the second innings.
Rest in Peace. – MORGAN PIEK