Burnley Civic Trust Heritage Image Collection

From South Africa to Play for Burnley, Van Rensburg's Introduction to English Football

11 Jan 1939

Media Ref: BEenv5264
From South Africa to Play for Burnley, Van Rensburg's Introduction to English Football

From Burnley Express Cuttings Library :"Brrrr - so this is England, and these are the conditions under which you have to play your football," commented Steve Van Rensburg, Burnley's new South African right half-back, after Burnley's Cup-tie game with Notts County last Saturday. It was Van Rensburg's second day in England. He landed at Southampton from South Africa last Friday and met at the port by officials from Turf Moor, he travelled to Nottingham and joined the Cup-tie party there. Mr. A. Jopson, president of the club, directors and other officials extended a cordial welcome and introductions to Alick Robinson, the captain and other members of the playing staff.
Van Rensburg had travelled through a countryside heavily covered by snow, and on Saturday morning he saw 100 men toiling away at the Meadow-lane pitch removing the deep covering of snow in order to make play possible.
"In South Africa," stated Van Rensburg to "Sportsman", "football under such bad ground conditions would not have been considered for a single moment. We do not even carry on with a game if it is raining. We are just like cricketers. If rain starts to fall during the progress of a match we just walk off the field." How will you like the heavy going?, he was asked. "I have never had any real experience of it," replied the South African, "but I rather fancy I could keep going. In South Africa we often play in terrible heat, and I consider that the heat will take more out of a player than ploughing through a sea of mud."
Van Rensburg is not slow to realise that it will take him some time to settle down to the style of Second Division football. He considers that South African football is more robust that that played in England. "If South Africans had been playing in the Cup-tie game," he said, "the referee would have had a very busy afternoon. I do not suggest that rough tactics would have been resorted to, but there would have been more vigour shown, and it is apparent that referees on Saturday's standard will not tolerate this style of play. I was very much surprised at the number of times the game was stopped for really petty infringements. They would have been ignored in South Africa."
Van Rensburg likened Notts County's style of football to that in his own country. Plenty of power was put behind the ball, and the strong cross to the wings was frequently employed. The idea was to make progress with a minimum of moves and little elaboration.
It was mentioned to Van Rensburg that goalkeepers in English football were now well safeguarded by the rules of the game. The South African was surprised. He quickly pointed out that they were not safeguarded to the extent as they were in his country. When a South African 'keeper gained possession of the ball, the opposite forwards never followed up. It was the end of the movement and they merely turned their backs on the goal and walked up-field.
There are no professional footballers in South Africa and training is limited to four hours a week, two hours on two evenings. There was little or no ball practice, the training being directed principally towards physical fitness.
Van Rensburg has come from a sphere of football which does not involve any travel, for all the teams engaged in the same competition, the Durban League, had their headquarters within Durban.
The South African is proud of the Durban football grounds. He considers that their playing surfaces are infinitely much more superior to the Notts County pitch, the only one he had seen in England. The turf, assisted by the climate, was truly a greensward, and it was cared for in a manner similar to the English bowling greens. Grandstand accommodation, although quite good, did not come up to the standard of the Nottingham club. Van Rensburg pointed out that the average crowd at some of the principal South African football matches was about 12,000.
Van Rensburg first began playing serious football in South Africa when he was 16 years of age. A year later he won his place in one of the the First division sides of the Durban League and for the last two seasons he has been with the Durban Railway team, who are also in the First division. He has given splendid service to the club, having not missed a single game during his connection with it.
To come to England and join the Turf Moor club Van Rensburg has given up a good clerical post on the Durban Railways. His arrival in England is the outcome of activity by a former Burnley man, Mr. Dan Yeadon, now of Durban. Mr. Yeadon watched Van Rensburg all last season and approached him on the question of travelling to England. In spite of some parental opposition, Van Rensburg intimated his willingness to leave South Africa and then Mr. Yeadon communicated with the Burnley Football Club. A team colleague, Binyon, came to England two months ago to join Chelsea.
Van Rensburg was a member of the Natal Provincial side that won the Currie Cup last season. His own club side won the First Division championship. Before joining the Durban Railway team he was with Thistle, in the same section. Last season brought him his greatest distinction up to now as he ousted from the Natal team the man who had held the position consistently and who had played for the South African team against England.
On his way from Southampton last Friday, Van Rensburg was taken on a short sight-seeing tour of London and was thrilled by the sight of it. He said he had heard a great deal about the Metropolis, but found it even better than he imagined. Van Rensburg has no relatives or friends in the Burnley district, but his cheery disposition and interesting conversation with quickly gain for him many companions.

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