CENTURION – When discussing the giants of Northern Transvaal cricket around a barbeque fire and a beer, one of the first names disclosed would be that of Anton Ferreira. He was inspirational, and as all-rounder played a pivotal role in powering them into the Currie Cup-competition.
He was the first player to be granted a benefit year by the Northerns Cricket Union. When he retired, in 1992, he had made the most appearances for the province, 93 games.
Ferreira, nicknamed Yogi, gave his thousands of fans at Northerns and Warwickshire so much reason for joy, partially because of his jovial persona, but also because of his ability to change the complexion of the game within a session with accurate seam bowling or his hard-hitting boundary bashing at number seven.
One of those moments came in 1977/78 when Ferreira took a five-wicket haul in the second innings at Berea Park against Transvaal B. Northern Transvaal won by seven wickets.
A certain KC Wessels, or Kepler, the former South African captain, was at the crease with Yogi when the winning runs were scored.
Northern Transvaal was promoted to the Currie Cup.
He was named one of South Africa’s five cricketers of the year in 1978.
“That game at Berea Park where I took 8-38, was my best and it played a role in us winning the Castle Bowl series. It also casted me into the national spotlight and catapulted my career to new levels,” he remembered.
Fate brutally intervened in 1979/80 when an ankle ligament caused him to miss almost the whole season. He only played in the final game against Rhodesia.
At the start of the 1980/81-season, Ferreira was cast into the spotlight as skipper after the retirement of Alan Jordaan, and he promptly scored a first Currie Cup-century for Northern Transvaal. He contributed 106 in the first innings at St. George’s Park.
“I think I was inspired by many stars. Playing against Graeme Pollock, Eddie Barlow, Henry Fotheringham, Viv Richards, Clive Rice, Clive Lloyd and Richard Hadlee brought the best out of me.
“When you played against somebody like Rice, you certainly knew you were in a contest, because he challenged you,” said Ferreira, current manager of coaching and coaching education at Cricket South Africa.
The presence of excellent all-rounders like Barlow, Rice, Mike Procter and later Brian McMillan might have stolen a bit of Ferreira’s limelight as an South African all-rounder of the highest class.
He played for the so-called South African Rebels in two one-day internationals in February 1986 against the Australian team of Kim Hughes.
The Wisden Cricketer hailed him as a Warwickshire-colossus.
“Modest and friendly, he had people skills that treated gatemen, supporters, team-mates and opponents equally,” the publication recalled.
“Ferreira developed into a reliable and hard-working player, scoring quick middle-order runs and bowling accurate medium pace.
“In 1984, he made 777 runs, took 79 wickets and became the first Warwickshire player to perform the double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets in the old Sunday League. Ferreira said a tearful farewell in 1986 with an impromptu party in the members’ bar,” the Wisden Cricketer recalled.
Of his 9064 first-class runs scored at an average of 28.68, 4290 were compiled for Northern Transvaal, while he nipped out 235 of his 583 wickets while at Northern Transvaal. The rest of his wickets were captured in eight seasons for Warwickshire.
“I enjoyed testing myself against the best. In 1986, McMillan joined Warwickshire. I enjoyed the rivalry. He was a hell of a competitor,” he said.
Ferreira relished the privilege of playing against world-class opponents in South Africa in the years of the Mean Machine and during an era in which particularly fast bowlers in the English county series were at their devastating best.
Upon the conclusion of his stellar career, he coached Northern Transvaal, and later became the mentor of the South African u.19-team.
He was at the helm as coach during two ICC World Cups for u.19-teams.
One of his only regrets is that the star-studded South African u.19-team of 1999 which included names like Thami Tsolekile, Graeme Smith, Jacques Rudolph and Andrew Puttick, had three matches abandoned due to rain, which prevented the team from reaching the play-offs.
If Barlow was the man who elevated Western Province from second-class cricketing citizenship to the Currie Cup, Ferreira’s name would be one of the first out of the hat as all-rounder who powered Northern Transvaal into the elite echelon of SA cricket while representing the Hennops River-team.