CENTURION – A trivial pursuit-question that might stump most die-hard fans of The Unlimited Titans, even after they have phoned a friend, is: which player represented the Northerns senior cricket team in his final year at school and also played for the Blue Bulls Craven Week team in the same year as a flyhalf.
He later captained Northerns and the Titans and won four consecutive titles while at the helm.
AB de Villiers would be close as answer, but no cigar. If you pressed the Faf du Plessis-button, it would be wrong again.
The current commercial manager of The Unlimited Titans, Pierre Joubert, was the versatile teenager, representing Northerns in the oval ball-game and cricket and later became a very influential leader of an all-conquering Titans-team.
As pivot of the Northern Transvaal-team, he played a significant role in the Pretoria-based school force winning the final at the Craven Week against Western Province with a certain John Smit as his tighthead in 1996.
Smit captained the Springbok-team when they won the Rugby World Cup in 2007, and is one of South Africa’s most decorated players of all time.
A significant moment for Joubert came in grade seven when Francois du Plessis and Johan Rudolph, father of Faf du Plessis and Jacques Rudolph respectively, turned up at the Perm-week and he received a few pointers in terms of the way he gripped the ball.
“I held the ball like a stone,” Joubert remembered.
“I never thought I would play first-class cricket,” a humble Joubert said. Keith Medlycott, former coach at Harlequins, instilled some self-belief into Joubert, who plied his trade in the tough Premier League of Northerns-cricket from the tender age of 12 in standard five.
Perhaps he should also thank his parents for the gene pool, because Pierre senior was a Carlton League-rugby player, while his mother, Ria, was a double Springbok in corf-ball and softball.
He made his first-class debut for Northerns in 1995/96 at the age of 17 and led the team from the 2008/2008-season until the end of March 2010, winning four trophies during a golden three-season stint as skipper.
Joubert captained the side to victory in the MTN domestic championship and the Standard Bank Pro20-series in 2007/2008.
The Titans retained the MTN domestic championship the next season and also finished at the top of the SuperSport Series log in that season.
The MTN-final in 2008/2009 was described by Joubert as one of the most perfect wins he had been part of.
The Eagles took first strike. Martin van Jaarsveld produced one of those rare magnificent catches at short fine leg that later become a Youtube-favourite to dismiss Morné van Wyk for one.
The South African left-arm spinner Paul Harris ripped through the Eagles-defence and finished with 5-27. The Titans coasted to an eight-wicket win.
“It was as clinical a win as you get,” Joubert said.
Joubert said at the infancy stage of his career, the privilege of playing with a childhood-idol, Fanie de Villiers, was one of his most treasured moments.
“In Northern Transvaal (in the 1980’s and 1990’s) you had two heroes if you loved rugby and cricket – Naas Botha and Fanie de Villiers,” Joubert said.
Another highlight was in the 2003/2004-season, when the all-rounder finished with a match-haul of 12-47 in a 45-run defeat to Eastern Province in the SuperSport Shield.
Joubert was a seam bowler whose nagging accuracy and probing lengths consistently required a superb technique and an excellent temperament. If the former or the latter was lacking, the results were usually disastrous for the batsman.
As a lower-order batsman, he could stick around and shepherd the tail or support a top-order player all the way to a big ton. That’s why his average of 27.42 in 96 first-class matches is not to be dismissed lightly, as he often batted at seven or lower.
“It was great to captain the team, but you must remember that we had household names like Dale Stey, Morné and Albie Morkel, Paul Harris, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (although he only played in a few games due to international commitments), Aaron Phangiso and Roelof van der Merwe,” Joubert added.
“My philosophy was to give players the room in which to perform. My approach was that the team had a life of its own and I did not wish to put them in a box to perform through being prescriptive and with (stringent) guidelines,” he added.
“And I also believed in the team-comes-first approach.
“With the right team culture, self-belief becomes evident. We just believed we could win from any position. Twice in my tenure as captain, I saw the Titans overcome a total of 500 or more by the opposition to win matches. Those are memorable moments,” he added.
Understated and a true gentleman of the game, Joubert’s leadership and character contributed to the Titans’ status as the premier domestic force in South African cricket from 2007 to 2010.