“Volkekunde” in the academic and rugby world of South Africa’s Dr Danie Craven
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This article is a foray into the field of anthropology (“volkekunde” in Afrikaans) and sport history. It examines aspects of the sport-related thinking of a noted luminary in South Africa’s rugby world, Dr Danie Craven of Stellenbosch. He was not only an outstanding rugby player but also for many years an influential chairperson of the South African Rugby Board. The possibility is probed that his outlook was at least in part informed by his background as an anthropologist or the Afrikaans variant of a “volkekundige” with its own emphases. It is argued that to some extent his academic exposure to “volkekunde” heightened for instance his understanding of the role of the New Zealand Māori in that country’s rugby culture and some insights spilled over into his attempts to bring coloured South African players closer to the mainstream of rugby in South Africa, not always with the necessary political sophistication or finesse. Finally, it is argued that what he called the “spirit” of rugby, might have been informed by anthropological precepts.