Home News Eric Reginald ‘Bushy’ Oliver – December 18 1932 – September 29 2021

Eric Reginald ‘Bushy’ Oliver – December 18 1932 – September 29 2021

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Oom Bushy was admitted to Mediclinic Gariep earlier this month to undergo hip surgery, and although the surgery was successful, he became ill while in hospital and on Wednesday he lost the battle after a brave fight.

Picture: Neville Mothlabakwe

IN THE EARLY hours of Wednesday morning Kimberley lost another one of its legends when Eric Reginald ‘Bushy’ Oliver passed away after a short illness.

Oom Bushy was admitted to Mediclinic Gariep earlier this month to undergo hip surgery, and although the surgery was successful, he became ill while in hospital and on Wednesday he lost the battle after a brave fight.

Since his passing, tributes have continued to pour in for the late ‘Oom Bushy’ (88) as he was affectionately called. The friendly gentleman, a matriculant from Kimberley Boys’ High, was very well known not only in Kimberley, but throughout the Northern Cape and even the whole of South Africa as the longest and most loved supporter of Griqua rugby – support which spanned 68 years.

In his later life Oliver turned up at every home game of Griquas that he could. He was even adopted as the rugby team’s mascot and led his favourite team onto the field before each and every home game. It was only on a handful of occasions, due to health reasons, that he was unable to fulfil his team commitment.

His distinctive voice, shouting, “Griekwas, Griekwas”, and the sight of him waving his Griqua flag, will certainly be missed at Tafel Lager Park once spectators are allowed back to support their team.

His calls for his team to man-up in games came from a man who was himself courageous – a man who at the age of 73 years old parachuted out of a plane in an assisted jump back in 2006 to land on the field of play ahead of a match between the Vodacom Cheetahs and the Western Force in Kimberley.

On the day, unfortunately, Bushy’s bravery could not translate into a win for the Cheetahs, with the Western Force winning the match 16-14 much against the run of play.

In addition to his passion for Griqua rugby, Oom Bushy was also a skilled boxer in his youth. He started his ring exploits at the tender age of 12. As a youngster in the 1950s he joined the boxing academy owned by late Kimberley businessman, World War II veteran and former boxer himself, Jules Katz.

Billy Oliver, Bushy’s son, related a story to the DFA of how after a training session one day the youthful Bushy had to pick up the family’s meat purchase at the butcher shop on his way home. However, he was robbed of the meat and arrived home without the parcel. His father asked where the meat was and when Bushy told his father what happened, his dad told him to go and get it back.

Bushy did just that, knocking the robber senseless in the process. And this was the pugilistic power he took into the ring at the start of an illustrious boxing career.

As an amateur boxer in the Katz stable Oliver steadily rose through the ranks of the amateur boxing academy which got him noticed in the sport.

His success in the square ring was noticed by the South African Olympic Committee who invited him to join the South African national team that was due to take part in the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland.

Billy says that his father made it through to the Olympic Games’ boxing finals in the featherweight division where he lost to Len Leachy.

Soon after his return from the Olympics, in May 1953, Oliver, along with two other boxers in Kimberley, Howard Frazer and Cocky Bredenkamp, signed up to become professional fighters.

Local trainer and promoter Brad Delport spoke to the DFA, saying that Oom Bushy had seven professional fights of which he won six and lost one. Despite being shorter than many of his opponents and with the resultant reach disadvantage that comes along with that, Oliver was never knocked out, Delport said.

Delport said that in later years Oliver owned a boxing academy of his own named Puma Amateur Boxing Club, and even until late in his life Oliver was the technical adviser to the Northern Cape Boxing Academy which is managed by Delport.

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Oom Bushy is also credited with the rise to stardom of the late South African welterweight boxing champion Charlie ‘Silver Assassin’ Weir. Others who came under his care include his son Billy and Nicky Life who also carved out names for themselves in the sport.

Oom Bushy wrote an autobiography about his life entitled: ”Hi, My Name’s Bushy” which details his sporting exploits as well as his social interactions during his life.

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The CEO of the Northern Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sharon Steyn, spoke fondly of Oliver saying, “He is a family friend and I’ve been with him for many years … He loved his sport. He loved Griquas. He always wanted to help. I just think it is really sad.

“Condolences to Billy, his son and his family. It is really a sad loss to Kimberley. He was an awesome person. He was a great sportsman and loved running across the field. Rest in peace Uncle Bushy. We will miss you.”

Another tribute came from Griquas Rugby CEO Arni van Rooyen.

“It’s a very sad day for Griquas Rugby. Bushy came a long way with us. Although one knew the day (of his passing) would come, it was still painful and not pleasant at all. We spare a thought for all his friends and family in this difficult period.

“His voice will echo through the Tafel Lager Stadium for a long time. We will miss him a lot especially when the matches restart.”

Eugene Jacobs, CEO of Northern Cape Cricket also added his voice to the many tributes. “It is indeed a very sad day for sport in the Northern Cape and in Kimberley with the passing of Oom Bushy Oliver. A boxing legend in his own right. A sportsman and arguably the biggest supporter of Griquas rugby for many years,” Jacobs said.

“Oom Bushy was well-known and well-loved and he was really a community man. A man the community loved. A really very good human being. On behalf of the directors, the players and staff of Northern Cape Cricket we extend our sincere condolences to Oom Bushy’s immediate family, his friends and in particular to Griquas Rugby as they have lost a stalwart and beacon of hope.

“It was always so good to see Oom Bushy lead the team out for their home games. Rest well Oom Bushy,” he added.

From the many tributes all over social media, one message comes through constantly, and it’s simply this: “Rest in Peace Bushy, you are now in a better place, after leading an illustrious and full life”.

Details of Oliver’s funeral have not yet been finalised.

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