Home Sport Obituary: Cuan Hartzenberg (9 January 1952 – 2 November 2023)

Obituary: Cuan Hartzenberg (9 January 1952 – 2 November 2023)


Cuan Hartzenberg, beloved patriarch, sportsman, and humble servant of society, passed on to higher service after a long illness bravely borne.

Cuan Hartzenberg. Picture: Supplied

Cuan ‘Chunky Gora’ Hartzenberg, beloved patriarch, sportsman, and humble servant of society, passed on to higher service after a long illness bravely borne. Cuan, best known for his quintessential sporting abilities, was also part of a cohort of sportsmen and women who relentlessly campaigned for equality in sport.

It can be said that a cedar tree has fallen in the sport fraternity, and his immense contribution to sport development will be missed. Cuan’s sporting abilities are certainly hereditary, coming from a family tree of sports excellence firmly embedded in his family genes. The Hartzenberg, Fredericks, and Damon families are largely synonymous with sport and are pioneers of various sport codes. Cuan played rugby with his cousins Eric, Keith Damon, and Mike Leon, and his playing days at his club Young Collegians were equally complimented by the likes of former greats in sports, namely, Dennis Jacobs, Eric Damon, Richard Jacobs, Toby Ferris, Basil Alexander, and others. As a young player, he caught the eyes of the Griqualand West selectors and got his call-up to do duty for Griqualand West (GW) in 1970.

This barrel-chested lock forward was the No.2 jumper in the line-out, complimenting the legendary Piet Van Wyk as they did duty for their province. He was selected to play on the SARU non-racial team, under the ambit of SACOS. The pinnacle of his illustrious rugby career was arguably the GW dream team of 1973, when they comfortably defeated Boland in the semi-final and ran out to play the powerful Western Province in the SARU Cup final.

Cuan was a fearless forward who would hunt down his opponents with the ball in hand and earn the respect of his opponents at the local and provincial levels. A fellow Inter-Provincial player, legendary Peter Jooste (former Boland captain), and part of the Springbok technical team often remarked on the prowess of this gentle giant.

Cuan had the stride of a show horse and the awareness of a samurai warrior; to pounce on the loose ball in rucks and mauls was second nature to him. To deprive him of the ball took massive effort, as he was always at the forefront of his pack of forwards. After retiring from rugby, he made sure that disadvantaged communities were the recipient of his skills. He immediately moved his skillset to coaching junior teams, and after the unification process in rugby was concluded, he ensured that players from the disenfranchised communities enjoyed opportunities for development. He spent a short stint assisting at the GW Rugby Academy.

Cuan was a working-class sports analyst, especially in rugby, and his IQ for the game allowed him to give sound advice to a myriad of younger emerging players.

The versatile sportsman was a cricket enthusiast during the rugby off-season and just loved being part of sport. After retiring from provincial rugby, he also joined Spades Football Club and earned his provincial colours in football.

This versatile sportsman employed his sporting talent to once again build a community soccer team in his neighbourhood of Homevale.

Spades, a team with a rich history, was established by Cuan’s late uncle Vicky (Flash) Fredericks, Willy Fredericks, Dicky Feltman, and others. The existence and achievement of Spades, who campaigned in the Premier League of the GW Soccer Board, were complimented by this iconic sportsman. He was known as Mr. Big Stuff, a stonewall defender who meticulously employed his tactics to stop the most lethal strikers.

Under his radar as captain, he ensured a corridor of excellence for great players like the likes of his late brother, Herlin (Killa) Hartzenberg, Sampie Wilkinson, and others. Cuan instilled strict discipline in any area of his existence, and Spades excelled to the top of the league in 1983 to be included in the South African Soccer Federation Champ of Champs competition. They played against Hotspurs PE, Battswood, and Cape Town while under his captaincy and capable guidance.

Cuan, the community man, always advocated peace, respect, and humility. Slow to anger but not to be defied, he constantly empowered the youth. Always mitigating against the prevailing social ills of society. He was a well-respected sports, family, and community man. He was also an exceptional singer and loved singing at public gatherings to entertain the audience.

A kind, loving gentleman who will be missed by many is survived by his partner Eunice, his daughter Ronel, his sons Lee and CJ, and his loving grandchildren.

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