In the early 1990s there was a sports club for the staff and local residents of the Koeberg Nuclear Power station situated in the village of Melkbosstrand, 29 kilomentres north of Cape Town on the West Coast of South Africa.
One of the attributes of this club was a vibrant cricket section and a cricket field situated near to the sea, opposite a gate leading to a nature reserve surrounding the Nuclear Reactor. Two of the three Koeberg cricket teams played in the top Boland Leagues; not bad for a club with less than 40 members.
From time to time overseas visiting cricketing teams would ask to play a ‘social’ game against Koeberg, usually a night game under lights or on a Sunday as the one and only turf wicket was used for League cricket on Saturdays.
The chairman, Dries van Schalkwyk, gave me the task of selecting a social side from the older players and even ex-players who were still residing in the village to entertain the visitors.
To identify the social team from the League sides the team was called the West Coast Rollers, partially because of the sound of the sea waves rolling onto the shore nearby, but mainly because the older players displayed what is commonly called a ‘Beer Gut’ or ‘Boep’ and would ‘Roll’ the pitch for free when scoring runs.
Koeberg Power station being security protected provided an ideal place to re-introduce one of the rarest antelope in the world, the Bontebok. In the 1830s, after extensive hunting and habitat deprivation, the Bontebok teetered on the verge of extinction. In fact, in 1913 there were only 84 left.
The Bontebok is said to be the ‘most handsomest’ of all antelope, with its big horns and bright, white rear-end. The mating season of the Bontebok is March/April and the dominant males used to chase out the junior males from the Nature Reserve via the gate opposite the cricket field.
The juicy green turf of the cricket field was so tasty that they gathered in small groups of three or four, casually standing at backward point or extra cover whilst the match was in progress, bounding away a few metres whenever a fielder chased the ball too close to their position.
This unique situation was instrumental in designing the Rollers cricket badge, portraying two Bontebok separated by a red cricket ball.
Whilst the games were of a social nature, the standard of cricket played was of good standing and a strong sense of pride developed. The few beers after the game became as important as the game and sometimes stretched late into the evening – in other words a good ‘piss up’ was had by all.
The reputation of these socials spread and more local teams joined in arranging additional games during the season and the birth of the Rollers took hold.
In 1995 the Koeberg Sports Club was closed after being deemed ‘too expensive’ to maintain and run by Escom and was sold in entirety for the development of a college, but those plans fell by the wayside.
The Rollers continued to thrive, however, now strengthened by players from the club who no longer wished to travel and play at another club – besides, one could still play good cricket and have a few drinks after the game representing the Rollers.
In fact, the Rollers are a nomadic team and play on average 14 x 35-over games per season and went undefeated for four seasons. The beauty of this was not that we were unbeaten, but that a team tradition in using a Lotto system to select the batting order was adopted. This ensures each and every Roller has the opportunity and the trust of the team to perform in the game.
We do not have a number 11 batsman in the Lotto; the Joker is used instead with the power allowing the player who draws him to choose where he would like to bat on the day, nominate another player to bat in any position, or auction off the Joker to the highest bidder, payment being in cold beer or a delicious Red Heart Rum and Coke.