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Debunking the "AB's got talent" myth

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National hockey and football player, Jr. Rugby captain, six swimming records, fastest Jr. 100m timing and more - how much of it is true?

AB de Villiers
Hockey, swimming and rugby were just some of the sports that De Villiers excelled in or did he?

How often have we read about Ab de Villiers’ incredible feats in sports which aren’t cricket related? Originally published by a well-known organisation in 2015, the ‘facts’ have been reproduced time and again in various forms of media – from pictures to articles to video blogs.

These have often been touted as part of the de Villiers folklore. So much so that no one ever doubted the genuineness of the information.

Until de Villiers himself deemed it worthy to be a part of his autobiography.

So how true are these ‘facts’ found abundantly on the internet?

Let’s find out –

Short Listed for South Africa’s National Hockey Squad

True or False?

False.

AB played hockey for one year at high school and was a member of the Afrikaanse Hoer Seunskool U-16A side that beat neighbours and rivals Pretoria Boys’ High for the first time in the school’s history but that was that.

He was never shortlisted for the national hockey squad or even pursued hockey that serious. As he himself admits, he wasn’t the biggest fan of the sport even though he was pretty good at it.

Short Listed for South Africa’s National Football Squad

True or False?

False.

This probably is the one that is the most off the mark. Soccer was something that de Villiers reveals to have never even played at any organisational level let alone to be shortlisted for the national side. In fact, the only football AB has played is that in his school breaks and in the South African warm-up routine. That’s about it.

South Africa’s Junior Rugby Captain

True or False?

False.

Indeed, as AB himself admits, rugby was probably going to be one of his choices had he not turned into being one of the finest batsmen of his generation. It also remains one of his favourite sports – one that he follows keenly and one that was the primary sport of the school he represented.

When De Villiers started playing rugby, even as he tried his best, he was selected to play flyhalf for the fifth XV. The champion that he was along with a couple of lucky breaks meant that he was first selected into the third XV and soon into the second XV.

There was news of the school star player, currently playing at flyhalf wanting to move to the centre of the field and there was no obvious replacement for the vacancy at flyhalf.

So in a space of three weeks, our hero was on the brink of breaking into the first XV of the school team, a feat he eventually managed to do and played a couple of years as the first choice flyhalf for his side.

De Villiers was also selected to play in the Blue Bulls High-school team in 2002 and lost to a dramatic comeback by the KwaZulu-Natal in the 2002 Craven Week competition. The Bulls lost 36-32, the comeback largely lead by Peter Grant who would go on to play for Western Province and the Stormers.

That was the last of rugby action De Villiers had considering he would make his debut for South two years later in 2004.

Holds six national school swimming records for South Africa

True or False?

False.

All De Villiers has to show for his swimming prowess is an Under-9 school breaststroke record for his primary school Warmbaths but that’s just about it. He was not the holder of any national swimming record even for a day.

Recorded the fastest 100m timing in South Africa juniors circuit

True or False?

False.

AB reveals that he was never a sprinter in high school, let alone holding the fastest 100m timing in South Africa’s junior circuit.

In his own words – “Elsewhere on the internet, to my embarrassment, there are articles in which the great Usain Bolt is asked which cricketer could beat him in a sprint and he replies ‘Ab de Villiers’. Maybe, just maybe, I would beat him if I were riding a motorbike.”

National U-19 badminton champion

True or False?

False.

Another piece of information that happens to be way off the mark. AB never played badminton at school. In fact, as he recalls, he has played only one game of badminton his entire life – a leisurely game with the legendary wicketkeeper Mark Boucher.

De Villiers plays off a handicap of scratch in golf

True or False?

False.

In layman’s, a "handicap of scratch" implies that the golfer being referred to has a handicap of 0 or below.

De Villiers has played golf as a youngster with his brothers and friends but has never received any formal training for the sport.

Even though AB was reasonably passionate about the sport and pretty good at it, the above information is not true. When he was 15, he got his handicap down to a fairly respectable one but he hasn’t really stayed in touch with the game and his handicap has drifted down to nine.

Received a national medal from Nelson Mandela for a science project

True or False?

False.

AB never undertook any science project of such significance, most certainly not to the extent of drawing the attention of Nelson Mandela.

However, AB has met ‘Madiba’ twice, both times as part of the South African national team.

Member of South Africa’s junior Davis Cup Tennis Team

Ab de Villiers 2
With shots like this, it is no wonder that De Villiers was good at tennis

True or False?

Partially True

In reality, there is no such entity as the junior Davis Cup team but had De Villiers not been a cricketer, he most certainly would have been a professional tennis player. Always touting tennis as his second most favourite sport after cricket, the South African was occasionally ranked as the No. 1 player of his age group.

Tennis was the first sport that AB took up seriously. He first played an organised competition when he was six in the U-10 tournament, losing his first game 8-1 to the top ranked seed of the tournament.

However, he won the remaining round robin games which egged him to play more of tennis as a youngster.

“AB has great potential”, his coach Derek told AB’s parents. “He ought to train every day, but he must never stop enjoying the game. There should always be time for an Ice cream.”

De Villiers boasted of a good forehand but since he was a tad bit shorter, he lacked the pace in his serve. As he himself admits, had his serve been a bit better, he would definitely have been playing at the flushing meadows and not at Durban or Johannesburg.

AB continued to play tennis when he moved to Afrikaanse Hoer Seunskool or the ‘Affies’, representing his school in various tournaments.

However, a choice had to be made between tennis and other sports such as rugby and cricket and De Villiers decided that he has had enough of tennis.

The reason?

The champion felt that he wanted to play team sports, wanted to feel the joys of celebrating a victory and feeling sad in defeat together and not alone – a decision that still reflects in his stature as one of the truest team-men around.

Conclusion

It is apt to conclude in de Villiers’ own words – “These are the facts; decent at golf, useful at rugby and tennis when I was young and enjoying cricket ever since. The errors will doubtless remain on the Internet and people will continue to believe I was some sort of prodigy at all those different sports, but the truth will hopefully somehow endure.”

Let’s hope we can do our part.

Source – AB the Autobiography


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