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Rudi Koertzen: 1949 – 2022

Rudi Koertzen
by Almanack Archive 7 minute read

Rudi Koertzen died on August 9, 2022, aged 73. He had stood in 332 international matches, and was remembered in the 2023 Wisden Almanack.

KOERTZEN, RUDOLF ERIC, was one of four killed in a car crash near Riversdale in South Africa’s Western Cape on August 9, aged 73. A tall, authoritative figure, Rudi Koertzen stood in 108 Tests and 209 one-day internationals, both records when he retired in 2010. Initially he had indulged his love of cricket – “I probably had more enthusiasm than real talent” – by playing when not working as a carpenter on the railways, but eventually became a full-time umpire, officiating in the first of 218 first-class matches in November 1981. He crossed swords with prominent local batsman Hylton Ackerman, who informed him: “You don’t have a bloody clue what an lbw is.”

Koertzen made his Test debut during South Africa’s first home series after readmission, against India in December 1992; he was an early recruit to the ICC’s international panel. He became known for his dramatic way of signalling a dismissal, raising the left arm slowly, forefinger aloft: it earned the nickname “Slow Death”, which he used for his 2010 autobiography. Almost inevitably in those pre-DRS days, Koertzen was involved in occasional controversy, notably during a fractious Sri Lanka-England Test at Kandy in 2000/01; he was also the TV umpire for the 2007 World Cup final in Bridgetown, which ended in near darkness after the regulations were misinterpreted by the officials, who were later all briefly suspended. But he retained the respect of the players. “I feel reassured when I see him at the crease,” said South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis. Current elite-panel umpire Marais Erasmus agreed: “Rudi was such a strong character, physically and mentally. He paved the way for South African umpires to get to the world stage.”

Rudi Koertzen stood in 108 Tests and 209 ODIs, both records when he retired in 2010.

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