Former South African Test umpire Rudi Koertzen dies in accident

Former South African Test umpire Rudi Koertzen dies in accident
Umpire Rudi Koertzen poses with a trophy presented to him after his final Test after day four of the 2nd Test between Pakistan and Australia played at Headingley Carnegie Stadium on July 24, 2010 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)

Rudi Koertzen (73) was on his way home to Despatch from a golfing weekend in Cape Town when he was involved in a head-on collision near Riversdale.

Former South African international cricket umpire Rudi Koertzen was killed along with three other people in a head-on collision near Riversdale in the Western Cape on Tuesday morning.

The 73-year-old was on his way home from a golfing weekend in Cape Town to Despatch in the Eastern Cape, where he lived with his family. 

rudi koertzen umpire

Former Test umpire Rudi Koertzen. (Photo: Gallo Images / CSA)

Koertzen’s son, Rudi Koertzen Jr told Algoa FM that his father died on impact.

“He went on a golf tournament with some of his friends and they were expected to come back on Monday, but it seems they decided to play another round of golf,” Koertzen Jr said.

Koertzen officiated 331 international matches as a cricket umpire — the second-highest number for an umpire after Pakistan’s Aleem Dar — between 1992 and 2010: 108 Tests, 209 One-Day Internationals and 14 T20 Internationals.

“It is a very big loss foremost for his family and then for South Africa and cricket,” said Dar of Koertzen’s death in an interview with ESPNCricinfo. 

“I stood in so many games with him. He was not only very good as an umpire, but also an excellent colleague, always very cooperative onfield and also always willing to help off the field. Because of the way he was, he was also well-respected by players.”

The Proteas are wearing black armbands in their tour match against England Lions today in honour of Koertzen.

Fellow South African umpire Marais Erasmus said: “Rudi was such a strong character, physically and mentally. He paved the way for South African umpires to get to the world stage. Made us all believe it’s possible. A true legend. As a young umpire, I learnt a lot from him.” 

rudi koertzen

Craig Overton of England Lions celebrates taking the wicket of Dean Elgar of South Africa, caught by Sam Billings during the tour match at The Spitfire Ground on 9 August 2022 in Canterbury, England. Elgar is wearing a black armband to mark the death in a car accident of former South African Test umpire Rudi Koertzen. (Photo: Steve Bardens / Getty Images)

At the time of his death, he was still umpiring a few games in his home town of Despatch and helping his local club, Despatch Cricket Club, by preparing pitches. 

“A legend in his own right passed away this morning and will definitely leave a great void in the cricket world,” Despatch Cricket Club said in tribute today. “We want to express our heartfelt sympathy and empathy to Uncle Rudi Koertzen’s family and loved ones.”

Slow finger

Koertzen made his debut as an international umpire at 43 years old. His first international series was India’s tour of South Africa in 1992-93; his first game was the second ODI in Gqeberha.

Koertzen was known for his “slow finger of death” while umpiring, becoming affectionately known as “Slow Death”. He would raise his left arm and index finger extremely slowly to signal a batter’s dismissal while the fielding team appealed.

Koertzen explained this in an interview with Indian Express in 2013:

Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations


“Every umpire has their trademark, that was mine. The media labelled it the ‘slow finger of death’; I found that pretty interesting. There’s a story behind it, though. When my umpiring career first began, I used to hold my hands in front of me and every time there was an appeal, I would fold it against my ribs.

“Someone told me ‘Rudi, you can’t do that, every time you raise your hands to fold it, the bowler thinks you’re going to give him a wicket.’ So I started clasping my wrists at the back. The finger comes out slowly because it takes time for me to release my grasp at the back.”

After retiring as an international umpire in 2010, Koertzen published a book, aptly titled: Slow Death: Memoirs of a Cricket Umpire (with Chris Schoeman).

The last representative game Koertzen stood in was in 2011, an Indian Premier League match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Chennai Super Kings in Bengaluru. 

‘Passing of a Titan’

Born on 26 March 1949 in Knysna, Western Cape, Koertzen made his Test debut in 1992 in the Boxing Day Test between South Africa and India in Port Elizabeth. 

He went on to enjoy an 18-year umpiring career at the top level in which he stood in 108 Tests, a record 209 ODIs and 14 T20Is, achieving the revered international status of ICC Elite Panel umpire. 

Koertzen singled out standing in the opening match of the 1999 World Cup between England and Sri Lanka as his fondest memory. 

Koertzen announced his decision to retire from umpiring on 4 June 2010. He stood in his final ODI on 9 June 2010, between Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka at Harare, and in his final Test from 21-24 July 2010, between Pakistan and Australia at Leeds. 

Paying tribute to Koertzen’s contribution to cricket, CSA Chief Executive Officer, Pholetsi Moseki said: “The passing of this Titan is a sad loss for the game. Koertzen’s contribution to umpiring, to which he spent the better part of his life, speaks volumes about his selfless dedication and commitment. 

“With his demise, another curtain of a rich legacy has fallen, but will never be forgotten. In his honour, let’s decree to embody his passion for umpiring and unearth a crop of umpires who will carry the fortunes of the game into the future.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.8% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.2% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.2% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.2%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options