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The day Voll first pulled on a Saints jersey
THERE have been many rousing clashes with Leeds at Saints down the years, but for the 23,000 who thronged the terraces on Saturday, October 23, 1957, the game had a particular significance.
For this was the day when immortal South African right winger Karel ‘Tom’ Van Vollenhoven donned the St Helens jersey for the first time.
Fresh from Rugby Union triumphs against the British Lions, including a hat-trick in opposition to Irish legend Tony O’Reilly and five tries in three Tests, ‘Voll’ was accorded a rapturous welcome by the St Helens faithful.
Ideally built for a wingman at 5ft 10ins and 12 stone, the 22-year-old blond crew-cut former Pretoria policeman was signed by Saints in face of fierce competition from arch-rivals Wigan.
Three tries by teenager Alex Murphy set Saints on the road to a 36-7 victory, with other scores coming from Austin Rhodes (try and six goals), Brian Howard, Doug Greenall and Ray Price, before the try arrived that frantic fans had been thirsting for.
The dying seconds were ticking away when Price split the Leeds defence to serve Vollenhoven 40 yards out, and the jet-propelled Springbok outpaced George Broughton to touch down in the scoreboard corner.
Knowsley Road erupted on witnessing the first of Tom’s 392 tries in 409 appearances for the club, including the surpassing of Alf Ellaby’s record in 1958-59 when ‘Voll’ notched 62 touchdowns.
St Helens: Moses; Vollenhoven, Greenall, Rhodes, Howard; Price, Murphy; Prescott, McKinney, Terry, Silcock, Delves, V. Karalius.
Leeds: Dunn; Hodgkinson, McLellan, Quinn, Broughton; Lendill, Stevenson; Skelton, Prior, Robinson, Tomlinson, Street, Last.
Vollenhoven turned out for Saints ‘A’ team against Whitehaven a week later at Knowsley Road before an incredible crowd of 8,000. He obliged with two rafter-raising tries – ‘Voll’ had well and truly arrived!
He hung up his boots in 1968 and returned to Johannesburg with wife Leonie, and has since made a number of sentimental journeys back to his old stamping ground.
They are proud parents of daughter Lynne, while tragedy struck when son Alan was killed in a road accident several years ago.
Tom was born in the township of Bethlehem, Pretoria, in 1935 and will celebrate his 75th birthday on April 29.