Happy Birthday! 50 things that made Herschelle Gibbs the ultimate maverick

Herschelle Gibbs turned 50-years-old last week, and we at Independent Media have done our best to salute one of the great characters of South African sport. Picture: Michael Sherman/IOL

Herschelle Gibbs turned 50-years-old last week, and we at Independent Media have done our best to salute one of the great characters of South African sport. Picture: Michael Sherman/IOL

Published Mar 2, 2024


Proteas legend Herschelle Gibbs enjoyed not only a brilliant playing career, but also an extraordinary life.

Gibbs recently raised his bat for a half-century, having turned 50-years-old last week, and we at Independent Media have done our best to salute one of the great characters of South African sport by choosing 50 things that made him special to us.

1 Herschelle Herman Gibbs

It’s all in the name and the genes. ‘Herman’ is Herschelle’s father, who was a renowned track and field sprinter in his heyday. And that’s where Gibbs got his phenomenal speed across the turf from.

2 ‘Scooter’

The legendary nickname stuck ever since Gibbs first arrived at Western Province senior training on … yes you guessed it … a scooter. He was still a teenage schoolboy at Bishops at the time and was too young to obtain a drivers licence.

3 Potential Premier League star

Not many are aware that Gibbs’ first love was actually soccer. He was sensational at Rygersdal FC as a youngster, and even had the opportunity to trial at London club Arsenal.

4 ‘Kirsy’ aka Peter Kirsten

Every sport-loving kid needs a hero. And for Gibbs it was Peter Kirsten. He idolised “Kirsy” growing up, and wanted to do everything he did, even field at backward point.

5 Bishops

Dioceasan College have produced some phenomenal people over the last century, most notably Mark Shuttleworth - the first South African to enter space. But Gibbs had a cult following at Bishops due to his exploits both on the sports field and outside of the class. It was here where he was given the freedom to express his vast array of talents.

6 The next Naas Botha

Actually, that’s an insult to Gibbs’ rugby playing talent. He was blessed with the ability to kick with both feet, but he could also slip through a gap like Dan Carter. He was phenomenal at schoolboy level, most notably when he chipped and chased under the nose of future Cheetahs and Sharks fullback Stephen Brink for Western Province in the Craven Week final.

7 Freckles

When Gibbs walked into the WP changeroom as a teenager, his face was full of freckles. It added to his boyhood charm.

8 Peter Pan

He may have lost the freckles as he got older, but he never ever lost his childlike innocence. Others would say he simply never wanted to grow up. Either way, it was fun to watch.

9 The backfoot cover drive

There are many that salivate over Gibbs’ lofted cover drive, but there are few who could punch the ball on the up with such grace as he did.

10 Newlands

Gibbs simply loved the grand old ground with Table Mountain looking down and the Oaks trees on the other side. Newlands was his playground for almost 20 years.

11 Western Province

With Newlands came WP.  He may have played for franchises all around the world and had a short stint with the Titans at the backend of his career, but it was the blue and white blood that ran through Gibbs’ veins.

12 Lancaster Park

The Christchurch venue may no longer exist, it will forever hold fond memories for Gibbs’ fans. It took 23 innings for Gibbs to get his first Test century, and when he did in true Gibbs style, he went big with an undefeated 211 against New Zealand.

13 “Hie kom n Ding!”

The St George’s Park brass band in Gqeberha (then Port Elizabeth) adored Gibbs. They even had a special phrase when he walked out to bat. Gibbs repaid them with his maiden ODI hundred there.

14 That beige suit

When Gibbs appeared before the King Commission for the Hansiegate match-fixing scandal, he rocked up at the Cape Town High Court in a beige three-button suit. Only Gibbs would do something like that.

15 00, 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, ….

One of the changes Gibbs made to his life after being involved in ‘Hansiegate’ was to change the number at the back of his shirt to reflect each year. He started with ‘00’ in the year 2000 to reflect the rebooting of his international career.

16 ‘Scooter’

The legendary nickname stuck ever since Gibbs first arrived at Western Province senior training on … yes you guessed it … a scooter. He was still a teenage schoolboy at Bishops at the time and was too young to obtain a drivers licence.

17 Flashy cars

But once he was eligible to drive, Gibbs hauled out a collection of German automobiles and extravagant Italian sports cars that had fellow cricketers let alone fans gasp in awe.

18 Hugh Heffner

At one stage Gibbs may have thought he resembled the Playboy mansion’s owner as he had a different woman on his arm at every social occasion.

19 Ya mahn!

Like the true rock star that he was, it was inevitable that Gibbs would get involved in some form of drugs scandal. It just happened to be on a tour to the West Indies when Gibbs, along with a few other Proteas, were reported for smoking dagga in the Caribbean by fellow teammate Daryll Cullinan.

20 Generosity

Gibbs never hesitated to help anyone in need, often to his own detriment as he had a long list of “friends” who were only there for the good times.

21 The People’s Champion

Equally, he would never turn down a request from a fan young or old for a picture or autograph. The Newlands groundstaff also looked forward to Christmas with extra excitement because that’s when Gibbs would dish out the presents.

22 Hat-trick

Gibbs smashed three consecutive ODI centuries in 2002, and would have had a record-breaking fourth had Bangladeshi leg-break bowler not delivered five wides to leave Gibbs stranded on 97 not out.

23 Headingley CWC99

The epic Cricket World Cup tie may be infamous for Gibbs’ dropped catch prompting Steve Waugh to say ‘You just dropped the World Cup mate’, but he had earlier struck a brilliant 111 against the high-quality Australian attack.

24 Edgbaston CWC99

A few days later it required the real ‘Ball of the Century’ from Shane Warne to dismiss Gibbs just when he looked to be winning the World Cup semi-final on his own.

25 Nagpur 2000

This was the match where Gibbs was instructed to underperform. But he had actually forgotten how much he needed to be dismissed before and instead struck a rollicking 74 off just 53 balls.

26 Indian summer

India’s tour to South Africa in 2001 saw Gibbs at his fluent best. A magnificent 196 in the final Test at St George’s Park rubber stamped a remarkable series in which he struck 316 runs.

27 Kangaroo hunter

Australia were at the peak of their powers in 2002. They manhandled the Proteas in the series Down Under before winning successive Test matches in South Africa. Gibbs broke the streak of defeats with a half-century and century in the second innings in the final Test in Durban.

28 World Cup maestro

He often kept his best for World Cups, unlike many of his Proteas teammates who bossed bilateral series. He struck a marvellous 143 against New Zealand in the home World Cup in 2003 at the Wanderers, and should have been on the winning side were it not for the rain and Stephen Fleming’s genius.

29 The J&B Met

The annual horse race in Cape Town attracts some of the most glamorous people in South Africa. Gibbs was always on the ‘A list’ and his outlandish outfits would be splashed in the tabloids for days afterwards.

30 The shiny bald head

Many men are self-conscious of losing their hair, but Gibbs turned it into a fashion statement when he shaved his head clean early on with many men then following suit.

31 New Year

A time to celebrate in Cape Town when South Africa’s most prestigious Test gets played. Gibbs delivered a cracker in 2003 when he scorched to 228 against Pakistan. He was only dismissed because he reportedly got bored!

32 English love affair

The 2003 tour of England belonged to a certain Graeme Smith, but Gibbs thrilled the English crowds too with 179 at Edgbaston and a further 183 at the Oval.

33 Lone matador

A sum total of 259 runs (161 and 98) in the Test could not prevent England from winning their first series on South African soil in 2005 since readmission at the Bullring. It was also Gibbs’ last Test century.

34 BIff’s sidekick

With Graeme Smith at the other end, they formed the only opening pair to record more than one 300-plus stands in Test cricket - they did it thrice.

35 March 12, 2006

It is on this day that Gibbs’ legacy was enshrined. It was on this fateful day that he struck 175 off only 111 balls, which helped the Proteas’ chase down a record 434 against Australia at the Wanderers. It will forever be remembered at “The 438 Game”.

36 Puma soccer boots

The sports brand has been his sponsor for the longest time and even provided him an earring in the shape of the Puma once. But nothing could beat the luminous soccer boots they gave Gibbs to field in at backward point that others soon tried to replicate.

37 Six of the Best No 1

Gibbs became the first batter in ODI cricket to smash six sixes in one over. He charged down the track and hoicked it over long on for the first.

38 Six of the Best No 2

Floated on the leg and middle stump line and Gibbs sent it soaring over long-off.

39 Six of the Best No 3

Flatter one this time but it makes no difference to Gibbs. He just stood there and delivered.

40 Six of the Best No 4

Low full toss and guess and Gibbs slog swept it over deep midwicket!

41 Six of the Best No 5

Short in length, on the off stump line and Gibbs swat-pulled it over wide long off

42 Six of the Best No 6!

A new world record! Joined Sir Garry Sobers and Ravi Shastri, but nobody had yet done it in international cricket. Daan van Bunge is the unlucky bowler who will always be remembered for being smashed for six sixes in one over by Gibbs.

43 The keys to the islands

Prime Minister Denzil Douglas awarded Gibbs honorary citizenship of St Kitts and Nevis after his six-hitting exploits at Warner Park.

44 Bring on T20!

The creation of the shortest format was tailor made for Gibbs’ extraordinary talents. He also showed that he was the ultimate showman able to perform on the biggest of stages when the lights were at its brightest. He outshone even the West Indies’ ‘Universe Boss’ Chris Gayle in the opening game of the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007 when his 90 not out off 55 balls powered the Proteas home.

45 Goodbye St George’s

Gibbs struck his first and final ODI century before his beloved people in Gqeberha in 2009.

46 IPL champion

The glitz and glamour of the IPL fitted Gibbs like a glove and he played for various teams, but there was none better than the now defunct Deccan Chargers. Along with his good mate, the now deceased Andrew Symonds, they led the Chargers to the IPL in South Africa in 2009.

47 To The Point

For someone that prided himself on never having read a book in his life, Gibbs published one of the all-time tell-all sport autobiographies. It ultimately led to the premature ending of his international career, but he lifted the lid on a number of issues within South African cricket.

48 #Herschybru

Never afraid to speak his mind, Gibbs has found a new lease of life on social media now that he is retired. He often provides frank opinions when everyone else is side-stepping an issue.

49 Rashard

The tattoo on Gibbs’ right forearm is not just a nifty piece of artwork, but the devotion and love he shares for his eldest son.

50 Happiness at last

Gibbs has been through his fair deal of love life trauma - often self inflicted - but he seems to have finally found happiness after proposing to girlfriend Dana Németh in January this year.