‘Legend’ killed in R300 crash

Clifford Cliffie Etzebeth.

Family and friends are struggling to come to terms with the death of former Western Province rugby player and renowned wrestler Clifford “Cliffie” Etzebeth.

Mr Etzebeth died after his bakkie overturned on the N1 near the R300 in Brackenfell on Sunday July 22.

The Goodwood Wrestling Club paid tribute to him on its Facebook page, calling him a “legend” and describing how he had touched the lives of many.

The post was met with a flood of responses hailing Mr Etzebeth as great man who would be long remembered.

The club’s chairman, Hayden Abrahams, said he was deeply saddened by Mr Etzebeth’s death.

“We are all saddened by the death of Clifford, known as Oom Cliffie, and the pain is still raw in our hearts.”

Mr Abrahams said he had been student of Mr Etzebeth’s 18 years ago.

He had won many medals under his leadership and had continued to learn from him up until his death.

“He was the father figure on the wrestling mat and president of the wrestling club. He always put in endless time and efforts to accomplish greatness” he said.

He described Mr Etzebeth as a big built and strong-willed man but with a big heart.

“He was big built with solid hands. When we shook hands, his hands were so big, mine would disappear in his. When looking at Oom Cliffie, you would think of him hurting you but getting to know him, he had such a soft and big heart.

“When he walked into the wrestling room, he had this thing about him that would make all of us train faster and harder, he was really someone we all looked up to.”

Caroline Smith, Mr Etzebeth’s second eldest daughter, struggled to hold back the tears as she spoke about her father.

“He was a gentle giant; we never knew he was as well known up till now.”

She burst out crying then said, “It is a difficult time for the family, my father was a very good man. He would go out of his way to make sure everyone was looked after.”

Mr Etzebeth was well known to the wrestlers and fans and was said to have brought home gold medals till age 62.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s he played rugby for Western Province Rugby and was also the uncle of Springbok rugby player Eben Etzebeth.

Mr Etzebeth leaves behind his wife, three daughters, two sons and a mother who is 92 years old.

ER24 spokesman Russel Meiring said paramedics had arrived shortly after 1pm to find the bakkie on its roof on an embankment. It had crashed into a roadside barrier.

Mr Etzebeth was removed from the vehicle but was declared dead at the scene.