Herbert Hayton Castens was educated at Rugby School in Warwickshire, where the game of rugby allegedly originated. He played both cricket and rugby and was an outstanding sportsman. He was South Africa”²s first rugby captain, and also captain of the first South African cricket team to tour overseas. After completing his school career he studied Law at Oxford University. In 1887 he obtained full rugby colours at Oxford. As a student he represented Middlesex and the South of England on the rugby field. After completing his studies Castens returned to South Africa and started practising law in Cape Town.
Castens joined the Villagers Rugby Football Club, the second oldest rugby club in South Africa, situated in the southern suburbs of Cape Town. He was the first person to practise systematic coaching in South Africa with teams from the Diocesan College in Newlands. In 1890 Castens represented the Western Province cricket team at the fifth Champions Bat Tournament in Cape Town as opening batsman and wicket keeper. On Christmas Day he scored 165 runs in a match against Eastern province.
In 1891 Castens achieved a few unique feats on the rugby filed against the first ever British team to tour South Africa, captained by William MacLaglan, Castens was the referee for the touring team”²s first match against a combined team of Cape clubs. Two days later he was appointed manager for the Western province team.
When the team was announced for the first test at the Crusaders Cricket Ground on 30 July 1891, Castens was appointed captain, giving him the distinction of being the first played to lead the South African national rugby team. He played in the front row in his one and only test match.
His involvement in the tour did not end there as he refereed no fewer than six matches on the British itinerary: the first game against Cape Town Clubs at Newlands, against Port Elizabeth Clubs and Eastern Province at Port Elizabeth, against Cape Colony, and the third and final test at Newlands. He was also referee in the unofficial final game of the tour when the tourists played Stellenbosch, and played for Western Province and was appointed manager of the Western province team.
Regarding his cricket career, he represented Western Province when the union hosted the Champions bat Tournament at Newlands for the first time in December 1890/January 1891 (this was the forerunner to the Currie Cup Tournament). As an opening batsman, he scored 165 of the total of 409 runs against the Eastern Province. In addition, he was the Western Province wicket keeper.
In 1894, the year the South African Cricket Association was founded, he represented the Western Province at the fourth Currie Cup Cricket Tournament at Newlands, Cape Town, scoring 61 runs against Natal. Shortly afterwards, when the South African team to tour England was announced, Castens was made captain. He thus had the honour and the distinction of captaining the first South African international sides in both rugby and cricket. Apart from the score of 58 runs against Surrey, Castens”²batting on the tour did not reach great heights. The South Africans played against a few first-class countries, but no tests were played during this tour. Of the 24 games played, 12 were won, five lost and seven drawn. The highlight was winning the match at Lords by beating an MCC team that included the legendary English batsman, W.G. Grace. South Africa won this match dramatically by 11 runs.
Castens worked in the Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) government service for some years.
Prepared by L. Laubscher, freelance sports historian.
The new dictionary of South Africa biography Volume 2, Vista University, Pretoria, 1999.