In 1932, Brakpan and Sub Nigel were playing in the first league for the Mangena Cup, while Brakpan East were in the second division. By 1937 there were more than 50 black clubs in the area between Randfontein and Nigel and the Transvaal Coloured Cricket Union featured a team from Pretoria – Brotherly United – as one of the six affiliates that competed for the Shahabodien Cup.
The 1940s saw the formation of the North-Eastern Transvaal African Board and they won the Transvaal Inter-Race Trophy in 1952/53 as well as their interprovincial tournament in 1953/54 and 1954/55. By then the North-Eastern Transvaal Bantu Cricket Union, the Eastern Transvaal Indian and Coloured Cricket Association, the Eastern Transvaal Indian Cricket Union and the Northern Transvaal Indian Cricket Union were all playing under the auspices of the Johannesburg Inter-Race Board.
If there was one person who epitomised the strength of black cricket in those days, it was Julius ‘Genius’ Mahanjana of North-Eastern Transvaal, who captained the national African team from 1955-1958. Born in Middledrift, in the heartland of Black African cricket in the Eastern Cape, he grew up at Modder B in Benoni, where his father worked. Julius excelled in all sports and his brothers Justin and Japhta also played for the national team.
The name Mahanjana actually entered into the local cricketing lexicon thanks to Japhtha ‘Super’ Mahanjana, who salvaged a famous draw for Natal against his brother Julius’s North-Eastern Transvaal side in the IPT in December 1956 in Port Elizabeth. Natal were set 245 to win in four hours, but a draw would deny North-Eastern Transvaal a place in the final and ‘Super’ Mahanjana opened the batting and batted through to secure the draw. He usually used to change to a long-handled bat once he was set at the crease, but on that occasion he stuck with the short handle to sum up his defiant mood. The saying Yi draw Mahanjana,“It is a Mahanjana draw”, comes from that day.
Their star contemporaries were batsman Eric Fihla and the fast bowling pair of Gidi and Mashinqana.
But the oppression of Apartheid and forced removals was starting to gather momentum and black cricket became isolated and fragmented. Places such as Hammanskraal, Mamelodi, Marabastad, Atteridgeville, Soshanguve and Eersterus would become the homes of the game in the black community.
The end of Apartheid and the unity process would bring cricketers from all those places back into the fold and the likes of Nqaba Matoti, Ernest Mokoenenyane and the Mokonyamas were the trailblazers who appeared in provincial cricket for Northerns in the 1990s.