St John’s College was established in 1898 as a choir school for St Mary’s Anglican Church in Eloff Street, Johannesburg. St John’s boys played cricket from the very outset. A picture, taken in the Michaelmas Term of 1898, of the “first College Group” – a collection of about 30 boys and two bicycles – confirms that cricket was a preferred diversion among the College’s initial pupils: no fewer than three cricket bats are on display in the photograph. The school moved from downtown Johannesburg to its picturesque site on Houghton ridge in 1907.
In the early years of the school’s existence, College teams (which included masters) participated in various senior leagues of the Transvaal Cricket Union. The first St John’s cricketer to be selected to play for Transvaal in the Currie Cup competition was Bertram Floquet, who made his first-class debut in 1903, while he was still at school. The first Old Johannian to play Test cricket was JW “Billy” Zulch, who made his international debut for South Africa against MCC at the Wanderers in January 1910. He recorded his maiden Test century (105) in the third Test against Australia at the Adelaide Oval in January 1911, followed by a score of 150 in the fifth Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Apart from Zulch, the Old Johannians who have played for South Africa are: Neville Lindsay, Bruce Mitchell (who played 42 Test matches and who was described as “the Donald Bradman of South Africa”), Ronnie Grieveson, Owen Wynne, Russell Endean, Clive Rice and Mike Rindel. More recent notable Old Johannian cricketers include: Matthew Street (Gauteng), Brett Tucker (Griqualand West and Eastern Province), Warren Swan (Boland, Cape Cobras and Gauteng), Jean Symes (Lions and Scotland), Omphile Ramela (Boland, Cape Cobras, Lions and South Africa “A”), Devon Conway (Dolphins, Lions and Wellington (New Zealand)), Wesley Coulentianos (Easterns), Bradley Dial (SA U19 and Gauteng), Ndumiso Mvelase (SA U19 and Gauteng), Conor McKerr (SA U19, Derbyshire and Surrey), and Farhaan Sayanvala (SA Schools and Gauteng).
St John’s plays most of its regular fixtures against King Edward VII School, Jeppe Boys’ High, Pretoria Boys’ High, Parktown Boys’ High, St David’s Marist Inanda, St Stithians and Affies. St John’s also has annual fixtures against Grey College and St Andrew’s School, and regularly participates in the Cape Schools Cricket Week.
St John’s College has five cricket grounds and an indoor cricket centre, staffed by professional coaches.