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No Excess For Dev – Just A Race At A Time!

New talent in the Cape commentary box

A brand new voice in the Cape commentary box, 21 year old Devon Pretorius is determined to make a success of the challenges behind the mic as he walks in the giant footsteps of seasoned veterans Jehan Malherbe and Rouvaun Smit.

“The lad has potential,” concedes the Cape’s ‘Golden Voice’ Rouvaun Smit after Devon politely introduced himself to the Sporting Post team at a sun-drenched Hollywoodbets Kenilworth on Saturday. Looking at him, he is a ringer for his Mom, Carolyn.

Dev and his Mum, Carolyn

To break the ice, we wanted to know his nick name.

“I have always been ‘Dev’, which is quite unimaginative, I suppose. At school I was called ‘Tom Cruise’ for a while – that’s after the rugby guys went to see Top Gun. I quite liked it, but it sadly never really stuck!” he laughs.

We can all do imitations, so we asked if ‘Dev aka Tom Cruise’ copies or mimicks existing commentators. After all, we have a variety of styles from the legendary Bumpie Schoeman to Alistair Cohen, and even Brandon Bailey. We have our favourites and all are very, very different!

“I really don’t try and copy directly from existing commentators and am determined to not become a ‘copycat’ version of any of them. I’d like to try and build my own unique style of calling and I really hope that someday I can join the ranks of the legendary SA commentators. One has to aim high!”

When taxed about his work commitments, the Wynberg Boys High School graduate explains that he currently only calls a few races a meeting, while employed in the Racing Operations team alongside Justin Vermaak and Theresa Esplin during the week.

“The work is really interesting, as I have learnt so many new and different aspects of racing that one would not actually see or hear about in the normal course of events. But commentating is definitely my first love and passion, and with every call I am starting to become a little more confident – especially with the guidance and support of the senior commentators,” he adds.

Dev poses for our photographer at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

Devon is very aware that he is not the finished product yet. “But I really hope I can continue to improve as I still have a long way to go. It was great to be a part of the big day back at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth on Saturday,” he observes with youthful enthusiasm.

“Those weren’t my first at the Southern Suburbs track. I called two races at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth in August just before racing returned to Hollywoodbets Durbanville. Hollywoodbets Kenilworth is definitely ‘slower’,  whereas at Fairview and Hollywoodbets Durbanville the runners absolutely fly home from all different directions! This difference has actually helped me in understanding the tempo of a race-call for different tracks.”

We asked him if he got butterflies and started sweating as the field was loading – after all, it’s a nerve wracking job for a relative newbie.

“I don’t really get nerves, to be honest. I have always dealt with pressure quite well, and when there is a job to be done, especially commentating, your focus and concentration levels are so high that you don’t worry about the distractions or smaller things that can throw you off.”

Has he experienced any nightmare moments in his short career so far?

“My worst moment probably came in Gqeberha. It must have been my fifth call, and as they were loading my mind hit a complete blank and I couldn’t tell the difference between the silks, what colour was what, the names of the runners – and I couldn’t read or make out any words! This was quite a scary moment. But I never said anything on air. I just turned off the mic, took very deep breaths, and thankfully everything came back as soon as the gates opened and I called the race like I normally do,” he laughs with obvious relief.

Devon says that a few months later, a similar thing happened in the office.

“I actually had a seizure and had to be taken to hospital. I think Justin Vermaak’s face is still white after seeing what happened. I found out I actually have epilepsy and this weird moment that happened was actually the build up to a seizure. Thankfully I’m on medication now and have never come close to that feeling again.”

Dev and Dad Neil at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth

Devon was born and raised in Cape Town where he grew up in two households.

He explains. “The one being with my Dad Neil and the other with my Mom Carolyn, sister and step-dad.”

It was up to the age of 12, and while with his Dad Neil, a dedicated racing fan and well-known racing television personality, that most mornings he would visit the stables before school. That is where his love for racing found its first seeds. Neil owned a few decent horses in his time – the good stayer Hautcar is one that springs to mind.

“Being with the horses, feeding them carrots and making sure I said hello to each horse just so none of them felt left out, was a daily routine. The best for me was actually going to the races where the adrenaline rush and excitement is second to none, and where the so called ‘bug’ for the game bit me.”

In the mould of his former schoolteacher Dad, a talented and something of a fanatical sportsman, Devon excelled at rugby and cricket.

“I was a student at  Wynberg Boys High School and stayed in the hostel for 5 years. If you ever visit the school please do not look for my name on the ‘Academic Of The Year’ honours board as it is definitely not there! One of the main reasons I wanted to attend Wynberg Boys High School was actually to focus on cricket due to the fact that it is the alma mater of Jacques Kallis.”

First team captain Dev puts another penalty away

But there was an obstacle in the road. In his first year at Wynberg, Devon’s eyesight took a bad turn,  which forced him to change direction and pursue a sport where he didn’t have to squint to see the ball flying past his head.

“My cricket actually dropped so badly that I eventually went from being a decent bowler to playing wicket-keeper in the space of a few months! I only started playing rugby in grade 8, but fortunately being a natural sportsman I really picked up on it quite quickly and eventually ended up playing for the 1st XV in grade 11 and captaining the team in my matric year. After high school I played for the Griquas U21 side in Kimberley, and also played in Poland for a few months before picking up quite a serious ankle injury. That was the final straw and I decided to pursue commentating instead!”

Devon is charmingly self-deprecating and has a keen sense of humour – which should help him as he develops his career in a sport that can lift one up, but also drag you down and spit you out.

He smiles and tells that away from racing he finds peace and enjoyment in his love of music – ‘but nothing after 2000’.

Dev in his Michael Hutchence days!

“My entire playlist is only made up of 70’s, 80’s and 90’s music and I am a huge fan of Aussie rock band INXS, which is a really underrated outfit in my opinion. At one stage, I even grew my hair out to try and look like the late lead singer Michael Hutchence! That wasn’t my best moment in life, but one lives and learns! I thought I pulled it off but according to everyone else, that certainly wasn’t the case. I also prefer movies to series, I try to stay fit and active in the gym or even playing 5’s football on a Sunday.”

For those readers who don’t know INXS:

Good luck Dev – you’re cruising!

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5 comments on “No Excess For Dev – Just A Race At A Time!

  1. Cliffie Miller says:

    All the best boy we know you will make a success of this. Just believe in yourself

  2. Dawn Noland says:

    Really proud to know Dev.
    He’s a great guy.

  3. Rian Rix says:

    Well done to the proud families and Dev, sounds like the real deal and all the best

  4. Jens Höptner says:

    I was very happy to read this, Dev!
    Exactly: “Believe in yourself”.
    The last few years have certainly not been easy in SA, but you are on the right track.
    Greetings from Germany!
    Jens

  5. Barry Dunnett says:

    I do enjoy your style of commentating Dev. My very best wishes

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