Clive Rice's daughter, Jackie Gilmour, spoke at his funeral on Tuesday about the bittersweet advantages of having a trophy dad.

They'd be holidaying on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast, she said. As a teenage girl keen to meet members of the opposite sex, she'd spot a boy on the far side of the beach, and dad would be dragooned into accompanying her on a "walk" through the shallows, mom's offers of company quietly being brushed aside. They'd start out but no sooner had they left than dad would be door-stopped by Natal fans offering advice or wanting a quick chat. Then there were the "Vaalies", the so-called Transvaal supporters, the province Rice had just left; they too wanted their pound of flesh. Progress would be painfully slow. Eventually, after barely leaving the shadow of their umbrella, she'd realise that they'd never get far enough down the beach for her to show off Rice to a possible admirer. Such were the vexed joys of having "Ricey" for a dad.

Attended by several thousand mourners, including Kevin Pietersen, Barry Richards, Graeme Pollock, Pat Symcox, Gary Kirsten and Vince van der Bijl among a host of former cricketers, Rice's funeral was held in the chapel of St John's College in Houghton, his old school. A High Anglican service, with hymns, readings from the Bible, and tributes from his son, daughter and brothers, it was a sombre occasion but one softened by anecdotes about Rice the family man, the tone-deaf karaoke crooner and lifelong lover of wildlife and animals (including an uppity ostrich called Enver that used to live in the garden).

The most searching address came from the Reverend Tim Gray, whose sermon included several self-deprecating references to the fact that many years ago he was Rice's second XV scrumhalf at St John's. His service, admitted Gray, was frequently less than ideal, but Rice, running at flyhalf, never complained. Rice was tiny in his final year at school, only growing later, yet he always made do with Gray's iffy, somewhat speculative passes.

It was a stoicism refined while growing up in the Johannesburg suburb of Sandringham in the late fifties and early sixties, battling the infamous "Orange Grove Gang" and fighting a low-scale guerrilla war with Stinky de Beer, the neighbour who refused to return the many cricket and tennis balls that found their way into his garden from the Rice family yard.

Mother Teresa's prayer was read before Gray's sermon and Gray made much of the famous image of Rice kneeling before her during a visit to Kolkata on the South Africans' first readmission tour to India in 1991. He sensed that Rice was humbled by her selflessness and possibly overwhelmed by the sense of occasion. There was more to the man, intimated Gray, than the growly, hyper-competitive allrounder who nearly played Test cricket at both the beginning and end of his career but tantalisingly missed out as both a young and an older man.

Rice's death has struck a surprisingly raw nerve here in South Africa. For some, he did not make a consistent or a sufficient enough stand against apartheid, although it was pointed out by his younger brother, John, that he was part of the famous walk-off at Newlands in the 1970s, a protest against the government's continued commitment to fundamentalist race politics.

Rice was no ideologue, it is true, and he was no political sophisticate. Having battled to get where he got as one of the tiniest boys in his matric class, he couldn't abide the endless compromises demanded by politics, and anything other than merit selection was, to him, abhorrent.

For others he has become the symbol of an age forgotten - and one dealt with by pretending it never existed by the current power brokers and political elite. Tellingly, after having saluted Rice last week as "our first captain", Cricket South Africa's recently re-elected chief executive Haroon Lorgat was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Andy O'Connor, a member of the board, was sent in an official capacity.

While Rice was no political firebrand - and was probably a man, finally, of the status quo - it didn't mean that his deeds didn't reach some interesting places. It was revealed at the funeral, for example, that he was one of Nelson Mandela's favourite cricketers, and that Madiba used to listen to details of Rice's heroics on the radio while in prison on Robben Island.

It was also revealed at the funeral that Rice received offers while in his pomp to play for England, Australia and New Zealand. Unlike others, they were offers he never accepted. Playing for South Africa was what he always wanted and other than three hastily arranged one-day internationals in 1991, he never had an opportunity to strut his stuff where it mattered most. Such lack of official opportunity probably coloured his judgement to an unnecessary degree.

Luke Alfred is a journalist based in Johannesburg