Early on the morning of June 1 2002, Frans Cronje received a phone call from his cousin. "She said, 'Do you know Hansie's plane has gone missing?' I said, 'No, I didn't even know he was on a plane.'"

With tears in his eyes, Frans recalls learning that his younger brother, the former South African Test cricket captain, had been killed, aged 32. After the initial phone call, Frans got in his car to drive the four hours from Stellenbosch to George, where Hansie lived and had been due to fly to. As soon as he sat down, Frans's mobile phone – an old Nokia 9210 with a pullout aerial – buzzed. It was a journalist: "We hear Hansie is dead – what have you got to say about it?"

Frans reasoned that the journalist could not possibly know the truth, and continued driving. As he did so, Frans was on the phone constantly; to his parents; his wife; his sister; Hansie's wife, Bertha; and the owner of the courier company whose plane Hansie had flown on. Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock were among Hansie's friends to call Frans and ask him for the latest.

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Halfway through his journey, Frans got a call from the owner of the courier company. "He said they'd got confirmation everybody died – it was just the two pilots and Hansie. Everybody was dead."

Frans broke down crying, yet continued on his way, while calling the family: the parents, their sister and, finally, Bertha – with the terrible news. "When I called my mum, someone had called her two minutes prior to that saying Hansie was fine, the plane had landed and Hansie was fine. So, she just cried, 'My son, my son'."

The plane crashed because of fierce wind and rain that forced it into the mountain range. By the time Frans arrived at George, about six hours after the crash, "it was beautiful sunshine".

Growing up, the Cronje brothers, like the whole family, were sustained by two planks: faith and sport. "We played a lot of cricket and rugby and golf and everything in the backyard," Frans recalls. So obsessed were the boys with sport that their sister once paid them to talk about something else over Sunday lunch. "It was quiet for two minutes and then we spoke about sport again."

Frans was a fine cricketer himself, enjoying a solid first-class career in South Africa. But Hansie, two years his junior, always stood out, both for his sporting abilities and leadership. At Grey College, the most famous sports school in South Africa, Hansie was captain of both the cricket and rugby sides. He captained South Africa for the first time aged 24. Over 53 Tests and 138 one-day internationals as South Africa captain, he became, "one of the most influential, loved people in South Africa", Frans remembers.

All of this changed in April 2000, when allegations of Cronje being involved in match-fixing surfaced. "I never once thought, not even remotely, that he would have done anything wrong," Frans recalls.

This belief was destroyed a few days later. Frans received a call from Pastor Ray McCauley, Hansie's spiritual confidant, telling him that he had just received a fax from Hansie confessing that he had accepted money from bookmakers for corruption. A few hours later, Frans and McCauley met Hansie at Cape Town airport.

"It was crazy, absolutely crazy. I never expected it. The only one thing that he said over and over and over was how sorry he was. He really felt he let us as a family down, he felt he let South Africans down, he felt he let Christians down, he felt he let God down."

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Hansie immediately resigned as captain, declaring that he would never play again. He and the family assumed that the whole process would be swift, and over in a fortnight. Instead, the King Commission inquiry dragged on for months, and Cronje received a life ban from being involved in cricket in any capacity by the South African board. The fabric of Hansie's life was shattered.

"For six to nine months after the King Commission he didn't really leave his house," Frans recalls. "The only thing that he did was look at the news or read the papers. And the papers were very critical of him so his view was, 'I'm an a-----e now and everybody hates me'."

For the family, the suffering was "tremendous", Frans says. "There was never one moment where we felt let down by him – he thought that and people might have thought that. Neither me nor my sister nor my parents were ever angry at him. Never."

Hansie gained considerable weight, and suffered from "serious" depression. "He just couldn't forgive himself. He didn't have a gripe with anybody except himself. He knew he had a big responsibility and he knew what a role model he was. And he also genuinely loved God. He wanted to live right in the sight of God.

"It was probably harder on us as a family than his death to see him suffer that much and go through that," Frans remembers. "I felt that my biggest role was to support him and for him to realise that everybody makes mistakes. Life is not about if you're going to make mistakes or not. Life is about when you make mistakes, can you get up? How do you fix it?"

Frans is adamant that the King Commission revealed everything about his brother's involvement with corruption. He accepts, and condemns, what has been revealed, but maintains that – as his brother said – Hansie never actually lost a match deliberately.

Frans tells a story of playing a game of mini-golf with Hansie, their sister and their partners. The game was meant to be social fun – only, in the Cronje household, sport could never simply be fun. "My wife was so cross that she didn't talk to me for two weeks because we took it seriously. That's how much he hated losing. He couldn't even lose playing mini-golf.

"If anyone ever tells you that he threw a match for money, that's absolute rubbish – I still believe that to this day. It's my opinion, there could be different opinions."

Bookmakers, Frans suggests, leaked details about Hansie's involvement in corruption in anger after Herschelle Gibbs and Henry Williams initially agreed to underperform for money in a one-day international in India, but neither followed through. "My theory is that because they won the match there the bookies then wanted to try and teach him a lesson and leaked the information to the police."

Frans has several theories as to why his brother accepted money from bookmakers. The relentless international circuit – "there was one year where he spent 28 days at home" – eroded Hansie's judgment. Hansie was also "an adventurous bloke – never scared of taking chances. And I think in the end the intrigue of the people speaking to him, the bookies speaking to him, might have got him interested".

Two weeks before Hansie was killed, Frans saw him for the last time.

Hansie had recently got a job working in insurance for a truck company and had just done his first deal. Over dinner in a restaurant, Frans found that Hansie had shed his self-loathing, and the extra pounds, too.

"For the first time, he actually walked with a smile into the restaurant, not shy. He always had confidence and so he looked like he'd got his confidence back."

This is how Frans remembers his brother. "He was ready to rebuild his life," he says. "It was like – boom you just get out of it. At least I knew he was in a good space before he passed away."

Frans, who became a film-maker, channelled his grief into directing a film about his brother. "Sometimes we get inspired telling stories of people who've made mistakes. There are more lessons in people who make mistakes and learn from them then."

He is working on a documentary about the 1994 elections in South Africa, which marked the end of apartheid, hoping that it can provide some lessons to help the country out of its political tumult today. "If we can learn from history we can get better as a society. Unfortunately we tend not to learn from history and make the same mistakes over and over."

Two decades on from the tainted Centurion Test, and 17 years after his death, Frans's loyalty and love for his brother remains undimmed. He is "at peace" with Hansie's life, death and complex legacy.

"Hansie was perfectly fit and young when he died at 32. So we don't know. The main lesson is live life today and enjoy today. And, also, if you've done wrong correct it today – don't leave it for tomorrow.

"Add to society and community and make it better rather than make it worse and Hansie really made life better for so many people. For 32 years he made a difference. He made a difference while he was at school, he became South African captain at a young age, he really made a difference. It's actually amazing that he was only 32 when he died because he'd accomplished so much by that age already."

If they do meet again in a higher place, Frans's first words will be "We won the Rugby World Cup for the third time," he laughs. "I don't know what conversations are like there... but I'm convinced we'll see each other again."