It’s Michaelhouse vs Hilton College on Saturday – here are the 1996/97 matches in the words of 96/97 Michaelhouse head boy first XV flank and captain Ben Parham, when Men of House won 3 from 3. Hopefully many of you will share this with like-minded friends.
Feature image: Captain Ben Parham and the magnificent Michaelhouse first XV of 1997.
“Jono, it’s good to hear from you after many years… and what a privilege it is to be asked to reminisce about such a special and influential time of my life.
“Andy Vincent (Vinno) took over the first team coaching role in 1995. And was a fierce competitor and expected the same of his squad.
“Vinno played in-form players over historical performance, and was not afraid to let you know if your game was not up to scratch.
“He created a squad that would do absolutely anything for each other… He created ‘brothers-in-arms’.
“1996 was the Michaelhouse centenary year, and the boys were tasked with making it a highlight in the school’s history.
“Rugby was the showpony, and the pressure was on House to overturn a record 6 straight defeats against Hilton College, spanning from 1993-1995.
“If there is one rule about the Hilton/Michaelhouse sporting derbies, it is that there is no such thing as an underdog.
“Names on paper mean absolutely nothing on this occasion, because love, passion and a desire to be swamped by 500 like-minded ‘brothers’ is far stronger than a player with exceptional skill and flair.”
1996 Michaelhouse first XV
1) Henk Diederichs
2) Luke Flemington
3) Mike Fell
4) Wayne Lister-James
5) Brian Dalton
6) Richard Parks
7) Ben Parham
8) Gary Laue
9) JP Coppez
10) Andrew Caldwell
11) Simon Bridges / Euan Dixon-Smith
12) Justin Sage / Simon Bothner
13) Dino Papadopoulos
14) James Le Cordeur
15) Choppies (Emile) Marais
“In June 1996, Michaelhouse were the form team, coming into the match at Hilton’s Gilfillan Field on the back of 18 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss… However, three of our most experienced players were not available for selection, but as mentioned, during a derby, history and form mean nothing.
“It was a day of big boots and tough forward battles in what was a hard-fought match, and neither team managed to open a gap on the scoreboard.
“The flyhalves, Andrew Caldwell (MHS) and Grant Gove (Hilton) used their big boots to alleviate the pressure as soon as one team charged into the other team’s 22-metre area.
“Hilton took an 8-3 lead into half-time and Vinno didn’t need to say too much to us. We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we knew what to do. The forward pack, from prop to number 8, covered the pitch and rumbled forward.
“Mike Fell, steered by Wayne Lister-James, crossed the line from a maul. Justin Sage converted to give Michaelhouse a slender 10-8 lead with 20 minutes to play.
“Each team took advantage of a penalty and even though Hilton pressed hard for a try in the dying moments, Michaelhouse narrowly held out for a 13-11 victory… and the hoodoo was broken.
“It was game-on for the August return match at Meadows. Unfortunately the match was never to be… Hilton came down with a very serious flu bug which affected most of the school and the return derby was cancelled.
1997 Michaelhouse first XV
1) Marc Larsen / Gavin Erasmus
2) Thomas Modinger
3) Alex Akron
4) Guy Slater
5) John Delport
6) Angus Martyn
7) Ben Parham
8) Barry Jacobsz
9) John Harris
10) James Carmichael
11) Jackal Tshikosi
12) Attie Geldenhuys
13) Simon Greyvensteyn
14) James Le Cordeur
15) Jason McCormick
“The Michaelhouse 1997 team grabbed the baton from day one.
“This team ‘gelled’ like no other team that I had been part of. These were big characters and with some incredible individual skill.
“We came into the first Hilton Michaelhouse match on Meadows in a confident mood – on the back of 19 wins and 1 very narrow loss (19-20) away against Maritzburg College.
“We had scored over 700 points and only conceded 220 points. This team did not need to ask for directions to the try-line.
“The first match in 1997 was an open game.
“Both teams spread the ball wide and it was beautiful open running rugby. John Harris, Jackal Tshikosi, Barry Jacobsz and Simon Greyvensteyn all shone, and Michaelhouse grabbed a 32-24 victory.
“The August return match was at Hilton’s Gilfillan Field. There was a buzz around the school all week as this the first-ever televised Hilton Michaelhouse derby.
The spirit in the camp was high and confidence was reaching complacency levels. There was a very large crowd engulfing Gilfillan. It was a quiet first 10 minutes with too many errors.
“Hilton’s left wing, Muzi Tembe, scored the opener after flying around the outside; this after fullback Andrew Richmond joined the line and created an overlap.
“I pulled the team together but did not have to say much.
“Just a quiet reminder about how much this meant. It was our very last match in the Red & White… selfishly; this one was for ‘us’!
Soon after that, fullback Jason McCormick took a gap created by outside centre Simon Greyvensteyn. McCormick let winger James Le Cordeur loose down the right and he popped it back inside for flanker Angus Martyn to score.
James Carmichael popped it over for a slender 7-5 half time lead. We knew we had a lot left in the tank. The final 30 minutes of our Michaelhouse rugby careers was memorable.
We scored another two tries, myself and James Le Cordeur going over in the right-hand corner, both very well converted by James Carmichael.
“Our flyhalf Carmichael added another penalty and Michaelhouse closed out the match 24-5.
“The Hilton Michaelhouse derby days were not easy.
“The Hilton and Michaelhouse players spent a lot of time together at several events and became good friends off the field, but on the field, with pride at stake, those friendships were put on hold.
“To this day I still have some very close friends who wore the Fleur de Lys while we donned the St Michael’s cross with equal pride.
“I’m still in contact with most of my team-mates from those days. I still treasure my Michaelhouse days like no other period of my life. The bonds and friendships forged during that time are life-long.
“I may not chat to my school friends on a weekly basis as I live in Abu Dhabi, but I have regular contact with them via social media and I see them when we visit South Africa.
“There is something so powerful about the friendship and support bonds forged at an all-boys boarding school, which are almost totally unexplainable to someone who has never experienced it.
“Spending every waking moment together makes you open your mind and heart to the needs of those around you.
“With that bond comes the passion displayed across all events in which the boys represent the school, be it sport, music, academics or stage productions… and Michaelhouse was certainly no exception.”
Thanks Ben. I felt like I was at the matches! Your detailed memory of those matches all of 22 and 23 years ago is quite remarkable.
It is what I have noticed when asking similar questions to Old Boys of the KZN10 schools. And such detail pays homage to the fortunate few who are so privileged to be part of something so special.
Wonderful to hear from you and may the best team win on Meadows Saturday, the arena of which you have so many unforgettable memories.