WHEN asked about the Michaelhouse first XV vs Maritzburg College match circa 1993 it was like House flyhalf Sandile Koza had played in it yesterday… yet it was a full quarter of a century ago. Here on Meadows as I write, we are just 35 minutes away from Game Time 2018.
“Thanks Jono,” says Sandile, “for asking me about a day I will never, ever, forget… the day we beat the ‘unbeatables’… what was touted to be one of the best sides ever produced by Maritzburg College – comprising of revered players like Clint Bruyns and Matt Frank, on Goldstones, in 1993.|
“In the 1993 rugby season only two 1st XV teams remained unbeaten in the local KZN schools rugby calendar. It was MHS and Maritzburg College.
“MHS had a few close encounters in which we ultimately emerged victorious, whilst that 93 Maritzburg College side absolutely demolished everyone in their path. Just the previous weekend we had watched them, in preparation for our game, demolish Hilton 63-0.
“You could sense the nerves and tension in our camp from the end of the Thursday afternoon practice on Meadows, when we were well aware that this dreaded encounter was merely 48 hours away. We had an inspirational and great coach in Garth ‘Gilo’ Giles who completely believed we could defeat this talent-filled College team on their formidable home ground… Goldstones…
“What stands out the most for me on that day was the sheer intimidation before the game, brought on by the size of the crowd who had gathered at Goldstones that afternoon. I was informed years later by my then business partner, that there were an estimated 10 000 people who came to watch that game. A record for school rugby attendance at the time.|
“The second moment that sticks in my mind vividly to this day was the smell of tiger balm that hung in the air in the change room as we were about to run onto Goldstones with coach Gilo shouting at the top of his voice as we approached the change room doors, ‘Your Blood is Red and White!!!!’
“We had a bit of a defence game plan in the first half as Gilo had instructed us to keep them going backwards. ‘Sandles my boy just keep kicking those low balls over their heads and chase. They don’t like that.’
“I was playing at flyhalf against Clint Bruyns – a very short yet cunning and skilled attacker – who had played Natal Schools for the two years prior. I can’t recall the score at half-time. But we had managed to keep the game tight and were only a few points behind.
“The second half was also a scorcher. Our fitness levels helped us maintain the momentum and I believe ultimately was the game decider. With the time almost up on the clock and College leading 11-7 (tries were 4 points then) I broke blind and passed to our right winger, Ed Frey.
“With limited space to manoeuvre Ed kicked the ball down into the College 22 and it landed in the dead ball area. As the College fullback walked nonchalantly towards the ball and proceeded to kick the ball over the dead ball line – as we chased on in desperation – the feeling had sunk in that we had lost this one.
“As gallantly as we had fought, they (the Red, Black and White) were just way better than us. To my surprise the referee called a 5-metre scrum to Michaelhouse as he said there was another 30 seconds on his clock.
“ ‘Michaelhouse ball!’ was the ref’s call. We scrummed, dominated the scrum and I cringed – being the over-eager backline player who thought that, as the backs, we should take it home for the team – when the ball landed under our open-side flanker Steve Macquet’s feet and I saw him pick it up and charge…
“Steve had made the right call and he bulldozed the College defence and dotted down the ball for a try. It was an unbelievable feeling! It was now 11-11. We had not won, but I was happy with a draw against this side on Goldstones… Any day!
“The ball was thrown to me as the place-kicker and a senior player… I couldn’t. I simply couldn’t, and called on Gordon Homer ‘Home Boy’, our fullback – who was also a year younger – to take the kick for the win.
“As cool as a cucumber ‘Home Boy’ slotted that ball right between the horns. The referee blew the final whistle. The picture tells the rest of the story. Wow. What a day, what a moment. Our blood was red and white indeed! More especially, we made Gilo the happiest coach in the world.
“Thanks Jono, hope this was what you were looking for…”
Indeed, yes indeed, Sandles… What an evocative description – I felt as if I was at the game, watching the game. On behalf of KZN10.com I say thank you, thank you Squire… You are an Officer and a Gentleman.
Featured image: Sandles with arms aloft is fully into the Michaelhouse celebrations after a famous win on Goldstones 25 years ago.