It has been an encouraging start to the 2021 year for Maritzburg College rugby. The leading players in the age-group teams have, through the recent Fichardtpark festival in Bloemfontein, got to know one another in a series of three matches apiece and the building of team spirit and cohesion is going to stand them in good stead as the domestic season hopefully swings into action without unforeseen outside influences this coming Saturday.

After a 2020 schoolboy rugby year that never was, the very fact that the Maritzburg College boys and their teams have actually been able to go away, bond together, and play actual matches is the biggest winner by far.

 

 

The Maritzburg College U14 group won their 3 matches comfortably; the U15s had 2 close matches that were sure to provide them with much food for thought, plus a comfortable win; the U16s had 2 tight matches winning by 11 points in one match and going down by 9 points in the other, plus a comfortable win (this group have been also given much match evidence to work with).

 

 

The Maritzburg College 2nd XV registered 3 sets of wins over 1st teams, one by 4 points, one by 7 points and the other by 15 points – the implication is that they were thoroughly tested.

The Red Black and White’s first XV (feature pic) earned 2 wins by 18-point margins and the third by 19 points.

 

 

So a thoroughly deserved congratulations to Maritzburg College director of rugby Hein Kriek and his coaches and support staff across the age-groups plus, of course, the boys themselves. Good on you. Very well done guys. It appears that a solid base had been put in place.

Wishing strength to build upon strength across the board as Maritzburg College rugby ventures further into 2021.

 

 

MARITZBURG COLLEGE FICHARDTPARK FESTIVAL RESULTS

Day 1
U14 vs Welkom Gim 40-5
U15 vs Welkom Gim 42-5
U16 vs Grey College 17-26
2nd XV vs Sentraal 1st XV 28-24
1st XV vs Voortrekker Bethlehem 35-17

 

Maritzburg College left wing Josh Munn, son of Wayne, made his 1st XV debut in the Red Black and White premier team’s opening match in Bloem.

 

Day 2
1st XV vs Diamandveld 26-8
2nd XV vs HTS Louis Botha 29-14
U16 vs Noord Kaap 43-17
U15 vs Noord Kaap 17-16
U14 vs Noord Kaap 48-7

 

The Maritzburg College 1st XV jerseys ready and waiting as the team puts in final prep before kick-off.

 

Day 3
1st XV vs Duineveld 24-5
2nd XV vs Fichardtpark 1st XV 31-24
U16 vs Fichardtpark 28-17
U15 vs Grey College 14-17
U14 vs Fichardtpark 66-5

Information sourced from Maritzburg College social media.

 

#RedBlackWhite
#GoCollege

 

And an encouraging resumption of my KZN10.com website and social media, as school sport returns – albeit without spectators – and Halfway Toyota Howick puts its support into assisting in keeping me alive. I urge you to join Brandon Brokensha and his outstanding Toyota dealership in backing me financially. I cannot do this alone. Contact me at joncookroy@gmail.com

The Glenwood first rugby team take on Monument at 7pm Saturday (24 April) in what is certain to be a fiercely contested affair between these two highly rated South African rugby schools.

It is the occasion of the Krugersdorp-based Monnas’ Centenary Rugby Tournament, sponsored by Blue Ribbon, and is sure to draw much interest from a schoolboy rugby-starved public. The matches will all be livestreamed so be sure to go to www.digitv.co.za and book your seat.

Next Monday, April 26, Glenwood firsts return to the Krugersdorp school’s Ras van Rooyen Field at 4pm in what is sure to be another bruising battle, this time against the Tzaneen, Limpopo-based Ben Vorster’s flagship team.

 

 

The Glenwood U16A side will also be at the Monument Centenary and they face Paarl Boys High at 2pm Saturday on the Jan Lange Field before tackling Monnas U16A at 2.30pm on Monday in the curtain-raiser to their first side’s match vs Ben Vorster.

Feature photo of Reinhard Jonker, Glenwood’s 2018 SA Schools centre. Jonker was the team-mate in that great Glenwood side that playmaker Jaden Hendrikse regularly turned to for on-field advice.

So as we look forward to how Glenwood do at Monnas this weekend, let’s look back to a snippet of my 2018 KZN10.com interview with Glenwood head coach and director of rugby Derek Heiberg who was talking about his outstanding 2018 side.

 

MORE THAN JUST A JOB: Glenwood first XV head coach Derek Heiberg and peers take the time to understand and counsel each player in their care.

 

Derek’s admirable rugby philosophy will hopefully be reflected in the performance of the Glenwood teams over the course of this weekend.

In the interview, I had pointed out to Derek that his 2018 team’s ability to convert territory, pressure and possession into points was most impressive.

Derek’s reply was illuminating: “We always want to play at a high intensity, so there is a huge focus on our conditioning. But the challenge comes in that while you are playing at a high intensity the players’ skill level needs to match the intensity that we want to play at.

“So for us, we have tried to narrow the gap – and as a result we have looked at training methods to ensure that we train at the required intensity to put the players in situations where their skills are under pressure … and then look at how they adapt to the situation and what are the decisions they make. This has aided us in converting more of the chances we create in a game.

 

Glenwood centre Conan le Fleur scores in the 2018 win against HTS Drostdy at Kearsney Easter Fest. Photo Tracey van den Aardweg. 

 

Let us hope that we see more of the same at Monnas over the weekend.

*****

Glenwood and Monument met in April 2019 and it was a tough outing on Dixons for the home side from Durban, who went down 48-11. It came on the back of previous years where Glenwood have held the upper hand in the win stakes.

That 48-11 Monnas win was pivoted around a superb performance from their then grade 11 flyhalf Herschelle Goodman, whose clever running and use of the boot forced Glenwood to place much of their focus on plugging the 10-12 channel, which opened the gaps out wide.

Dear reader, if you could give me the score in the 19 May 2018 match between Glenwood and home side Monument I would appreciate it. Any other results between the two would also be welcome.

And let’s take a look at that fantastic Glenwood first XV from 2018, which was published in KZN10.com on 15 May that year. There may well have been players going to elevated status during the course of the year.

* 2017 representation & current school grade as at May 2018

GLENWOOD FIRST XV

15 Reinard Jonker (Craven Week. Grade 12)
14 Jean Roux (Grade 12)
13 Conan Le Fleur (Craven Week & SA Schools. Grade 12)
12 JC Conradie (Grade 12)
11 Joe Jonas (Grade 11)
10 Dylan Pretorius (Craven Week. Grade 12)
9 Jaden Hendrikse (Craven Week & SA Schools. Grade 12)
8 George Luzolo (Academy Week. Grade 12)
7 Lindo Luthuli (Grade 12)
6 Runako Brynard (captain. Grade 12)
5 Werner Coetzee (Grade 12)
4 Lunga Ncube (Academy Week. Grade 12)
3 Thabiso Mdletshe (Craven Week. Grade 12)
2 Ruan Olivier (Grant Khomo Week. Grade 11)
1 Jordan Clarke (Craven Week & SA Schools. Grade 12)

Two previous Glenwood rugby stories you might be interested in:

 

https://kzn10.com/glenwood-first-xv-the-process-that-leads-to-the-performance/

 

https://kzn10.com/glenwoods-jaden-hendrikse-is-a-special-talent/

 

Playmaker: Glenwood scrumhalf and 2017 SA Schools cap Jaden Hendrikse was outstanding for his school.

 

 

In good news that coincides with the return of inter-school sports matches in South Africa, analysis the British government’s experts on virus transmission have undertaken on rugby matches indicate that Covid-19 is not being spread during the contact situations that occur during a match.

There were no known cluster outbreaks when elite UK rugby and other sports matches returned. Although no spectators will be allowed at inter-school sports matches in SA, this bodes well for our players.

The British government analysis further held that it is in the intermingling of people after the matches have ended that creates the primary risk of transmission.

Professor James Calder is the chairman of the British government’s committee on the return of elite sport.

He said there had also been no known cases of Covid transmission during football matches. This finding is surely heartening for a similar sports code, hockey.

 

 

The British government’s experts have undertaken a series of studies on the risks involved in playing contact sport and the recurring conclusion is that it is not the participation in outdoor sport itself that is the problem.

The actual danger comes from people not following the virus-transmission protocols when it comes to the activity of travelling to matches, changing into match kit for the matches and the socialising that takes place after matches.

Another professor who has been privy to the analysis has gone on record to say that the risks of virus transmission during sports matches played outdoors are extraordinarily low, far lower than the risks faced during the myriad human interactions that occur during the course of a day inside buildings.

Indeed, just the simple act of keeping the windows open (to allow for the air outside) while travelling together in a car or taxi makes a difference in lowering the risk of transmission.

 

 

It is widely held that the three ways of catching Covid come from droplets, surfaces or aerosols.

Professor Mike Weed says that it is becoming more widely acknowledged that it is aerosol (the suspension of liquid droplets in air) which is the most significant transmission method, and the professor said “it is virtually irrelevant outside.

The prof went on to say that in his broader study of how Covid-19 has been spread, there were “very few – almost negligible – examples of outdoor transmission in everyday life”.

Adviser to the Scottish government, Professor Devi Sridhar, said the focus must be on the areas where it has been proven that there is a higher risk of transmission. “We need restrictions where we know transmission occurs more often and less restrictions where it is safer. Outdoor transmission is minimal, we know.”

 

**********

You probably know this already, but just for the record, the South African government’s department of basic education (DBE) has officially sanctioned the return of inter-school sport. No spectators will be allowed.

Based on the DBE’s directive in the government gazette:

The following activities are permitted and may resume, without any spectators, subject to compliance with hygiene and safety measures to prevent and combat the spread of Covid-19 (C19), and with social distancing measures pertaining to gatherings:

school sport matches

physical education

extra-curricular activities

inter-school, district, provincial and national school sport tournaments.

A C19 compliance officer must be appointed for each venue

there must only be one controlled entrance to the venue

all participants must undergo health and temperature screening before warm-up or event

any person who enters the venue must undergo the health and temperature screening

hand sanitisers must be available at the entrance gate and every person who enters the venue must sanitise their hands

participants and officials must sanitise their hands before and after a match or event

a person who leaves the venue temporarily and returns again, must again undergo the process of health and temperature screening, and hand sanitising;

for contact tracing purposes only, a register of all officials and learners from visiting and hosting schools who are attending a school match or event must be kept by the hosting school for at least 21 days and must contain the following information of officials and learners:

Full names

residential address

cell phone number, telephone number or email address

contact details of the person or persons living in the same residence as the person attending training or a school match or event

a digital registration and health screening platform, such as the teacher connect application, may also be used to assist with the administration of the registration process contemplated in paragraph

if a person has C19 symptoms or presents with a temperature above 38 degrees Celsius, that person must be refused access into the venue

the number of persons, including participants, referees, adjudicators, technical officials, volunteers, medical team, media or broadcasting team, and stadium workers, permitted at a venue at any one time is limited to

a maximum of 100 persons, for indoor venues

a maximum of 250 persons, for outdoor venues

if the venue is too small to hold 100 persons indoors or 250 persons outdoors, observing a distance of at least 1,5m from each other, then not more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used, subject to strict adherence to all health protocols and social distancing measures.

teams, technical officials, volunteers, relevant stadium staff, medical staff and registered members of the media or broadcaster team must leave the venue as soon as their responsibilities are completed

social distancing and the wearing of face masks must always be maintained by persons who are not participating in matches or events;

participants must always wear face masks, except when participating in an event

technical officials must report before the start of any event or competition for a C19 regulations and protocol briefing session and screening

all ablution facilities must be sanitised regularly and kept clean as per C19 protocols

entry to the ablution area will be regulated to adhere to social distancing protocols

all sports equipment must be sanitised before and after use.

 

 

Source: Telegraph, Government Gazette, Stock

A key factor in the England rugby team’s thriller 23-20 Six Nations win over France at Twickenham on Saturday was the marked change in captain Owen Farrell’s attitude towards the referee. It is a lesson for our schoolboys – and perhaps all (or at least many?) of us.

My experience is that it appears to take a lot for South African rugby fans to even grudgingly accept and respect “anything England national rugby team”, and Farrell in particular has not endeared himself to South Africans with what has too often come across as an irritating, arrogant, “bad sport” manner.

England’s defeat by Wales had been punctuated by what Saffas have come to love to hate about the England skipper; a “whinging” Farrell questioning the match official seemingly at every opportunity. It did nothing positive for his side; indeed it just created a frustrated, negative outcome.

 

 

As a player (and spectator) we should surely come to realise over time that remonstrating with the ref does near-nothing to engender a change in decision. Farrell has now shown to himself in the high-quality France match that a change in his approach brings reward. Not once did the England number 12 challenge referee Andrew Brace.

Head coach Eddie Jones revealed after the match that his leading man, who also enjoyed an outstanding personal performance, was under orders not to confront the ref – and Farrell stuck to that game plan.

I like how Jones puts it: “The way Owen (Farrell) has responded to the criticism that he has received has been absolutely outstanding. He hasn’t whinged, he hasn’t complained, he took it on the chin, got on with it and fixed his game.

“… we basically made the decision on the referee that we were going to let him do whatever he wanted. No queries, no questions. He had a game plan about how he wanted to referee and we followed and adapted. Owen had a great balance and I thought he was at his aggressive best (as a player).”

 

 

England management had earlier in the week invited noted refs Andrew Barnes and Matthew Carley to advise Farrell and the team on how to cope better.

One player who clearly benefited was key England lock Maro Itoje, who gave away 5 penalties against Wales. This time round, it was one.

To top it all, Itoje impressed with his known ability to disrupt the opposition and also scored the nail-biting winning try (4 minutes from time). The lock forward’s remarks afterwards also spoke volumes for the thought he had put into fixing the mistakes he had made against Wales, which had drawn much criticism his way.

 

 

And Jones said not much input had come from the coaching staff. “Sometimes you can see it in a player; when they have their head around it and their eyes in it. To play that sort of game, on the back of what Maro (Itoje) has had to suffer, is a great testament to his character and his desire to be a good teammate. That is what stood out for me – his desire to be a good teammate.”

The talismanic lock revealed how he had successfully got the balance right. “Obviously I never want to lose my bite. I never want to lose my edge. I believe my mentality makes me the player I am. My attitude makes me the player I am. At the same time, I have to thread that needle more effectively.”

And the eloquent Maro, who is a fascinating personality with many fine attributes, certainly threaded that needle properly on Saturday – he negotiated the fine line, that narrow margin of playing on the edge without incurring damaging sanction.

 

 

England did concede 12 penalties, just 2 less than against Wales, but encouragingly it was the manner in which those penalties were incurred that marked the difference. Too many against Wales were of the sort that are the bane of every fan’s life. You know, when a player in “your” team does something that leaves you in What the … was he thinking!? mode.

This time they weren’t of the “just-plain-dumb” variety.

As Jones puts is so well: “When you start moving the ball at pace it puts more pressure on your support play, and our support play just wasn’t good enough (on the occasion of the penalty transgressions). It’s not a discipline issue, it’s a playing issue.”

Now that kind of penalty conceded is of the sort that most fans can live with – the type where admirable attacking intent is only undone when the ball-carrier gets isolated. That shows a team is on the right path. It is an error that can be improved on.

All in all, well done England on taking positive action on stuff that needed to be fixed.

 

 

 

Source info: The Telegraph
Images: Getty

 

 

 

In the first of what are to be regular monthly newsletters to Maritzburg College Old Boys and other stakeholders, the new Maritzburg College director of rugby Hein Kriek said that “in the long run 2021 will be a year of assessment, adjustment, alignment and recalculation with[in] the changing landscape of schoolboy rugby in a Covid-19 society.”

Hein enthused at the prospect of joining the College family and being an integral part of “the rich rugby history that runs through the veins of the school”.

“In these challenging times with Covid-19 looming over our heads around every corner, our beloved sport of rugby at schoolboy level has taken a massive blow. To start 2021 much in the same manner as 2020 ended is not the ideal situation…”

Hein said that the current circumstances would require a flexible approach and a determination to capitalise on whatever opportunities may arise during the year.

 

Maritzburg College’s new director of rugby Hein Kriek (left) conducted an absorbing workshop with the school’s 30-strong group of rugby coaches at the Kent Pavilion and adjacent Goldstones last Friday evening. Photo c/o @MaritzCollege

 

The new director of rugby complimented former director of rugby Kevin Smith (now director of College business) for the “excellent work” he had done and expressed a desire to build on what had already been put in place.

Hein said further that “the challenge and question is: ‘How do we take the next step to get to the next level?’ ”

The goals would be to build on the current College rugby model and tie that in with long-term player development. “Development for our coaches is also of the utmost importance; to equip them with the toolkit to guide our players.”

Hein also touched on an issue that is no doubt playing on the minds of his counterparts across the country. How to identify the young talent of soon-to-be high school age when there was no schoolboy rugby to speak of last year… and quite conceivably precious little this year.

Nevertheless, the new College rugby man said that every effort would be made to unearth a fresh group of youngsters to wear the Red, Black and White.

Hein cautioned that with the national school year’s commencement having been delayed to mid-February the short-term rugby programme for the boys did present a challenge.

“Our elite players will be active in the High Performance programme (strength and conditioning) with a skill session per week on the field run by the coaches.”

“Boys will be encouraged to participate in other non-contact sports that will be running in term 1 and this will also be the ideal opportunity to start the academic year on the right note.

“The holistic development of the boys is paramount in the success of our rugby programme.”

With a solid foundation having been laid, it is clear that the future of Maritzburg College rugby is in good hands.

 

Photo c/o @MaritzCollege

 

* Hein is a teacher, an educator who among a host of sports-related qualifications, possesses a B.SC degree in human movement science, an honours degree in sports science (both from Pukke) and a masters degree in sports directorship from Salford University Business School in England.

Clearly a rugby man to the nth degree, Hein has attained a number of highly regarded rugby coaching qualifications at international level and attended numerous top-drawer rugby courses worldwide.

Hein’s outstanding rugby coaching history includes positions held at top club, school and senior level.

Here is a brief breakdown:

* Forwards coach and technical adviser to Hamilton’s Sea Point RFC, who became national club champions
* Western Province Craven Week coach
* Two years as South African Schools coach
* First XV coach and head of coaching at Paul Roos, who were crowned Sanix World Youth champions
* Forwards and defence coach with the Pumas Currie Cup team
* Forwards and defence coaching consultant in Europe with the Czech and Netherlands national rugby unions

* KZN10.com wishes Hein and Maritzburg College rugby everything of the best.

 

#OnwardAndUpward
#CollegeFire
#RedBlackWhite
@MaritzCollege

 

Let’s hope interschools matches on Goldstones are not too far away. Photo Martin Ashworth

 

Maritzburg College Geography teacher, deputy headmaster and rugby legend J.M “Skonk” Nicholson passed on 10 years ago on Sunday, age 94.

While he co-authored Geography textbooks, was a teacher loved by his learners because he always had a story to tell that was laced with his trademark wit and often-subtle-but no-less-impactful meaning, it is his passion for coaching rugby that lingers longer in the mind.

This was a gift that surely comes from grace. It inspired generations of College boys who aspired to pull on the Red Black and White rugger jersey.

Skonk’s rugby passion was so strong as to be infused with a spiritual force. It generated an energy, a devotion among his players that few have equalled.

The “Skonk Factor” also served to create a rugby culture at Maritzburg College that forms a central tenet in the 158-year-old school’s ethos.

Maritzburg College is about so much more than a single sports code, but the role that rugby does play in the school’s existence deserves its due.

Skonk’s quietly spoken, measured words had a wisdom and authenticity that few could miss.

Allied to his understated yet plain-to-see charisma and presence, the distinguished DHS Old Boy also had an immeasurable understanding of the nuts and bolts that make up the sport of rugby.

It was a remarkable ability.

The intricacies of the game, a game that can be made incredibly complicated and convoluted in the wrong hands?

Skonk understood the complexities like a chess Grand Master; he understood the conundrums; he had an impeccable grasp of the technical detail in rugby, be it at scrum time (a guru he was), lineouts, positional play or speed to the loose ball and its all-important consequent recycling…

Yet perhaps Skonk’s greatest gift was his ability to simplify, get to the core point, and then relay it in clear terms to his young players.

Information overload is anathema to a teenage schoolboy. Skonk knew this all-too well. Clear, concise, instructions… every schoolboy can live with that.

The outcome was score upon score of devoted players who will keep the spirit of Skonk alive through the myriad stories they have to tell to the generations to come who are blessed to hear them.

What stories of Skonk do you have to tell?

 

29 June 2020 – Sport has played a defining role in the life of Waylon Murray. As a schoolboy, it led him to Westville Boys’ High (WBHS), then on to a professional rugby career, during which he wore the green and gold of the Springboks, and then, more recently, it led him back to WBHS.

In his primary school days, he attended Berea West where he initially excelled at cricket and athletics. “I really enjoyed my time there and I had a lot of positive people steering me in the right direction, especially with regards to sport,” he said in a recent chat with KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan at WBHS.

His mother did not want Waylon playing contact sports, but an approach by the Principal Philippe Paillard led to her consenting to Waylon playing rugby in grade 5. He ran out at eighth-man but, he admitted, he was undersized.

“Even when I got into high school, I was tiny in comparison,” he reckoned. “I had a growth spurt in the middle of grade 9 and into grade 10. I was also a year younger than most of my classmates. I finished school at 17.”

When it comes to planning your next school sports tour look no further than former Hilton College first XI captain Craig Goodenough who’s been there, seen the movie and bought the T-shirt factory.

Waylon’s move to high school also coincided with a move to the backline due to his speed and footwork. “I enjoyed tackling, so I gravitated towards centre. It was close to the action. I started in the pack and then ran away from it when I got into high school,” he said with a laugh.

Although many of his classmates made the move to Westville, for a long time Waylon had no idea what lay in store for him regarding a secondary school destination. He explained: “At that time, I didn’t come from a privileged background. Philippe Paillard suggested, with the help of a few teachers, that I apply for a scholarship. I didn’t know where I was going to be. I was very fortunate that sport gave me an opportunity at Westville.”

As the son of a single mother, he would not have had an opportunity to attend Westville without that scholarship, Waylon said. “Nestor Pierides and Trevor Hall decided to take a chance on me and I came to the school.”

Initially, it took him a little time to adjust to Westville because he was, in his own words, “very introverted”, but he felt protected because of the support of Nestor and Trevor. “They were very supportive and they gave me a lot of opportunities to excel at school. My mom lent on the school a number of times when she couldn’t manage and every time they helped and were there for me.

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“Being involved in team sport, even though I was socially awkward to a degree (in grade eight, I was still trying to figure out who I was), I was very grateful that I played with many good leaders and good people. It was helpful that I could play sport, coming in as a small fish into a big pond.”

Westville has a well-earned reputation for academic excellence and that, fortunately, was not a difficult transition for Waylon. He explained: “I have always been a disciplined person…and I assumed the role of head of the household (at least in my head) because my mom was a single parent.

“I always carried that weight of expectation with me. Whatever I did when I was at school, I was incredibly disciplined, which helped me in my [rugby] career. Obviously you need talent, but I wasn’t the most talented rugby player to ever have a professional career, but I did know how to be a professional and work hard. That helped me jump start my career.”

Sport helped Waylon integrate into life at Westville and he excelled in many different sports, playing for the 1st football team for three years, the 1st cricket side for three years, the first rugby team for three-and-a-half years [before the introduction of Bok Smart, which nowadays would have prevented that happening]. He also shone in athletics: in hurdles, long jump and the triple jump.

In 2018, Waylon presented his Springbok blazer to Headmaster Trevor Hall. The blazer now resides in the WBHS Griffin Room. (Photo: https://www.facebook.com/westvilleboyshighschool/ Westville Boys’ High on Facebook)

He named Doc Cowie as being a big influence on his cricket. Waylon was an opening bowler and middle order batsman who in matric played with future Dolphins’ batsman Martin Bekker and future Dolphins’ all-rounder Robbie Frylinck, who would go on to play T20 cricket for South Africa.

“I used to bat a lot in the middle order with Robbie Frylinck. He’s obviously matured and got a lot better after school,” he smiled. “I remember a lot of innings where we batted together, and we also bowled together, of course.”

In his matric year, when he was also the Head of School, he found that he had lost some of his love for cricket because of the long hours it demanded of its players. He started to turn his focus towards rugby. “I thought that was maybe a sign that I needed to concentrate more on rugby, even though I continued to play first team cricket. In football, I was never amazing, but because I was good at most sports I could manage to some degree.”

He added: “I enjoyed playing different sports. Looking back on it now, I am very grateful that I knew every season Nestor would come to me and say what he needed me to do. It was quite refreshing; after a long rugby season you look forward to football, and after football you look forward to cricket.”

In matric, though, there was disappointment when he missed out on selection for the KZN Schools rugby team. “I had a good year, but I was a bit young at only 16-and-a-half,” Waylon said.

The Westville 1st XV of 2003 included Waylon Murray as captain and Njabulo “Jabz” Zulu, his centre partner, who today coaches the Westville 1st XV with Jeremy McLaren.

“The Sharks at that time expressed an interest in me and they wanted me to do post-matric. I came back and fortunately I made the Craven Week team. I wasn’t on the radar for SA Schools or anything like that. But I played all the Craven Week games. We had a really talented team.”

The KZN line-up included Alastair Hargreaves (DHS), who captained SA Schools, future England international Brad Barritt (Kearsney), who also made the SA Schools side, and Westville’s Chris Micklewood (who would make SA Schools the following year) and Njabulo Zulu, among others. Zulu, Waylon’s partner at centre for Westville, is now coach of the Westville 1st XV with Jeremy McLaren.

Throughout his high school career, Waylon had paired with Brad Barritt when turning out for Pinetown and Districts. Missing out on the Craven Week team in 2003 was a big blow, but reuniting the following year was an enjoyable experience, he said: “It was good to be back with him that year and to finally get what I felt was recognition for my talent at the time.”

He joined the Sharks Academy in his first year out of school, but was in for a nasty shock when he didn’t crack the nod for the College Rovers under-20 side. But that proved to be fortuitous.

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“Someone approached me at the Union and said there was an opportunity for me to go to Jaguars and play in the Premier Division, so I would jump a few levels. He felt I had been overlooked.”

It proved to be a fantastic move for Waylon. At Jaguars, he joined up with players, many of them from the Sharks Academy, who were part of the development programme.

“It became one of the best teams in the Division at that time,” he said. “JP Pietersen was in that side, Dusty Noble ended up playing for the Sharks, Howard Noble played Springboks Sevens, so we were a bunch of misfits in a sense and we landed at Jaguars. We just exploded. We were beating teams with a really young side. Most of us were under-20, under-21.”

Dick Muir was coach of the Sharks at that time and re-introduced club trials which, again, proved to be to Waylon’s benefit.

“Dick Muir had three rounds of trials. The Sharks players could watch. At the final trials, if you were chosen (I think there were 30 players), you then had a chance to have trials against the Sharks.

“Dusty, JP and I ended up making it all the way through. From not making College Rovers, to going to Jaguars, to going to Currie Cup trials and being chosen for the Currie Cup squad that first year was an incredible, fairy tale start for me.”

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It was a remarkable elevation in a very short time and it was mind-blowing for the young centre. “I was star-struck. I was a year out of school and suddenly playing with these professionals I looked up to,” Waylon said. “But I was very fortunate that the Sharks had a very experienced group of leaders at the time. A lot of youth was injected, so there was a really nice mix.

“John Smit, AJ Venter, Percy Mongomery, all these guys that were in that group did so much for the development of the young guys. It was a really nice culture. You weren’t afraid to fail. It was a good place to be. We went on to have a good season a year after.”

His debut for the Sharks came against Griquas at King’s Park. In a game he doesn’t remember too clearly, one incident stood out: “I remember chasing through a kick and thinking I was about to score a try and Henno Mentz came in and got there before me,” he said with a rueful grin. “It’s all these weird memories. The pace of the game meant there was no let-up. For me, the whole game was over in a flash.”

Waylon had started studies in marketing when he joined the Sharks Academy, but his rapid ascent to the senior team soon put them on hold. In retrospect, he said, that was a good thing as marketing was not something he was interested in at all.

A screenshot taken from a YouTube conversation, dated 25 April 2020, between Waylon Murray and Jabz Zulu during the Covid-19 lockdown (Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9HxFTxaywQ)

By 2007, Waylon was in the Springbok reckoning and when Jake White opted to rest his frontline players ahead of the Rugby World Cup, Waylon got to pull on the famous green and gold jersey during the Tri-Nations.

Then, when Jean de Villiers was injured in the first game of the World Cup, it appeared that he was in line for a call-up to the biggest tournament of them all. Jake White, though, had other plans and opted for Wayne Julies, a player he was more familiar with, but one who had played little rugby for the Bulls that season. It hurt, Waylon admitted.

Nonetheless, during that season he got to spend valuable time with a very experienced Springbok squad. “I absolutely enjoyed being a part of the set-up,” Waylon said. “That Springbok team was really special in terms of talent. They knew how to win and they were a different breed.

“I stayed with them for a couple of months, even in the games I wasn’t playing, as part of the tour party. That was enjoyable. I got to spend time with incredible players, some of the best to ever grace the game.”

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In 2007, Waylon also helped the Sharks top the Super Rugby table. They then downed the Blues 34-18 in the semi-finals at King’s Park to secure a home final against the Bulls. In a thrilling back-and-forth showdown, the Sharks were pipped 20-19 in the dying moments of the title-decider after a Bryan Habana try which had resulted after a disputed steal in the loose by Pedrie Wannenberg. It is the closest the Sharks have yet come to lifting the Super Rugby title.

As a young player making his mark, considerations of playing elsewhere were not at the forefront of his thinking but, after a very good run of over five years with the Sharks, Waylon found himself with a crucial decision to make when the Lions made an approach for his services.

“I think it is a crossroads for every professional rugby career,” he said. “You mature with the game and you learn to have honest introspection with yourself, including when it is the right time to go. I remember at the time the Sharks still wanted me to stay, but I had had a couple of injuries. I went to the Lions.

“It was a hard decision to leave, but I was probably going to get more opportunity with them. It was difficult leaving my safety net. As a competitive person, you want to prove people wrong and show you can come back from injury, even stronger. There was unfinished business. Going to the Lions felt like a fresh start.”

The transition was difficult in the beginning, and Waylon questioned himself, asking why he had made the move. But those misgivings disappeared. “When you push through an uncomfortable space and just stay and hang on, you get the reward,” he said. “That was the case with Joburg. I absolutely loved it. I loved playing for John Mitchell. It was nice to get the full backing of a coach.”

Mitchell has earned a reputation as a tough coach, but it was his straight-forward nature that appealed to Waylon and he took lessons from that approach. He explained: “John didn’t skirt around honest conversations and I enjoyed that. That’s how I have tried to maintain my relationships afterwards with coaches. You tell me exactly what you are thinking, rather than let me assume what it is. To have those hard confrontational talks, especially in pro sports, can be difficult. But I would much rather have that honest feedback.”

Towards the end of his time with the Lions, Waylon underwent a knee operation, which ultimately led to him leaving the union and signing with the then Southern Kings. Injuries, he said, are something every player has to deal with through the course of a season.

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“I think every rugby player, to a certain degree, never comes into a match fresh, even if they are injury-free. You are always carrying some sort of knock. It’s about trying to get through the season and staying as fresh as possible, which is, I suppose, the nature of the game. Injuries are tough [to deal with], especially when you get a bit of momentum. I was hurt at different times when I had built up momentum.”

Recalling the first time he had to deal with a serious injury as a professional player, he said it was challenging, but also a time of growth: “The first time around, it is quite a dark place to be. You can’t see the finish line and you are forced to focus day in and day out on what you are doing. It’s quite tough to find motivation. In that time, I learnt to find some inner resilience, in terms of being more professional and setting new goals, smaller goals, and managing them.

The Southern Kings’ experience was memorable, he said, because of the people of Port Elizabeth and how they wholeheartedly supported the team.

The next five years were somewhat nomadic as he turned out for the Bulls, the Sharks again, and the Kings after that. In 2016, he tied the knot, marrying Nicci Goodwin in a wedding that was shared on Top Billing. Then, in 2017, he moved abroad to join the French Fédérale 1 club Mâcon. It proved to be a pivotal decision in Waylon’s life.

Waylon’s wedding to Nicci in Durban was a stylish affair which was featured on Top Billing

Recalling that time, he said: “I went to France. My son Grayson was born there. It was an incredibly difficult time, but I loved France. I was there for 16 months, not very long. I should have gone earlier. I was with Mâcon, so I was close to Lyon. It was always a dream of mine to get overseas. I was not playing in the top division, but it was still a chance to travel.

“That season put a lot of things into perspective. I didn’t feel a pressure not to achieve – I was always professional and I worked hard, no matter where I went – but understanding where I was in my life, what I wanted next, and what I wanted for my family became clearer and the decision became a lot easier as the season went on. I could have milked another one or two seasons, but I thought it was time to have a little bit more stability.” The question became what form would that stability take?

“I had spoken to [Westville Headmaster] Trevor Hall throughout my entire career,” Waylon said. “I had reached out to him when I first got to France and asked how things were going at the school. We started to talk a little bit more and he told me that if I wanted to come back he would create an opportunity for me, which would give me a chance to give back to the boys through my experiences.

“At the time it wasn’t at the forefront of my thinking, but near the end of the season, after my son was born, I wanted to start afresh and try something different, and put my mark on a different project.” The move to Westville was agreed upon.

Waylon with Guy Coombe, who coached the 2003 Westville 1st XV that also featured Jabz Zulu, and senior sports officer Thomas Jackson. (Photo: https://www.facebook.com/westvilleboyshighschool/ Westville Boys’ High on Facebook) 

When he arrived at the school, Waylon was tasked with guiding, counselling and supporting high-performance players across all sports. But the position of Sports Director was soon to become available.

He explained: “When I came here, Sharmin Naidoo was the Director of Sport, but he was in the process of leaving. I had the opportunity to start something different with the Sports Department. Sharmin was here for 10 years and he did incredible work, but I wanted to do things in a different way.

“I wanted to educate and help the kids to understand that sport is great and we would like [some of them] to have professional careers, but what is more important is your contribution to the world and how well-rounded you are when you come out of the school. It is about managing expectations and trying to create good individuals that are going to return to our legacy when they leave school.

“If they make it as professional sportsman, so be it. For me, what keeps professional sports going are the kids that continue to play after school, including socially. That’s why I always encourage kids that if it is their passion, in rugby, for example, but you’re not making it professionally, just play because you love it. There is a shelf life to your sporting time and you won’t have those gifts forever.”

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It is important, too, that boys should enjoy the process of learning and growing together and not just focus on fixtures and results, he added. “I tell kids they always think about their big match on the weekend, but the actual room for growth is in the week.

“I recently spoke with Brad Mooar, who is an assistant coach with the Crusaders, and he was a really good mentor for me, because he was with the Kings before he went to the Crusaders, and he always used to tell me not to worry about the weekend, the week is where you have fun and grow. The matches are extra. As soon as you look too far ahead you stumble.”

Returning to Westville has been an enjoyable experience, Waylon said: “It is a very supportive environment and I think that’s always what makes Westville unique. It’s a really comfortable place where you feel you can be yourself.

“For me, it’s that mind-set of being of service to others, so I felt when I got here there were so many people that wanted to help. I am the type of leader that doesn’t want to have all the answers. I want to lead and grow with people. You learn from others and you get ideas from them.

“I am really grateful to be able to come into a place where I can be creative and try to do something special in a school that has changed, but which has maintained the foundations it was built upon.

“For me, it’s kind of a fairy tale [to return to Westville] because during my rugby career it was tough going contract to contract and moving to new places. Now, I have come to a place where I can finally breathe and relax, where I don’t have to worry about getting up and performing. It’s a different type of pressure. Being in this environment is very conducive for growth.”

Back in the Westville colours and loving his job as Director of Sport, Waylon Murray.

Casting an eye to the present day, 2020 looked poised to be a memorable year for Westville sport, especially the winter sports of rugby and hockey. The rugby team was expected to be one the school’s best teams yet, while the hockey side was coming off an undefeated 2019. But then Covid-19 flipped school sport and the world on its head.

Reflecting on what Westville and the school’s leading sportsmen have missed out on, Waylon said it would have been great to have outstanding teams, but the focus has switched to helping the boys deal with the disappointment of missing out on their season: “We’ve tried to be in constant conversation with the boys in terms of what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling and not concentrating on the loss, because that is what it feels like.

“Expectations were high and they wanted an unbeaten season, but it is sport. We hoped the season would turn out that way. We don’t know now and will never know [how it would have turned out]. We know who we are and we understand the boys are most important to us.”

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He expects them to deal with the setback well, he added, saying character and resilience define the Westville boy.

“We’ve got a great leadership group under Gavin Sweet, who does our leadership,” he added. “I work closely with Gavin and share a lot of ideas. We do a lot of videocasts, interviewing people, so we are really like-minded in that sense. We definitely support each other when we are dealing with an issue. That culture of collaboration is vital. We grow as people, so leadership and emotional intelligence are important.”

Concluding, he said: “It’s been incredible coming back to see what has happened at Westville, the successes the school has had, the good years and the bad years. There has definitely been a shift since I was in school, with Westville continuing to rise and excelling in sport and academics.

“We always say sport is a good outlet for the boys, but academics is their primary focus. They need to understand that.” And those words, coming from a former professional sportsman and the school’s Director of Sport, are sage and pleasing words indeed.

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With Covid-19 having wreaked havoc with sport all around the world, including, of course, the schools’ rugby season, we’re taking a look back at some past teams and, on this occasion, we’ll focus mostly on the Michaelhouse 1st XV of 1986, which also had its own issues with quarantine. The side’s captain, Bruce Herbert, chatted with KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan.

Shortly after the start of the 1986 season, an outbreak of hepatitis saw the Michaelhouse 1st XV quarantined to the school sanatorium for three weeks, (the rest of the school continued to function normally) undermining the form of a very talented side, which produced five Natal Schools’ players, including Bruce Herbert (prop), Philip King (hooker), John Pool (lock), Richard Firth (flank) and Murray Collins (scrumhalf). That was, at the time, a Michaelhouse record.

Bruce started in the 1st XV in 1985, having made the move straight from under-15 A after the departure of Mike Reilly, which opened up a place at tighthead prop. He was still 15 when he made his debut on a pre-season tour to East London against Selborne College. Up against players three or four years older than he was, it was no surprise he termed it “a massive baptism of fire”.

Michaelhouse were captained by Wayne Witherspoon, who was an excellent mentor, said Bruce. He used the lessons he learnt from Wayne when he was appointed captain the following year.

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The 1985 Michaelhouse 1st XV, captained by Wayne Witherspoon. Bruce Herbert is directly behind him.

He also mentioned some standout memories of the 1985 season:

Facing Glenwood at Glenwood, ‘House were 3-6 down, but they had a penalty right in front of the uprights to draw level. Victor Anderson, the fullback, who played Natal Schools in both 1985 and 1986, duly slotted the ball between the posts to make it 6-6. But… The referee ruled that Richard Firth had been in front of Anderson and the successful kick was disallowed.

“Richard was next to me and we were definitely behind the kicker,” Bruce reckoned.

There was a late escape against Kearsney in a match played in Botha’s Hill. Down by a few points, Michaelhouse faced a 22m drop out from the home side. The kick didn’t gain much height and lock Sean Stringer plucked it out of the air before racing through to score to win the game for ‘House.

Then there was a game against Maritzburg College, a team that had lowered the colours of Grey College that year in a hugely anticipated showdown. Bruce reflected: “I remember thinking how small the College side looked before we ran on, a schoolboy error. I guess I was expecting much larger guys but, don’t get me wrong, they were tough. The loose head I scrummed against looked like a third year varsity student! Just remember, I was 16 years old.”

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Michaelhouse won the first of the Hilton/Michaelhouse derbies when Victor Anderson scored all of the red and white hoops’ points in the last minutes of the contest. Hilton reversed the result in the second clash, claiming a 12-6 win in an ill-tempered affair.

It was tough for a 16-year-old Bruce Herbert in 1985, but it was excellent preparation for 1986, even though he remained young, turning 17 in April.

To put it into context, Bruce was born in Eshowe hospital on 11 April 1969. Pete Smith, who attended Maritzburg College, was born in the same hospital the day before Bruce. Yet Bruce captained Michaelhouse in 1986 and Pete captained College in 1988, two years later! By then Bruce had played for two years for the Natal and SA Air Force under-20 teams.

Fortunately for Bruce, during his time at Michaelhouse he captained some very strong teams at age group level. He led the under-14 A team in 1983, the under-15 A side in 1984, and then moved up to the 1st XV the following year, culminating in him captaining the team in 1986.

The under-14 A team lost just one match in ’83, going down to DHS away from home, while the under-15 A side fell in their last game of the season only, going down to Hilton at home. “Methinks a bit of complacency crept in,” he ruefully admitted.

Along the way, though, there were wins over the always-strong Maritzburg College at both under-14 A and under-15 A level, as well as victories over the big government schools: Westville, DHS and Glenwood.

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Bruce attributed much of that success to the under-14 A coach, Gordon Paterson, who put together five excellent seasons while in charge of the team, with winning percentages of 92% in 1977, 85% in 1978, 100% in 1979, 80% in 1982 and 92% in 1983. He missed out on the 1980 and 1981 seasons because he was busy with his PhD at Stellenbosch University.

So, on to the 1986 1st XV. Statistically, it was the most successful Michaelhouse team of the 1980s, winning 14 and losing five games for a 74 percent winning mark. With four Natal Schools’ players in the pack and the Natal Schools’ scrumhalf, it was a powerhouse up front. But hepatitis likely cost them an even better record.

A win that stood out was a 52-32 defeat of the Old Crocks, who were loaded with former Natal provincial players, including former Springbok eighth-man and Natal skipper Tommy Bedford. That Old Crocks’ team included Tommy Bedford (c), Tim Cocks, Gary Joubert, Laurie Sharp, Tubby Hannaford, Robbie Savage, Garth Giles, Peter Ripley-Evans, Rodger Bond, Brian van Rooyen, Wally Watt, Dave Coleman, Brian van Zyl, Dick Cocks, and Matt Taylor.

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The clashes with DHS and Marizburg College were undermined by illness. College flyhalf Udo Goedeke, in an interview with KZN10’s Jono Cook in 2018, said Michaelhouse were favourites to win their showdown.

“I think they sensed victory and all their regulars were keen to play. Injury and illness meant quite a few had to pass late fitness tests.

“It was very close at halftime. We led 9-6. The second half was incredible. [SA Schools’ centre] Jeremy Thomson really turned it on for us. It turned into the Jeremy Thomson Show; he ripped their defence apart.

“The College team’s contribution was awesome. It was a massive second half for us. To be fair, I think the Michaelhouse injury and illness concerns pre-game were a contributing factor. They faded badly in that second half.”

The game ended 40-6 in College’s favour, which was testament to just how much the hepatitis had hit ‘House. The following week, the DHS game was a very close affair with the Durbanites edging it 12-10.

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Later in the season, Michaelhouse showed their true colours in a narrow defeat to Bishops at the Private Schools Rugby Festival at Hilton. Bishops were very much the Cape Town equivalent of College in those years and renowned for the flowing, attractive rugby they played under the legendary coach Basil Bey. To put it into perspective, the Bishops’ side was unbeaten in 1986, beating the likes of Paarl Gym, Paarl Boys High and Paul Roos (they didn’t play Grey College), as well as all the Cape’s southern suburbs schools. (SACS, Rondebosch, Wynberg etc.)

“We were unlucky to lose 13-18 to Bishops,” Bruce Herbert said. “We knocked on the ball over their line! As they say, could have, should have, would have.”

The Natal Witness carried a report on the Michaelhouse versus Bishops thriller.

At the same tournament, though, ‘House dominated Saint John’s 22-4 (remember tries were worth four points back then) and Saint Stithian’s 30-3.

They finished their season with narrow wins over Glenwood (18-15) and Hilton (19-17), but went down to Westville (18-29). “Westville had a really good game against us. We hammered them up front. However, they ran us off our feet with some really good speed and handling,” Bruce commented.

It was a remarkably closely contested season among Natal Schools: Michaelhouse beat Hilton twice, Hilton beat College on College Old Boys’ Day, College beat Michaelhouse, Glenwood beat College, College beat Glenwood, Michaelhouse beat Glenwood. The Kearsney vs Michaelhouse game was called off due to the hepatitis quarantine.

Natal Schools

That same year, Natal, coached by Dave Dell, and with six College boys, five from Michaelhouse, three from Westville, two from Hilton, one from Kearsney, one from Estcourt, one from Linpark and one from Glenwood enjoyed a strong showing at the Craven Week in Graaff-Reinet.

Michaelhouse’s Natal Schools’ representatives of 1986 with MHS masters: Bruce Herbert, Philip King, Rich Firth, Mr Gordon Paterson, John Pool, Murray Collins, and Mr Richard Aitchison.

The one player from Kearsney was Nkululeko “Skweegee” Skweyiya, the first ever black player to be selected for the Natal Craven Week team.

They opened their tournament against the always strong Northern Transvaal and after a tremendous tussle came away with a win, which was clinched through a penalty try after a late tackle on Jeremy Thomson. They followed that up with a narrow 4-6 loss to Eastern Province before beating Far North.

The Natal Schools’ team that competed in the 1986 Craven Week in Graaff-Reinet: 

Back row: Warren Wilson (Maritzburg College), Richard Firth (Michaelhouse), Richard Dolbey (Maritzburg College), John Pool (Michaelhouse), Sean Platford (Westville), Brenton Catterall (Maritzburg College), Sean Fry (Westville), Trevor Labuschagne (Glenwood).

Middle row: Murray Collins (Michaelhouse), Dallas Harris (Hilton College), Philip King (Michaelhouse), Udo Goedeke (Maritzburg College), Joe Fernandez (Linpark), Nkululeko Skweyiya (Kearsney), Leon van Rooyen (Escourt), Alastair Hawley (Westville).

Front row: Bruce Herbert, Dave Dell (coach), Anthony Gilson (Maritzburg College, captain), L. Kirkland (Manager), Carl Jankowitz, (Hilton College) Rod Blamey (chairman), Jeremy Thomson (Maritzburg College).

Jeremy Thomson and Leon van Rooyen (Estcourt) were selected for the South African Schools team. Bruce shared a story which Jeremy Thomson told him about the SA Schools’ team photo. Back then, of course, there were no digital cameras, so everything was done on film. Imagine the horror felt by the photographer when, after photographing the side for their official team shot, he went to develop the photos and discovered that he had failed to put any film in his camera!

Hilton/Michaelhouse derbies

Unsurprisingly, Bruce has particularly vivid memories of the Hilton vs Michaelhouse derbies in 1985 and 1986. “They were generally where the underdog often pulled off a remarkable win, like was the case in the first match at Michaelhouse in 1985,” he said. “The news coming from Hilton was that they were going to put 50 past us. Hilton had a good team and had had a successful season so far. As things turned out Victor Anderson scored all our points, scoring 13 points in the last eight minutes. I think we won 13-7.

“Etienne De Villiers who had been a teacher/coach at Michaelhouse for 16 years said that in all his time of watching Hilton/Michaelhouse matches this ’85 match was the best one that he had ever seen.”

Hilton wanted pay back and they got it in the rematch at Hilton, winning 12-6. “Both our Natal Schools Players, James Wilson (scrum half) and Victor Anderson (full back), got injured in the first 15 minutes and had to leave the field,” Bruce recalled. “The late tackle on Victor was so late that the video cameras had moved on and didn’t pick it up. James got a finger in his eye. I remember it being an ill-tempered match. I think the ref lost control to some extent. Quite a lot was said about the match for some time.”

In 1986, the first Hilton/Michaelhouse was played in front of television cameras and a massive crowd at Hilton. Bruce recalled: “As the Michaelhouse 1st XV got off the bus I was called to one side and interviewed on TV. My interview was never screened, only [Hilton captain] Dallas Harris’ interview was aired, much to the amusement of my mates and family. I don’t think I spoke clearly enough and/or maybe mumbled too much?

“Anyway, we did the business on the day, winning 9-7. Rowan Varner, the Hilton eighth-man (and SA Schools’ fast bowler) missed a penalty in the last seconds of the match, just skimming the left upright.

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The second match at Michaelhouse was a particularly memorable clash because of a stunning fightback from the home side. They were 0-14 down at the break (remembering that tries were worth four points at that time) and Hilton had crossed for three tries.

“I gave the team a serious bollocking at half time and to their credit we bounced back, winning 19-17. I think there were plenty Hilton parents and Hilton supporters that struggled to put the corks back into their champagne bottles as the final whistle sounded!” Bruce said. “Mike Jeffery scored two magnificent tries within minutes of each other.”

Sadly, Mike lost his life shortly afterwards in a car crash while travelling to Johannesburg.

RESULTS

Michaelhouse 36-3 Sandringham
Michaelhouse 16-4 Richards Bay
Michaelhouse 37-9 John Ross College
Michaelhouse vs Kearsney College – cancelled
Michaelhouse 29-15 Linpark
Michaelhouse 52-32 Old Crocks
Michaelhouse 22-9 Estcourt
Michaelhouse 18-30 Old Boys
Michaelhouse 40-0 Weston
Michaelhouse 6-40 Maritzburg College
Michaelhouse 10-12 DHS
Michaelhouse 15-0 Voortrekker
Michaelhouse 9-7 Hilton College
Michaelhouse 29-3 Alexandra
Michaelhouse 22-4 Saint John’s College
Michaelhouse 30-3 Saint Stithians College
Michaelhouse 13-18 Bishops
Michaelhouse 18-15 Glenwood
Michaelhouse 16-29 Westville Boys’ High
Michaelhouse 19-17 Hilton College

Played 19, won 14, lost 5
Points for: 437, points against: 250

Overseas Tour

At the end of November, Michaelhouse toured abroad for the first time. With final exams being written at the time, the side was afforded only seven Sundays of practice before their departure. It was a challenge, especially since the South African season had ended some months earlier.

Due to the sporting isolation of South Africa at the time, the team travelled in civvies.

The 1986 Michaelhouse 1st rugby team overseas touring party. Bruce Herbert is front and centre.

They played two matches, beating the Welsh side Pontarddulais 8-6 and then Sherbourne School of Dorset, one of England’s top school teams at that time, which included two England under-19 players in their ranks, 12-8.

But then the Michaelhouse team arrived back at their hotel to discover that the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) had overruled the Welsh Youth Rugby Union (WYRU) and declared in the press that the tour unacceptable.

The WYRU encouraged ‘House to continue with their tour but, Bruce remarked: “Effectively, we now became a team on the run.”

On 7 December, the match against Haverford West went ahead, but it was undone by the failure of the referee to arrive. A local coach took over the whistle and refereed in his Wellington boots! His blowing left a lot to be desired.

“No matter what we did, we were penalised out of the game and lost 6-8,” Bruce said. That match was followed by “a strange affair”, a 35 minute practice game against Monmouth, a local independent school, which ended with Michaelhouse 8-5 to the good.

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Next up was a visit to Sophia Gardens for an outing against a Cardiff Invitation XV on 14 December. A strong showing from Michaelhouse produced a good 22-8 victory, which was followed by a splendid function arranged by the hosts.

The next day, though, matters took a turn for the worse. BBC TV arrived at their hotel and asked to speak with the team. They had been advised not to talk to the media because no matter what they said their words would be turned against them. That evening they were on the 18:00 news.

“We became aware of a little red car tailing us when we were travelling in our two minibuses,” Bruce remembered. “Once or twice we were able to give the driver the slip. On one occasion we forced him onto an off ramp that we weren’t taking. As it sped past in its attempt to find an on-ramp, the driver received a wave and a cheer from all of us on the bus. We did not in any way feel threatened as this surveillance was proving to be a nuisance only.”

Questionable refereeing blighted Michaelhouse’s sixth match against a Monmouth Invitation XV, which saw ‘House beaten 12-4; the man who arranged the game also refereed it and had his son playing in the Invitation side.

Eight of the side then headed to Seefeld in Austria for two weeks of skiing, while the rest of the touring party flew back to South Africa from Heathrow.

Bruce Herbert concluded: “In summary, and I quote from Gordon Paterson’s Book, there is Genius in Passion, ‘While we had achieved a number of excellent results, we had not performed consistently to the full potential of the team during the first part of the season. To my mind the hepatitis had been a major factor that caused an early season glitch in our progress. Again, this is typical of life itself and the true test is the capacity to come back when you have been knocked down. I believe that they were revealing the skill, fitness, tenacity and sportsmanship that we wished to see as the example set by the first fifteen.'”

 

Having recently mentioned Jem Nel in a story on the brilliant 1987 Natal Schools’ cricket team on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/KZN10com/), KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan decided to also take a look at the Kearsney College 1st XV, captained by Jem, which that same year produced a season for the ages.

In recent times, Kearsney College has produced some exciting and very successful teams. They have also produced standout players; off the top of my head, internationals’ Brad Barritt, Matt Stevens, and the Du Preez brothers, Robert, Jean-Luc and Daniel, come to mind.

But a team that holds a special place in the heart of many in the Kearsney community is the 1st XV of 1987, a side renowned for an attractive and creative 15-man approach to the game.

They played 22 matches, won 18 of them, drew two others and lost to only one other school side, Maritzburg College, which had SA Schools’ flyhalf Udo Goedeke pulling the strings behind a powerhouse pack.

Their only other defeat was by just two points to an Old Crocks team featuring many former Natal players, 26-28. Sadly the Old Crocks no longer exist. Back in the day, they took on many of the top Natal schools and those matches were invariably superb skillful spectacles.

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A year earlier, before the great season of 1987, much was expected of the Kearsney 1st XV of 1986, but the side failed to live up to its potential. In 1987, expectations had been tempered by the slightly disappointing results of the previous year. Jem Nel, then in his third year in the 1st team, said in a recent chat: “I don’t think we were expected to do as well as we did. There was a bit of hype around ’86. When we started in ’87, there was no hype. There were a few guys coming back.”

While Kearsney started out their season with a bang, it ended with a huge loss when Natal Schools’ flanker Mitchell Reed broke an ankle in the last minute of a 34-3 thrashing of Michaelhouse. “I think he was the best schoolboy player I ever played with,” Jem reckoned.

Like Reed, he also earned Natal Schools’ colours. Unfortunately that came only after the Craven Week.

He recalled: “Mike Falkson, my good mate from Westville, got chosen ahead of me. But there was an injury, so I got called up at the last minute.” Mitch Reed and Jem Nel were the only two from Kearsney to make the Natal Schools’ team that year, which is testament to the superb teamwork of the side.

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Jem fondly remembers that season-opening win over Michaelhouse: “We hammered them. In my whole school career, that gave me the most satisfaction. That was the best rugby game we ever played. It was our first game of the season at Kearsney. It was brilliant to play, surrounded by the huge trees. It was fantastic.”

And there was always a little extra in it for Jem whenever Kearsney took on Michaelhouse: “You might remember, I didn’t get into Michaelhouse. I was going to go from Clifton [Nottingham Road] to Michaelhouse and I failed the entrance exam,” he laughed.

“I played sport against Michaelhouse for five years in cricket and rugby and I never lost to them, which was quite satisfying.”

Having mentioned Clifton, there was a remarkable occurrence in 1987, which Jem pointed out, and it’s something that one wonders whether or not it has happened before or since. He explained: “In 1987, the captain of Hilton was Rory Dyer and the captain of Michaelhouse was Bruce Herbert. I was captain of Kearsney. All three of us were from Clifton.” (Bruce has since pointed out that he was, in fact, captain of Michaelhouse in 1986. I attended Clifton at the same time as those guys and was there from 1978 to 1983. When I started there were 120 boys in the school and when I finished there were 150, so an incredible achievement from a very small school, nonetheless).

The author of this story, Brad Morgan (front left), next to Jem Nel (second from left), with 1987 Hilton College captain Rory Dyer to the right of teacher John Farren. Craig Hanbury-King, who played in the Kearsney 1st XV of 1987, is featured second from left in the middle row. Bruce Herbert, the 1986 Michaelhouse captain, is third from the left in the third row.

The two draws – 13-13 against a Westville team that included SA Schools’ player Errol Stewart and 6-6 against Hilton – were very different games, Jem shared.

“We played Westville at Westville on Bowden’s. I think we were a better team than them, but they gave us a hard time. I think it was a lucky draw for us. We scored a try and I think there were about 13 bodies under the ball!

“The other draw was against Hilton, where we played poorly. All they did all day was kick the ball on our fullback and wing. They kicked up-and-unders all day and it was a terrible game. That wasn’t a great draw, but I think the Westville draw was a great draw, because I don’t think we deserved it,” he said candidly.

Back then, Kearsney had only about 530 pupils, but they defeated all the big government schools, apart from Maritzburg College and Westville. There were some tight games among them. They won 15-7 against DHS and 9-8 against Glenwood.

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A tour to Johannesburg included two big wins – 34-0 against Highlands North and 56-3 against Parktown, but King David (Linksfield) pushed Kearsney all the way, with the boys from Botha’s Hill pulling out a narrow 3-0 victory.

The 1987 team was coached by Fred Cocks, who served the school with distinction for 39 years. “Freddie was probably about seven years into the [1st XV] job by the time he got to ’87,” Jem said.

“He and his brother went to Westville Boys’ High. He was a brilliant coach. He was a short man, about five-foot, six, and he had this big voice. He was a fantastic motivator and he knew a lot about the game.”

“I remember clearly he called a Kearsney Old Boy, Wally Watt, who was a Natal flanker, to come and help us with one or two scrumming sessions. He was a fantastic man and he is still around.”

There was only one match in which Kearsney were clearly beaten up front and that was in the big showdown with Maritzburg College. “It was played at Kearsney and there must have been 15 000 to 20 000 people there that day, because they were the only two teams that were unbeaten in the season, and it was quite late in the season,” Jem recalled.

“The score was 20-10. I think we turned at 10-10 at halftime, and then we got pummelled by their forwards in the second half. Their forward pack just destroyed us. I think we did well to be in the game at halftime. They killed us up front.” Of course, back in those days, there was no limit on how far one team was allowed to push another at scrum time in schoolboy rugby, so it was a far bigger disadvantage than it would be nowadays.

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“The ’87 side was a fantastic team. I say without a shadow of a doubt, we had the best loose trio. We had Mitchell Reed, who we lost after the first game,” Jem continued. “Then we had Chris van Noordwyk [who went on to play SA Schools cricket in 1989). He filled in there. And we had a farmer from the north coast called Craig Hanbury-King. He was brilliant. He was small and an excellent fetcher.

“Our Head Boy Graeme Thompson was at lock. He was a big guy and we had another water-polo player at lock, Steve Garreau. We had a decent pack up until the time we met College and we were annihilated.”

The ’87 team also included Nkululeko Skweyiya, better known as “Squeegee”, who had burst onto the scene in 1986. That year, playing on the wing, he scored 22 tries and represented Natal Schools.

“He came from the Eastern Cape and he was a stalwart. He had a side-step and speed that nobody in Natal had,” Jem said. “I think in ’87, he sort of got worked out. We moved him closer to the ball, so he ended up playing most of the time at centre. To our advantage, everyone was focused on him and we had other good players.” The team benefitted, but Squeegee didn’t have as good a year as in ’86 and missed out on Natal Schools’ selection.

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Mitch Reed, Jem Nel and Nkuleleko Skweyiya were awarded their honours, while Greg James, Pierre du Toit, Kenneth Everett, Stephen Garreau, Craig Hanbury-King, Stuart Hulley, John Leach, Craig Symons Graeme Thompson and Ross Wood received their colours.

Fred Cocks’ 1st team report in the Kearsney magazine noted of Jem Nel: “The success of the side can largely be attributed to his exceptional captaincy. His ability to motivate his fellow players was indeed of the highest order of leadership. His skilful and creative play saw him narrowly miss selection for the Natal Schools Craven Week team, but deservedly gained him a cap in Pretoria.

“In addition, he was one of three players who scored 11 tries*, the most by an individual. Congratulations on a great season.”

*(The others were scrum-half Pierre du Toit and Craig Symons. Mitch Reed dotted down seven times in only seven matches.)

Reed was clearly an extraordinary talent, as described by Fred Cocks in his report: “One of the best rugby players seen at Kearsney for many years. His strength, skill and mental attitude to the game is exceptional.”

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Rugby is one of the great team games, especially when it comes to team spirit and off the field relationships, and to this day Jem still keeps in touch with eight or nine of the 1st XV of 1987: “We’ve got a WhatsApp group, so we’re in contact regularly, especially over lockdown now,” he reckoned.

He lives close to Kearsney and his son, Cameron, completed grade 12 at the school in 2019. Even though the ties are not as close as they once were when Cam was in school, Jem still maintains close contact with Kearsney.

“I watch a lot of sport,” he concluded. “When there’s cricket or rugby on, I love it. If I have nothing on, I go and watch. It’s close and close to my heart. We’ve had good times at Kearsney. I think the emotion of winning is gone, but it’s good to go and watch schoolboy sport.”

RESULTS

Easter Tour of East Griqualand, Natal Midlands

Kearsney 40-0 Port Shepstone
Kearsney 33-0 Ixopo
Kearsney 50-6 Escourt

July Tour to Johannesburg

Kearsney 34-0 Highlands North
Kearsney 56-3 Parktown
Kearsney 3-0 King David (Linksfield)

Natal Fixtures

Kearsney 34-3 Michaelhouse
Kearsney 15-7 DHS
Kearsney 24-3 Pinetown
Kearsney 6-6 Hilton
Kearsney 27-6 Beachwood
Kearsney 26-28 Old Crocks
Kearsney 9-8 Glenwood
Kearsney 10-20 Maritzburg College
Kearsney 31-9 Port Natal
Kearsney 13-13 Westville
Kearsney 25-9 Kingswood
Kearsney 40-0 Saint Charles
Kearsney 20-7 Alexandra
Kearsney 31-18 Old Boys

Played 22, won 18, lost two, drew two
Points for: 554, points against: 155

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2019: Just four points separated Kearsney and DHS

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2019: Kearsney Festival day three

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2019: Kearsney Festival day two

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Looking back over the past weekend’s 1st XV rugby results, there were some interesting scores: Kearsney’s 29-10 win over Clifton was expected, while Northwood drew their second game in succession, finishing 14-14 against Maritzburg College. Hilton’s 14-10 defeat of Glenwood, while a very big result for the Midlands’ boys, was not totally unexpected. What really stood out, though, was Westville’s 52-7 dismantling of DHS.

DHS has produced some very good rugby and some very good teams in the recent past, so to see them beaten by 45 points was surprising and quite shocking. KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan caught up with Westville’s coaches, Jeremy McLaren and Njabulo “Jubs” Zulu at the school on Tuesday, to find out more about the Westville 1st XV of 2020.

Saturday’s game was a late start to the season for the Griffins. They had been scheduled to kick things off the previous Saturday against Hilton College, but that game was called off due to concerns over the coronavirus, stemming from a positive result on the test of a Hilton local. Instead, Westville held some internal trials. Then, on Saturday, it was time for their first outing against DHS. Down 0-7 early on, the home side rallied to run up 52 unanswered points.

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Westville 1st XV coaches Njabulo “Jubs” Zulu and Jeremy McLaren.

“We were quite amazed by the fitness levels in our first game,” coach McLaren admitted. But that level of performance and the impressive victory, he revealed, were a number of years in the making.

“It’s a journey that we started two years back, when Jubs and I started here. A few things were not in place and we will never forget that our match against DHS here was 60-10 against us. We had about 19 injuries! We went through a process where we had to get things back in line.

“Last year, we had control of that game as well, but we let it slip. This year, we knew we had to get it right and it would all fall into place. But it is a special group.”

There has been talk that this year’s Westville 1st XV is a top unit but, McLaren added, “There is also so much work that has had to go into it. There was a lack of a lot of knowledge and certain skill levels [when we started with them].

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One big decision that the coaching team made has proved to be a masterstroke. They moved Mambo Mkhize from eighthman to centre and in 2019 he turned out for KZN Schools in the midfield.

Jubs explained that he had heard criticism from others that Mkhize was not assertive enough in his ball carrying. But those people, who didn’t know Mkhize as well as Zulu does, were not giving recognition to his other skills, like his soft hands and cover defence.

“He doesn’t want to assert himself, he wants to put other people into space,” Zulu explained.

Westville star Mambo Mkhize made the switch from eighthman to centre with devastating results for opposing teams. (Photo: Martin Ashworth)

When he and McLaren discussed moving Mkhize to centre, they took on advice from someone who had previously done something along those lines with great success. “We called Mzwakhe Nkosi, who is the KES coach. He did a similar thing with a player, Yanga Hlalu, who played SA Schools (2017).

“He moved him from flank to centre. I asked him what the things were that made him certain that Yanga would work as a centre and he said he’s got the skill set and the vision. So why not do it? We did it.”

“The critics that count now see Mambo asserting himself. We’re happy with his development,” Zulu said. There is even talk that Mkhize is one of the front-runners for selection for the SA Schools team.

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Successful sides require not only the leadership of their coaches, but leadership from within and that hasn’t been difficult to come by in this year’s line-up.

“We’ve got quite a lot of seniors in the group, especially in the backs,” Zulu said. “We are fortunate to have a lot of guys who were in grade 11 last year, so they would have learnt a lot. They drive a lot of what we do and they’re really excited to be in this position. They are really confident guys.”

The team environment (and it is encouraged) is hardly what one associates with a top rugby side. Zulu explained: “We’ve got quite a unique team. We are not the traditional team. If you saw our warm-up, there’s music and laughter, whereas a lot of teams that I have worked with are very serious and focus on needing to be psyched up.

“We’re completely the opposite. The guys are talking, there’s a vibe and laughter.

“I think we’re confident, but we’re being true to ourselves. A lot of the characters that we have in our team are very jovial, fun-loving guys.”

 

He recalled how when Westville played Michaelhouse in 2019 there was a very serious vibe about the side and that had the coaches worried ahead of the start of the match. It showed on the field as Michaelhouse outplayed Westville.

“We saw it coming because the energy was off that week. We know the kind of team and characters that we have, so we need to embrace it.”

The McLaren/Zulu coaching team also promotes a game that features flair. “Ever since Jubs and I connected as coaching partners, it was always about taking the risks,” McLaren admitted.

“We came up with a slogan of being wild at heart, because that is how we’ve been created. We want to take chances.

“I will never forget, last year we played Kearsney on our Old Boys’ Day and Carlo Del Fava, the ex-Italian international, was helping with our forwards. Our boys were inside our goal area and Jubs and I said ‘let’s go’ and Carlo looked at us and said ‘guys, you’re crazy’. To cut a long story short, we went and scored in the corner on the other side.

“For us, it’s a basic thing that you play what you see. We’ve been in trouble, with people that know the game questioning why we don’t kick. But that’s not our philosophy. We want them to have fun and we keep saying to them that the only mistake that they can make is the one that they don’t fix. Even international players make mistakes.”

Fitness is key for such an approach to work, but that, too, is not done simply with a traditional focus on running.

“[Fitness] has always got to do with a game that they play,” McLaren stated. “When Jubs does defence, it’s quite a lot of running, like a shuttle, forward and back. Our conditioning programme is not just big weights. It is all multi-functional stuff to enable us to play that type of game.

“The biggest thing is we try to make the boys think for themselves. We give them options to play and they choose.

“We definitely play a running brand of rugby. If you close us down, we’ll use a kicking game. If you don’t close us down, we will run at you.”

Having a promising season nipped in the bud, McLaren admits, has been a real downer. “We’re depressed, but you can’t do anything about it.

“This is one of the better teams, if not the best team, that Westville would have produced. I am not saying that a future team won’t be at this level, but this is a special group.”

He then ran off the very challenging schedule that Westville was supposed to have played: “We would have played Framesby now, which is a good side. Queen’s College is different. We’re going to try and rescheduled Affies. At the Kearsney Easter Festival, we had EG Jansen, HTS Drostdy and HTS Middelburg.” That’s a list that reveals a fear of no one.

Joy and celebration for Westville in their 52-7 win over DHS. (Photo: https://www.facebook.com/westvilleboyshighschool/)

“We had already done our homework and we worked out that within that space of time, those physical games, who would go where and Jubs has a good idea of who would be our back-up flyhalf, because that was a big problem for us, if we lost our 10. But now our other one is just as good.

Ruefully, he concluded: “It feels like you’re in this movie and you want it to end now.”

Having served up a tasty and entertaining teaser with their superb display against DHS, here’s hoping we get to see the Westville 1st XV of 2020 have more opportunities to show off their skills.

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