Rugby at Maritzburg College

Maritzburg College is traditionally the dominant schools’ rugby force in KwaZulu-Natal. It is our aim to provide rugby players with the best possible preparation, both on and off the field, and to ensure that their every attribute is harnessed to its fullest potential.

Every weekend, as many as thirty teams take the field, playing the game with fierce enthusiasm and pride. The school’s rugby success is therefore built on a firm and broad foundation.

For many years, Maritzburg College’s rugby has been characterised by the rugged qualities and outstanding support work of its forwards, the hard running and punishing tackling of its backs and an eagerness to move the ball at every reasonable opportunity. Most notable, however, is the fierce determination and spirit typifying College teams and imbuing them with an indomitable will to win.

Boys are exposed to the latest coaching methods, well-trained coaches, and a full-time Biokineticist who ensures that boys are regularly monitored with regards to fitness and strength conditioning. Mark Steele (Sharks Conditioning Coach and Old Boy) has been used on a consultancy basis. A physiotherapist has rooms in our High Performance Centre and is available every afternoon for consultations.

All of our rugby coaches regularly attend coaching courses. Internal coaching courses are also conducted and outside specialists are brought in regularly to address coaches on specific issues, whether from a rugby, fitness, conditioning, nutritional or refereeing perspective.

College rugby kit is sponsored by Gilbert, and Thirsti are the main name sponsor on our jerseys.

Rugby players at Maritzburg College will

  • be exposed to good, well-planned and thought out practices, executed by coaching staff who are well- trained and well-equipped
  • have access to specialists where and when necessary
  • be able to be put onto a training programme with a Biokineticist, to ensure that they have proper pre-season and in-season conditioning to ensure that they are in peak physical condition.
  • be put onto a proper rehabilitation programme, if injured, to ensure a speedy and full recovery from injury

History of Rugby at Maritzburg College

The first recorded rugby match in the province of Natal took place in the Market Square of Pietermaritzburg in October 1870. The contestants were Maritzburg College (then known as Pietermaritzburg High School) and Hermannsburg School. Played on a sun-baked, wheel-rutted, gravel surface, the contest lasted for more than three hours and ended in a victory, for the High School, by two goals to nil.

The following report, from the Natal Witness of 11 October 1870, records this epic match:

The Schools’ Football Match

This match, the best out of three games between the boys of the city High School and the Hermannsburg school, was played on Saturday afternoon, commencing shortly after two o’clock. There were fifteen players on each side. The lower end of the market square was the ground chosen, the former taking the end close to the Dutch church, and the latter the upper end.

After playing for nearly two hours, with varying success, the High School kicked what ought to have been a goal, but which the umpire did not give as such, the ball striking a bystander in the goal-space and bounding off into play before touching the ground. If the Hermannsburg players had kept the goal clear this could not have happened, but as it was, it only served to make the victory of the High School more complete.

The play recommenced and after about an hour the High School succeeded, after many struggles, in kicking a goal. The wind had been much against the Hermannsburg players during the last spell, and now they hoped on changing their goal to reverse their first defeat, on obtaining the advantage in this respect. Fortune, however, was against them, for in less than half an hour, the second and deciding goal was kicked by the High School.

The late Dr Danie Craven, one of the foremost authorities on the history of rugby, wrote: “There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that this was a rugby match, for only goals counted in those days. The try was merely a means of kicking a goal and did not count for any points. A try at goal is still found in our laws. In the days when the above game was played, it was necessary to score a try before a kick at goal could be attempted. If the goal was not obtained, the game went on. It was only later that the try was given points, first one, then three [and from 1972 and 1992, four and five points respectively]. The bystander referred to was one used to load the goals when the kick was taken, for players and spectators alike tried to prevent the ball from going through the goal-posts. At one time, goalposts were used without a crossbar, or, if the cross-bar was used, it was low and the ball could be stopped from going either under or over it, for it did not matter where it went through.”

The first schools to play rugby in the Pietermaritzburg area were the High School (now Maritzburg College), Hermannsburg, Hilton College, Bishop’s College and St Charles Grammar School. In addition to the inter-school matches in those early years, College played against military and club teams. In 1900 College won the senior Murray Cup.

SE Lamond, in his Random Jottings on Early Rugby at College, writes: “from about 1902 the College First XV was composed entirely of boys and played in the local Junior League against the second teams of the Old Collegians, Wasps, Wanderers, Alexandra and the YMCA. AS Langley, the College rugby coach, decided after the 1907 season to give the team sterner competition. He entered College First XV in the local Senior League, where it remained until 1921. Thereafter enough Natal schools were playing rugby for College to play sufficient games against only school sides.”

During the forty years before World War II, Maritzburg College was a doughty, but scarcely invincible, foe. About as many matches were lost as were won and there were few signs of the spectacular success that lay ahead. During this period the fixture list was greatly expanded to about fifteen school matches per season.

JM (Skonk) Nicholson

The arrival of JM (Skonk) Nicholson, as a master at Maritzburg College, signalled a revival in the school’s rugby fortunes. From 1948 he coached the First XV for 35 consecutive seasons, until 1982. In 1949 the First XV was unbeaten, as were ten other teams of his, while a further thirteen First Xvs during that period lost only one match each. His teams’ record was:

  • Played 504
  • Won 403
  • Drew 49
  • Lost 52

His teams in the 1950s and early 1960s were particularly successful, at one stage losing only five matches in eleven years.

Skonk’s successors were scarcely less successful. The 1985, 1988 and 1995 teams were unbeaten and four other First XVs lost only one match. Since the turn of the new century, College has often found it difficult to match those statistics. The reasons for this are many: the increasing importance placed on sporting success by schools; the greater spread of talent, often owing to lucrative bursaries offered to promising players; the erosion of the rural core of College boarders; and the greatly strengthened fixture list.

A typical season in recent years has consisted of about ten fixtures against KwaZulu-Natal schools, a further three or four in various rugby festivals, often against some of the finest rugby schools in the country, and, starting from the mid 1990s, annual interchanges with Affies (Pretoria), Grey College, Pretoria Boys’ High and King Edward (Johannesburg). This makes for a tough, highly competitive season, in which easy matches are at a premium. In 1992, College played its first match against a touring team from overseas, Edinburgh Academy from Scotland. The school’s own tours, to Wales in 1984, to Great Britain in 1992 and 1997 and to New Zealand in 2000 and 2007, and its appearance at the World Schools’ First XV Tournament in Australia in 1994, have brought an international flavour to the fixture list.

Maritzburg College has produced thirteen rugby Springboks – EH Shum (1912), Wally Clarkson (1921-24), Bill Payn (1924), Bert Vanderplank (1924), the legendary Philip Nel (1928-37), who captained the victorious Springboks in Australia and New Zealand in 1937, George van Reenen (1937), Keith Oxlee (1960-65), Ormond Taylor (1962), Andy van der Watt (1969-71), Joel Stransky (1993-96), Jeremy Thomson (1996), Pieter Dixon (2000), Andre “Butch” James (2001 -2008), Peter Grant (2007-08).

In addition, several College Old Boys have represented other countries: Hubert Freakes and Geoff Appleford (England), Juan Grobler and Chad Erskine (United States), Brenton Catterall (Zimbabwe), Wim Visser (Italy), Frank Goedeke (Germany) and Andrew Binikos (Cyprus).

South African Schools teams have only been selected since 1974. Maritzburg College boys have won 22 South African Schools caps, an achievement surpassed by only one South African school. In 1974, a SA Schools side toured Europe. Included in it were prop Bruce White and loose forward Malcolm Thompson – College was therefore represented in the earliest SA Schools team.

One of College’s greatest strengths has always been the power and commitment of its forwards and it was these qualities that brought SA Schools caps to props Paul Lindsay (1976 and 1977) and David Mills (1978). The next College boy to win a SA Schools cap was scrum half Craig Jamieson, in 1979. His intensity, technique and courage were such that he was selected for Natal while still in the Under 20 age group. He subsequently led Natal on scores of occasions and had the honour of captaining the first Natal team to win the Currie Cup, in 1990. After his retirement from the game he made his mark in rugby administration, culminating in his appointment as South African organiser of Rugby World Cup 1995.

After an interval of five years, Joel Stransky achieved selection for SA Schools in 1984. A player of blinding speed and brilliant footwork, he subsequently developed into an international class fly half and played a major role in South Africa’s winning the 1995 World Cup – who can forget his soaring drop goal in extra time to clinch the trophy? His scrum half partner, Shaun Glover, gained a SA Schools cap in 1985, a well deserved reward for his outstanding play for College and Natal Schools.

1986 saw the award of a SA Schools cap to Jeremy Thomson, an incisive centre and a sterling defender in midfield. He, too, went on to a long career at provincial level, representing Natal in nearly a hundred matches and also appearing for a time in the colours of Transvaal. In 1996 he toured Great Britain with the Springboks.

The following year, 1987, saw four College boys gain selection for SA Schools. Among them was Brenton Catterall, who had the honour of captaining the SA Schools team. A lock of bruising power and a fine leaper in the line-out, he represented Zimbabwe at the 1991 World Cup. Joining him in the 1987 team were Grant Reed, a powerful prop, Warren Wilson, an inventive loose forward, and fly half Udo Goedeke, who became the second College boy (after Malcolm Thompson) to gain SA Schools caps for both rugby and cricket.

In 1989, Clinton Mayer became the fourth College prop to win a SA Schools cap. His short stature, immense strength and fine technique made him a fearsome scrummager. In 1994, wing Wayne Munn gained selection for SA Schools. His speed and devastating sidestep made him a nightmare to mark.

A feather in College’s cap was the selection in two consecutive years, 1995 and 1996, of hooker Pieter Dixon and prop Richard Kelly as SA Schools captains. Dixon went on represent South Africa on the tour of Great Britain in 2000. In 1997, Rob Linde, a lanky and mobile lock forward, was selected for SA Schools. He has subsequently enjoyed a long provincial career, both in South Africa and overseas.

2002 was a bumper year, with three College boys included in the SA Schools team of that year. They were Adrian Penzhorn, a polished and elusive centre, Brandon Squires, a mobile prop forward, and fly half Peter Grant. The latter was the supreme organiser in the pivot position, creating opportunities for those around him as well as terrifying defences with his ability to cut the line. He has gone on to represent South Africa and is a player of true class.

The First XV’s record, however, represents only a fraction of the rugby played at Maritzburg College. Every weekend, as many as thirty teams take the field, playing the game with fierce enthusiasm and pride. The school’s rugby success is therefore built on a very firm and broad foundation.

For many years, Maritzburg College’s rugby has been characterised by the rugged qualities and outstanding support work of its forwards, the hard running and punishing tackling of its backs and an eagerness to move the ball at every reasonable opportunity. Most notable, however, is the fierce determination and spirit typifying College teams and imbuing them with an indomitable will to win.

  • 1901 FB Burchell
  • 1902 AG McAlister
  • 1904 EL Trafford
  • 1905 EL Trafford
  • 1906 FH Harkness
  • 1907 CL Henwood
  • 1908 NL Watt
  • 1909 NL Watt
  • 1910 C Payn
  • 1911 HN Gold
  • 1912 MA Marwick
  • 1913 NJ Carbutt
  • 1914 AH Clayton
  • 1915 G Weber
  • 1916 JJ Turnbull
  • 1917 JJ Turnbull
  • 1918 I Marwick
  • 1919 JB Harding
  • 1920 CR Marwick
  • 1921 PJ Nel
  • 1922 DRW Hesom
  • 1923 HJ Barnard
  • 1924 M Hattingh
  • 1925 L Shaw
  • 1926 NI Boast
  • 1927 RW Spence
  • 1928 AM Miller
  • 1929 TA Downes
  • 1930 HD Freakes
  • 1931 W Jackson
  • 1932 JE Todd
  • 1933 HB Moore
  • 1934 GA Drummond
  • 1935 BH Hosking
  • 1936 KP McKenzie
  • 1937 SFS Bristow
  • 1938 JM Egner
  • 1939 HRE Orr
  • 1940 DM Chaplin
  • 1941 LM Hosking
  • 1942 JH Nichols
  • 1943 JL Lamb
  • 1944 NS Calder
  • 1945 PJ Zietsman
  • 1946 PH Holman
  • 1947 DJ McGlew
  • 1948 B Bateman
  • 1949 KW Halley
  • 1950 MN Prozesky
  • 1951 G Castle
  • 1952 K Oxlee
  • 1953 PF King
  • 1954 RV Davel
  • 1955 RB Higgs
  • 1956 WR Downs
  • 1957 P Ripley-Evans
  • 1958 JW Grice
  • 1959 KW McIlrath
  • 1960 WJ Sharratt
  • 1961 PJ Catterall
  • 1962 DM Anderson
  • 1963 DM Anderson
  • 1964 AJ Egner
  • 1965 HG Norton
  • 1966 RA Andri
  • 1967 RA Andri
  • 1968 IH McKay
  • 1969 DJ Potter
  • 1970 D Bestall
  • 1971 MC Backhouse
  • 1972 TR Davidson
  • 1973 BL Dennison
  • 1974 PM Anderson
  • 1975 MHG Norton
  • 1976 MHG Norton
  • 1977 PJ Lindsay
  • 1978 GEJ Pickering
  • 1979 CM Jamieson
  • 1980 IWW Tyrer
  • 1981 HG Coxwell
  • 1982 CJ Torlage
  • 1983 BA Mackenzie
  • 1984 CS Smith
  • 1985 AT Arntzen
  • 1986 AW Gilson
  • 1987 BW Catterall
  • 1988 PL Smith
  • 1989 JB Lesur
  • 1990 DI McDonald
  • 1991 LM Zunckel
  • 1992 LM Zunckel
  • 1993 C Bruyns
  • 1994 C Bruyns
  • 1995 ZB Aszalos
  • 1996 RC Kelly
  • 1997 MC Botha
  • 1998 BD Cowley
  • 1999 WS Haviside
  • 2000 TE Wimble
  • 2001 RS Hatchwell
  • 2002 PJ Grant
  • 2003 VCD Gilson
  • 2004 JHF Boshoff
  • 2005 JH Meanwell
  • 2006 LC Stevens
  • 2007 AJ Greyvenstein
  • 2008 SE Hansmeyer
  • 2009 NP Pletts
  • 2010 JW Jacobs2011
  • 2011 S Ungerer
  • 2012 R Smith
  • 2013 S Buthelezi
  • 2014 D Goodson
  • 2015 K Thunder
  • 2016 C Glover
  • 2017 R Williamson/J Truter

The first South African Schools’ team was selected in 1974. Many fine players, therefore, did not have the opportunity to win a cap before this time.

Since 1974, the following College players have been chosen for South African Schools’ teams:

  • 1974 MK Thompson, BV White
  • 1976 PJ Lindsay
  • 1977 PJ Lindsay
  • 1978 DJ Mills
  • 1979 CM Jamieson
  • 1984 JT Stransky
  • 1985 SR Glover
  • 1986 JRD Thomson
  • 1987 BW Catterall*, UH Goedeke, DAG Reed, WG Wilson
  • 1989 CD Mayer
  • 1994 WGA Munn
  • 1995 PJ Dixon*
  • 1996 RC Kelly*
  • 1997 RF Linde
  • 2002 PJ Grant, EA Penzhorn, B Squires
  • 2012 J Kriel
  • 2016, 2017 F Mbatha

The following College Old Boys have played international rugby:

For South Africa:

  • EH Shum (1912-13)
  • Wally Clarkson (1921-24)
  • Bill Payn (1924)
  • BE Vanderplank (1924)
  • Philip Nel (1928-37)
  • George van Reenen (1937)
  • Keith Oxlee (1960-65)
  • Ormond Taylor (1962)
  • Andy van der Walt (1969-71)
  • Joel Stransky (1993-96)
  • Jeremy Thomson (1996)
  • Pieter Dixon (2000)
  • Butch James (2001-08)
  • Peter Grant (2008)
  • Jessie Kriel (2015)

For England:

  • Hubert Freakes (1938-39)
  • Geoff Appleford (2002)

For Zimbabwe:

  • Brenton Catterall (1991)

For the United States:

  • Juan Grobler (1997-01)
  • Chad Erskine (2005-07)

For Italy:

  • Wim Visser (1999-2002)

For Germany:

  • Marcel Coetzee (2016)