Thu, 15 Apr 2004 00:00
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We profile Paarl Gim.

School's Profile

We profile Paarl Gim.

Paarl Gymnasium, now a coeducational school, is one of the greatest rugby schools in the land. It is also one of the oldest schools, founded in 1858 on a site in the centre of the beautiful Boland own, now moved further along the main road and situated on a hill and surrounded by vineyards in perfect peace. Above it the rounded granite outcrop which gave Paarl its name - the Pearl.

Paarl, founded by Abraham Gabbema in 1657, just five years after the Dutch first established a settlement at the Cape, is reputed to have the longest main street of any town in the Southern hemisphere. It is a fascinating main street with splendid example of Cape Dutch architecture. In places the vineyards come right down to the street. It is also the home of KWV (Ko-operatiewe Wijnbouwers Vereeniging), the biggest wine co-operative in the world. It was in Paarl that the impetus to have Afrikaans recognised as an official language first began, and Paarl Gym played its part in that, too.

Paarl Gym remains an Afrikaans medium school.

School Information

Name of school: HS Paarl Gimnasium
Motto of school: Sol iustitiae illustra nios (Sun of justice, enlighten us)
Date of foundation: 1858
School address: PO Box 281, Paarl.  7620

Rugby at Paarl Gym

Rugby has been played at Paarl Gym since the 19th century, and in 1895 the pupils asked the principal for permission to found a rugby club at the school. The principal did not like the idea and told them to work in the garden if they wanted exercise! But rugby got under way, and the school did well and developed its distinctive colours in 1903. That year is taken as the start of the game at the school.

In those early years the staff frequently played as well for the teams were in club competitions. One principal of Bishops played for the school's 2nd XV, for example. The Paarl Gym principal, FC Wahl went one better, for he captained the 1st XV. At one stage Gym played the rest of Paarl and won! It even had 13 players in the town's first team in days when the Paarl RFC was powerful.

The school is one of the powerhouses of South African schoolboy rugby. Since 1974 when the very first captain of South African Schools, Bernard Pienaar, was a Gym boy, twenty players from Paarl Gym have played for South African schools. Well over a hundred players have played for Western Province.

This year Paarl Gym, from a pupil base of 1134 of whom about 500 are boys, will put 20 teams in the field each week.

Old Boy Springboks

The following Old Boys of Paarl Gym have played for South Africa: Boy de Villiers, Steve Joubert, Pietie le Roux, Japie le Roux, Gerald Thompson who was killed in World War I, Attie van Heerden, who also represented South Africa at the Olympic Games, JC van der Westhuizen, Pierre de Villiers, Manus de Jongh, PK Morkel, Jan Pickard, Hugo van Zyl, Wynand Mans, who later became a top referee, Schalk Burger, Kobus Burger, Kobus Wiese, Balie Swart, Mornay Visser and Pieter and Chris Rossouw, three contemporary centres in De Wet Barry, Marius Joubert and Jean de Villiers, and then, at the age of 20, Schalk Burger, son of the earlier Schalk Burger.

There have been many unlucky ones - such as Christo Spangenberg, Calla Scholtz and Schalk Burger, the flank who is not related to Schalk Burger the lock or his son Schalk Burger, the young flank.

Jan Pickard, a great benefactor of the school, became president of the Western Province RFU and served on a committee of the International Rugby Board.

Traditional Rivals

Annually Paarl Gym plays against great rugby schools such as Paul Roos, Bishops, Rondebosch, Boland Landbou, SACS and Wynberg, but nothing equals the fervour of its annual interschools clash at the Paarl Rugby Grounds with Paarl Boys' High from the other side of town. No interschools' match in South Africa equals it for fervour. The ground will be packed with 16 000 people there will be bands and parades, old boys will gather from all over the country in huge and raucous reunions and the match, frequently televised nationally, will be played with unequalled passion. They have been at it annually since 1915.