Fri, 21 May 2004 00:00
We profile Maritzburg College of Pietermaritzburg.
School profile

We profile Maritzburg College of Pietermaritzburg.

Pietermaritzburg was born of trouble and strife. Maritzburg College’s colours speak of struggle and strife. Mercifully the struggle and strife is now confined to the rugby field where College does remarkably well, one of the great rugby schools of South Africa.

Pietermaritzburg may be regarded as Sleepy Hollow but there is nothing sleepy in the face of the College boys when somebody cries Satan and the flyhalf kicks off against DHS.

Pietermaritzburg was once the capital of a republic and is now the capital of a province.

It is named for two Voortrekker leaders – Piet Retief and Gerrit Maritz. Retief met his end at Dingaan’s kraal in 1838. Maritz became President of the Voortrekkerraad. He led the commando against the Zulus in the wake of Retief’s killing and himself died in 1839. That was the year when houses were first erected in an effort to found the town which they called after the two dead leaders Pietermaritzburg, abbreviated in speech to Maritzburg.

It became the capital of the Boer Republic of Natalia in 1839. It had only a short stay for Britain gobbled it up in 1843 as Natal became a British colony – with Pietermaritzburg as its capital.

Now it is the capital of KwaZulu Natal, but only after many wars. The Boers fought the Zulus and the British in Natal. The British fought the Zulus and the Boers. The battlefields of Natal are well worth a visit. This happened in the 19th century.

Pietermaritzburg has its beautiful moments –p the azaleas of the spring followed by the purple of the jacarandas. Its history speaks of important men – Zulu kings and Boer leaders and British generals and Louis Napoleon and Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela and Alan Paton. Now it is a place of government and education.

The School

Maritzburg College was founded as Pietermaritzburg High School in a carpenter shop in Longmarket Street in 1863. It missed Boer vs Zulu but was there for Brit vs Zulu and the huge British defeat at Isandlwana in 1879 and Rorke’s Drift and so on. It was there again for Boer vs Brit towards the end of the century. Natal ran with blood, and the College colours reflect that.

They are red, white and black. Black for the Zulus killed, white for the British and Boers killed and red for the blood which flowed.

The College badge speaks of these suffering times – an assegai and a rifle meeting.

Now there are Zulus and Afrikaners and English-speakers all together at Maritzburg College.

Rugby at College

College played its first recorded match of a game like rugby on 11 October 1870. It had a brief flirtation with soccer and then along came AS Langley, nicknamed Modevu for his moustache. After that soccer faded rapidly and College became a rugby power. When Langley went down to DHS as headmaster rugby took off there as well.

The great Bill Payn was another College man who had an impact on rugby at DHS. An Old Boy of College he taught and coached famously at DHS and ran rugby in Natal Schools.

DHS repaid the compliment for rugby at College never did as well as it did under Skonk Nicholson, a DHS Old Boy and one of the great men of schools rugby in South Africa. Skonk coached the first team from 1948 to 1982 and is still coaching.

College has won more than it lost against all Natal schools. Those closest to it are Kearsney and Hilton. Its most frequent opponents have been DHS. College has beaten them 106 times in 175 matches.

There is no doubt that beating Maritzburg College will always be a feat.

College has an excellent history of its rugby, Jimeloyo-Ji, written by Skonk Nicholson and Tony Wiblin.

Main Field

The man field is Goldstone’s named after a New Zealander who came out during the South African War, stayed on and coached College first team, on and off, from 1910 to 1928.

Unbeaten teams

1932, 1949, 1954, 1955, 1959, 1962, 1963, 1974, 1978, 1981, 1982, 1985, 1988, 1995.

Rugby Old Boy Internationals

For South Africa: EH “Baby” Shum, Wally Clarkson, Bill Payn, Beevee Vanderplank, who was the oldest Springbok at the time of his death, Phil Nel who captained the famous 1937 Springboks, George van Reenen, Keith Oxlee, Ormie Taylor, Andy van der Watt, Joel Stransky, Jeremy Thomson, Pieter Dixon and Butch James.

For England: HD Freakes who was killed flying for the RAF during World War II, Geoff Appleford.

For Italy: Wim, Visser.

For the USA: Juan Grobler

For Zimbabwe: Brenton Catterall

School Information

Name: Maritzburg College
Nickname: College
Colours: red, black, white
Motto: Pro aris et focis (For faith and family)
Pupil numbers: 1200 boys
Boarders: 400
Rugby teams: 28 (There would be more if there were more fixtures)