Wonderful Men in a Wonderful Place

Mon, 18 Jul 2016 12:42
Large schalk burger and sons2 800

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Newlands! It is the parent of many great memories, another one this Saturday immediately past. Paul Dobson takes a stroll down memory lane.

For older men there are more memories, wonderful snatches that last forever and always those memories centre on a person, a memorable person, a great person, a personality.

For many older wives, Newlands has been 'the other woman'. For their husbands it has been a lifelong love affair. And just as lovers want to do, they seek to know more about the loved one, including the past that they did not know.

And so we look back at the great personalities that have made a special impact on that special place, starting in 1890 when the ground was first used for rugby.

Barry Heatlie, called Fairy or Ox, was the first one. There were other great players - heroes - around then like Biddy Anderson and Alf Richards, but Heatlie was their leader.

He still is the youngest forward ever to have played for South Africa, Springbok captain in first Test win and first series win, the man who gave us the green jersey, captain of Western Province from 1891 to 1904, secretary of the Western Province Rugby Union, an Argentinian international who stopped playing at the age of 48, and a grand presence on the Members Stand  till his death in 1951.

Everything about Heatlie was immense, even the trouble he got into. At the time of his death he was living at Banville, the house next to the carpark at Newlands. Amongst other things he had helped with the fundraising for the purchase and development of Newlands.

There were great players after the Heatlie era - notably clever Japie Krige and speedy Bob Loubser and then the great, handsome Billy Millar, the first general manager of KWV and much involved in the union when his playing days were over.

The Twenties and the Thirties produced great heroes, when South Africa ruled the rugby world and Western Province ruled South Africa.

There was the crowd's favourite, Bennies Osler, King Bennie, a king on the field, a commoner off it. And Gerry Brand who was still playing after World War II, and my mother's favourite, DO Williams. There was Phil Mostert, the great Danie Craven and for me the Newlands personality of that time - Boy Louw.

There are more Boy Louw stories than any other South African's. He was a great personality as a player, playing in every position in the pack, a Springbok from 1928 to 1938, the coach of  the 6th Div team as Bombardier Boy Louw, the national selector and coach, the referee in the first-ever Currie Cup Final, a Western Province man through and through. Nobody played for Western Province and South Africa with greater passion and commitment than Boy Louw.

There were wonderful players after the war that became Newlands idols - Stephen and Dennis Fry, Cecil Moss, Nols van Heerden, Otto van Niekerk, Bull Bisogno, Hennie Muller, Tommy Gentles, Doug Hopwood, Tinkie Heyns - always Tinky Heyns, Basil Bey, John Gainsford, Len Rodriques, Skop van der Merwe, Louis de Waal and John le Roux,  and on to Morné du Plessis, Jan Boland Coetzee, Niel Burger, Hennie Bekker, Divan Serfointein, Hempies du Toit, Theuns Stofberg, Peter Whipp, the McCallum brothers, Rob Louw, HO, Nick Mallett and Dawie Snyman. But the man who bestrode Newlands like a colossus in those days, first as a player (1951-60) and then as a president (1981-92), was Jan Pickard. He changed Newlands.

And the heroes kept coming - Percy Montgomery, Chester Williams, Jean de Villiers, Gio Aplon and Cheslin Kolbe, Eben Etzebeth

All of those men we mentioned were men of intense loyalty, who gave much to the game. And they are not all by any means.

But back to last Saturday and a new memory, a delightful one.

The Stormers were due onto the field and the crowd of 20 000 was all excited. They love the Stormers. All eyes were glued on the tunnel as they waited for their heroes to appear. And suddenly there he was, the captain, and he was not alone, for Schalk Burger, in his Stormers playing gear, had on each hand a blond-haired son - Schalk (4) and Nicol (2), each in Stormers playing gear. Father was smiling broadly and the sons were full of zest. The crowd's love rose higher than ever.

Basil Bey said afterwards: "Schalk was wonderful and on the field he looked like a grandfather to all his players."

It would be no wonder at all if he were the most popular rugby player in the world today, a loyal and generous spirit.

He is my most recent Great Personality of Newlands's 126 years - Fairy Heatlie, Billy Millar, Bennie Osler, Boy Louw, Jan Pickard, Schalk Burger.

By Paul Dobson
@rugby365com