We profile SACS, generally acknowledged as the oldest school in South Africa.
In the early history of the Cape there were no formal schools, just what older men passed onto boys and older women passed on to girls. After the Dutch began settling in 1652, schools were bits and pieces of things. The coming of the English had more of an impact on education at the Cape but then education was developing all over the world and would grow rapidly in the 19th century.
SACS started off as an initiative of the Dutch Reformed Church in Cape Town, suggested in 1828 and inaugurated on 1 November 1829 in the Groote Kerk in Adderley Street and classes began in the Weeshuis (orphanage) in Long Street.
It was called South African College – the SAC. In 1841 the College moved to the Gardens.
The College began to offer university classes, as did the Diocesan College in Rondebosch, Victoria College in Stellenbosch and St Andrew's College in Grahamstown.
In 1874 the College School was separated in administration though not in location from the College. In 1896 the SACS got its own building.
In 1910 Bishops ceased its university classes, which then joined the SA College. In 1912 SACS moved to Orange Street in a building designed by Sir Herbert Baker.
In the Fifties plans started to move SACS from town and in 1960 it moved to Montebello Estate in Newlands, up towards the mountain from Newlands rugby ground.
Rugby at SACS
SACS is possibly the second school to play football in South Africa – after Bishops – way back in the 1860s. This is likely even though the first recorded match which has been found is dated 1873. The two schools still play each other twice a year in amiable rivalry.
Like Bishops SACS took to the game with great enthusiasm, and it was a SACS man, surnamed De Vos, who took rugby to Stellenbosch in the 1870s and taught Victoria College to play, a lesson they learnt particularly well. De Vos must have been a great teacher!
Early on the South African College developed a form of tertiary education on top of its schools. Its rugby team played top Western Province clubs, winning the Grand Challenge in 1909. When the Western Province RFU was founded in 1883, SACS was represented by OM Bergh, CG Gie and WH Ashley.
As Rugby School gave England its white jerseys, so SACS gave its striped jerseys to Western Province, having acquired them faute de mieux. Bishops were using the tough, dark blue jerseys that labouring seamen wore, as they still do. SACS, more refined, went to an outfitter in Cape Town, Porter Hodgson's in Adderley Street. The only suitable garments he could give them had blue and white hoops, as they still are.
When Newlands rugby ground was opened in 1890, SACS and Bishops played a trial match to see if the ground was good enough
At the end of the 19th century the Colonial Colleges Rugby Union was established, and SACS, Bishops and Victoria College used to compete for three cups – two Anderson Cups and the Harris Cup. In 1896 St Andrew's joined in.
Many SACS Old Boys have played international rugby.
Ben Duff, who is No.1 on the Springbok list, Marthinus Versfeld who was called Oupa, Tiger Devenish, Paul Scott, Scraps Wessels Allan Beswick, whose father founded Queen’s College, Jim Crosby, Pieter Dormehl, Tom Hepburn, Charlie Brown, Tom Hobson, John Jackson, Billy Millar who captained South Africa and became a test referee, the three brothers Luyt – Johan, Fred and Clive – who were the only three brothers in rugby history to play together in a test, Clive van Ryneveld whose son played rugby for England and cricket for South Africa, Cliff Riordan, Nick Crosby, Max Davison, Saturday Knight, who was married to Max Davison's sister, Wally Mills, Ernest “Baby” Shum and Toby Moll, who was killed in France in World War I. Fred Luyt, known as Lammetjie, is the man who started the dive pass, not Danie Craven as is often believed.
After World War I there was Frank Mellish, who played for England and South Africa in the same calendar year – the only international to play for two countries in the same year – and went on to be the convener of selectors, taking over from legendary Bill Schreiner, also a SACS man. Danie Craven regarded Mellish as the best manager of a Springbok team ever after he was the manager of the great 1951-52 Springboks in Europe. Between the Wars there were also Jack van Druten and Frankie Waring.
After World War II come Cecil Moss, the Springbok vice-captain in 1949 when the Springboks beat the All Blacks 4-0 in a series. Later he was a successful Springbok coach. He is just a great rugby man. After Moss came Percy Montgomery, the most capped of SACS players by far.
Once the Springboks were on tour in Scotland when SACS were on tour in England. Montgomery, off his own bat and at his own expense, got a train from Edinburgh to York to watch his old school play.
On a Saturday morning in 2004 Bishops played SACS and Montgomery was there, standing quietly with his father behind the dead-ball line. In 2004 he made a dramatic comeback to the Springbok team and won his 51st Test cap at Newlands against Ireland.
Since then Paul Delport, captain of SACS, SA Schools and the victorious SA Under 19 team, has become a Sevens Springbok.
Apart from the Springboks, Denoon Duncan played prop for Scotland and Ian Jones lock for Wales while he was up at Oxford.
SACS has also given rugby many great administrators. SACS men were presidents of the South African Rugby Board from 1913 to 1953. Mind you such was their longevity that there were only three of them – William Schreiner who was prime minister of the Cape at one stage and at the time of his death the SA High Commissioner in London, Jack Heyneman, who did much to get SACS to change from a form of the Winchester Game to the Rugby game, and Sport Pienaar – all eminent legal men. Heyneman and Pienaar both died in office.
SACS men were conveners of the national selection committee from 1921 to 1962. Bill Schreiner became a selector in 1912 and ceased in 1952. Frank Mellish became a selector in 1937 and ceased in 1962. He took over from Uncle Bill as convener of selectors in 1953.
Archie Shacksnovis was the first man to broadcast a rugby match in South Africa – from Newlands in the 1920s. Then CK Friedlander, who co-authored A Short Cut to Rugby with Pat Tebbutt, was a great rugby broadcaster in the days of local sports round-ups on a Friday and Saturday and broadcasts of club and provincial rugby from Newlands. Those were the days of the wireless – long before television.
SACS has given South African rugby a great deal, not least in good spirit and right ideals. When Sport Pienaar saw the Springboks off his message was: "Have great fun and happy rugby."
Bishops, Rondebosch and Paul Roos from those 19th century days of Inter-college rivalry. And St Andrew's joined in, if rarely. Now the big day is with Wynberg, not five kilometres down the Peninsula, also wearing blue and white hoops, a school nearly as old as SACS.
Name: South African College Schools
Motto: Spectemur in agendo (Let us by judged by what we do)
Address: Dean Street, Newlands, Cape Town
Colours: Blue and white
Number of boys: 725 at the High School
Number of boarders: 145 at the High School
Number of rugby teams: 17 at the High School
The Junior School is adjacent to the High School.