Grey Rugby 60 years ago – the Team of 1963

Grey had a powerful side all those years ago and the team met to celebrate the occasion at a lunch held at the Old Grey Club over the Reunion weekend. The side, captained by Colin (Dutch) Foster, only lost three games in what in present times may be considered the most unlikely opposition! They played 22 games, lost three and drew one. They lost 6-9 to Muir in Uitenhage, 5-6 to Union High in Graaff-Reinet and were well beaten 11 nil by St. Andrews in Grahamstown.

Notable victories were achieved by beating Dale 3 nil on the then Front Field. A side led by HO De Villiers who later played for the Springboks. Dale College in the mid-1960s had an awesome reputation. They only lost 8 games between 1963 and 1968 with five being lost by less than three points! They were unbeaten in 1964.

Grey then beat Queen’s College 14-3 in Queenstown in the first-ever game played between the two schools. It was the first game of the season and to rub it in it took place on their reunion weekend! A fancied Pearson was beaten 8-3 on the Front Field. The match drew an enormous crowd of what was said to be 5,000 spectators in one of the biggest-ever attendances in schoolboy rugby in Port Elizabeth. In a later return game played as a curtain raiser to an Eastern Province match at the Boet Erasmus, the side triumphed yet again and won 6 – 3.

The team went on tour by train to Bloemfontein. On route, they beat Aliwal North and drew 8 all with Grey College which is the closest that Grey has ever come to victory in Bloemfontein. It was, in fact, also the first time that the two Grey schools had met. Their other game on tour was against St.Andrews School which was won 21-9.

Sadly, a number of our once-traditional opponents no longer compete against Grey. Cillie and Andrew Rabie were big Afrikaans schools and formidable opposition as were Cradock Boys High. Gill in Somerset East who were among our very early traditional matches dating to 1920 no longer have the numbers and Despatch and PE Technical High School have also fallen by the wayside. Much has changed.

The team was coached by a very knowledgeable Jacques van Onselen (Felix!) and Giepie Wentzel the Gym Master. He had before coming to Grey played for Boland and while at Grey was selected for Eastern Province and the Springboks. Jacques was the Senior Latin Master and besides being acclaimed for his annual stage productions knew the game of rugby and how to mould a rugby side! It would be remiss not to mention the well-known and ever-affable Neil McLaggan who was the Linesman. Quite the best it is said that Grey ever had! Neil always took two steps too many in Grey’s favour and if he was met with yells of derision and loud calls from partisan supporters would obligingly turn round, give a big grin and adjust his mark by making only a step either way! He was present at the lunch, flag and all!

At the end of the season, no less than seven full Colours awards were made. Those who gained these were Colin Foster, Arrol Paterson, Monty Ware, David van Reenen, Rupert Pringle, Warwick Creed and Malcolm Cowie. The baby of the side, Rod Pringle, would later be selected for the EP Craven Week side in 1965 and Dudley Noble was in the first-ever Craven Week side which was chosen in 1964. Rod, Monty Ware, Warwick Creed and Malcolm Cowie went on to play for Eastern Province and Dutch Foster was to captain UCT and play for Border at senior level.

It was a happy gathering that took place at Old Grey as memories were rekindled of years gone by. The late Bob Ford, Malcolm Cowie, Denzil (Chinky) van Coller and Ashley Green were remembered and Cal Seton-Smith rolled up in his wheelchair!

Dudley Noble and Frankie Roulston were unable to attend. Cowie will be remembered as an outstanding sportsman – he achieved Colours for Rugby, Cricket and Athletics and he was the school’s champion pole vaulter.

Members travelled from afar including places such as Plettenberg Bay, Johannesburg, Wilderness, Cape Town, Port Alfred and even Pat Atkinson made the pilgrimage from Fort Beaufort! Special guests included Keith Butler-Wheelhouse from the UK and Warwick Creed from Australia. A phenomenal athlete in his day he won both the Shotput and 100yard Hurdles at the Hirsch Shield. Together he, with Arrol Paterson, was rated as one of Grey’s greatest centre combinations and was eclipsed only in later years by Gavin Cowley and Neil Ward of the 1970 vintage.

After lunch, the veterans had a team photograph taken. Those present filled every position of that memorable side despite notable absentees after which they all formed a circle on the field and did the traditional Grey War Cry. Bending down and jumping up again was a bit more difficult for some but the spirit was there! Among the guests invited to the lunch were Stan Terblanche who captained Pearson in 1963 and Rob Henderson who captained Union High. He, at least could say, we beat Grey!

The team all attended the First XV game against Wynberg Boys High on Saturday and enjoyed their old school’s hospitality and being seated in the pavilion. Refreshments followed afterwards in the De Waal Hall where all gathered for a drink or two and this all brought an end to a memorable week.