Hamilton Springboks & Internationals

In 1891 the first British touring team came to South Africa, referred to as the “English” team, though they were an Anglo-Scottish combination, captained by WE Maclagan, a Scot.  They won all their matches with ease and had only a single point scored against them – a try by Hasie Versfeld of Hamiltons when he played for “Cape Clubs”, the very first match played on South African soil against a touring team.  The Hamiltons members in that team were Ben Duff, John, Hasie and Marthinus Versfeld, and Bertie Heatlie, brother of the great Barry Heatlie. That year Ben Duff captained Western Province against the tourists and also played for South Africa, as a full back, against them.  The Springboks are now numbered in order of selection.  Ben Duff is Springbok Number 1.

The four Versfelds are worth a mention.  Hasie and Oupa played for South Africa in 1891. John played for Western Province.  RLO – Robert Loftus Owen Versfeld – known as Loftus, has remained the best known.  He was present at the foundation of three rugby Unions – Western Province, Eastern Province and Transvaal.  A Pretoria attorney, he was the moving spirit behind acquiring the land on which stands the ground that bears his name – Loftus Versveld in Pretoria.  He also introduced kikuyu grass to the Transvaal, which changed rugby grounds from dirt tracks to grassed fields and, as a result, had a big influence in getting schools to change from soccer to rugby.  Loftus Versfeld died watching Transvaal play at Ellis Park.

In 1891 three Hamiltons players played for South Africa – Ben Duff and Oupa Versfeld in all three tests and Hasie Versfeld in the third.  Only five South Africans played in all three tests – Duff, Oupa Versfeld, Chubb Vigne, Alf Richards and Japie Louw.  In 1896 big Paul Scott, a remarkably adventurous man, played in all four tests, including the wonderful fourth at Newlands when South Africa first wore green and won for the first time.

In 1896 nine Hamiltons players played for “Cape Town Clubs” against the British and four when Western Province drew 0-0 with them.  On that day the tourists had gone to lunch with the Prime Minister of the Cape at Groote Schuur, before wandering off to Newlands for the match.  At the lunch they had limited themselves to four tumblers of champagne – per man. The draw was the first time a South African team had not lost to a British team.  The British team played Western Province – champagne-less – later in their tour and thrashed them 32-0, to this day Western Province’s worst defeat at the hands of a touring team.

South Africa first won a test series in 1903 when the first two tests were drawn and South Africa won the third at Newlands.  Four Hamiltons players played in that series – Charles Brown, who played in all three matches, Tom Hobson, Jock Anderson and Oupa Reid.

Paul Roos’s team toured in 1907/08, the first team to be called “Springboks” – “Springbokken” as Paul Roos wanted them called in correct Dutch and to avoid any connection with jack-in-a-box.  Arthur Burmeister was on that tour, playing against a team called “France”, but by no means a French national team.  The Springboks won 55-6.

Cocky Hahn and Dick Luyt played against the 1910 British and Luyt was on the tour to the UK, Ireland and France in 1912-13, along with his brothers Fred and John and Wally Mills.  That was a great tour; South Africa’s first grand slam of victories abroad, the first of four in succession.

After World War I, for the first time South Africa played a New Zealand team in South Africa – the Imperial Services team.  This laid the foundation for the first South African tour to New Zealand in 1921, with the great Frank Mellish in the front row.  Frank Mellish is the only player to have played international rugby for two countries in the same calendar year.

In 1928 two of the greatest Hamiltons Springboks were in action – Bennie Osler and Jackie Tindall who played in all four tests against the All Blacks in a drawn series. The great Gerry Brand made his debut in that series and a fourth Hamiltons player was also capped – SP van Wyk. Osler, then playing for Villagers, Brand and Tindall were on the 1931-32 tour to Britain and Ireland. Brand and Osler were in action in the five-test series against the Wallabies in 1933, and Gerry Brand was one of the tsars of the great 1937 Springboks who broke the deadlock and won a series against the All Blacks, the first team to win a series in New Zealand.

The Lions came to South Africa in 1938 and again Gerry Brand was there.  Then came World War ii and a hiatus in rugby of all sorts. The next tour was in 1949 when the All Blacks came and Bull Bisogno and Don Duffet were in the Western Province front row.  Duffet hooked for Western Province against the 1953 Wallabies.  The Western Province team included two other Hamiltons men in the pack, the iron man Ivor Dorrington who was desperately unlucky not to make the 1956 team to New Zealand when men of iron will and bodies were needed, and Jan Pickard who had toured with the 1951-52 Springboks to Britain, Ireland and France, a great team managed by Frank Mellish.  Pickard played in two tests against the Wallabies, missed out on rugby in 1955 when the thrilling Lions were in South Africa, toured Australia and New Zealand in 1956, and played against France in 1958.

Roy Dryburgh of Hamiltons was at fullback against the Lions in 1955 and in his debut test became only the second Springbok fullback to score a test try.  That was at Newlands in the second test.  In those days fullbacks rarely scored tries.  Dryburgh then moved to Natal, toured in 1956 and captained the Springboks in two tests against the All Blacks in 1960, when Jan Pickard was still captaining Western Province.

Tours to and fro increased from 1960 onwards till isolation began to bite in the 1970s.  Scotland were the first to refuse to tour South Africa because of the race problems in South Africa.  The “demo” tours in 1969/70 to the UK and Ireland, in 1971 to Australia, and in 1981 to New Zealand and the USA were rare events and so unpleasant that they were not tried again.  The Lions came in 1980 and England in 1984.  For the rest Springbok rugby was confined to three series against the Jaguars, a South American concoction whose main ingredients were Pumas, the 1986 New Zealand Cavaliers and the World XV in 1989 for the centenary of the SARB.

Then came 1992 and the return of the Springboks to the world scene.  The test drought was broken and replaced instead by a flood.  In this period rugby football rushed willy-nilly towards professionalism, first de facto and then, from 1995 de iure.  Hamiltons were not slow in attempting to attract stars to the Club, amongst them several Springboks:

Ben Duff
Full name: Benjamin Robert Duff

Born: Swellendam, 16 October 1867

Deceased: Pretoria Hospital, 25 June 1943

Clubs: SA College, Hamiltons, Pretoria

Provinces: Western Province, Transvaal

International career: 1891: 3 tests: SA vs British Isles

Position: Fullback

Ben Duff’s father came from Stirling in Scotland and worked in the Postal Department and he was one of six children. His home at Green Point was called Braemar.

Ben Duff was the first Western Province captain in the Currie Cup tournament. His brother Colin also played for Western Province and Rhodesia. Ben played cricket for Western Province and his brother for Rhodesia.

When the 1891 British team came on tour, Ben Duff played against them for Cape Town Clubs, Western Province, the Cape Colony (three times), and South Africa (three times), always on the losing side. Colin Duff played against the 1896 side for Cape Town Clubs and Western Province (twice). On the first occasion Western Province drew with the British Isles. Colin Duff was a three-quarter. Ben Duff was one of five players to play in all three tests in the 1891 series. The others were Chubb Vigne, Alf Richards, Oupa Versfeld, and Japie Louw.

Hasie Versfeld
Full name: Charles Versfeld

Born: Wynberg, 24 September 1866

Deceased: 17 de Lorentz Street, Cape Town, 6 January 1942

Club: Hamiltons

Province: Western Province

International career: 1891: 1st test: SA vs British Isles

Hasie scored the only points (a try) against the 1891 tourists. His brother Marthinus, called Oupa, also played for South Africa. Another brother, Robert Loftus Owen Versfeld, who died in 1932 while watching Transvaal play against Orange Free State at Ellis Park, has a rugby ground in Pretoria named after him. He was one of five brothers.

Paul Scott
Full name: Paul Alexander Scott

Born: New Brunswick, 26 October 1872

Deceased:

Clubs: SA College, Hamiltons, Diggers

Provinces: Western Province, Transvaal

International career: 1896: 4 tests

Schools: Diocesan College (Bishops), SACS

University: South African College (forerunner of the University of Cape Town)

Paul Scott, a tough forward, was a miner, transport rider, speculator and farmer. His father, Lt-Col John Scott, who was born in Inverness, Scotland, came to South Africa in 1878, with his wife and five children. He fought on the Frontier and in the Zulu Wars, served with the Prince Imperial and was a friend of the Empress Eugenie. He was a great competitive shot. His mother was the sister of Canon John Widdicombe of Bloemfontein.

He founded the Cape Town Highlanders in 1885, who were called out just over six months later for the Malay Riots in 1886. The regiment was also involved in the Bechuanaland Campaign of 1897 and in the Anglo-Boer War. When he first retired from the Highlanders, he was persuaded to stay on by Cecil John Rhodes. After he finally retired he became the proprietor of the Round House Estate which had formerly belonged to Lord Charles Somerset.

Paul Scott was awarded the Boer War Medal with five bars. He was a major in the Rifle Brigade in World War I, after starting the war as a private. He moved around – to the Transvaal, to Mashonaland, back to the Cape, back to Transvaal, up to Rhodesia, and on to Northern Rhodesia. In World War II he reported for duty with the RAF in England. He listed shooting, swimming and rowing as his hobbies.

Charlie Brown
Full name: Charles Barker Brown

Born: Kuruman, 29 January 1878

Deceased: Boksburg, 18 June 1944

Club: Hamiltons

Provinces: Western Province, Rhodesia

International career: 1903: 3 tests

Charlie Brown’s mother was a parson’s daughter and his father came out with the London Missionary Society. Charlie Brown fought with the Roberts Horse regiment during the Anglo-Boer War. He was a forward and only one of three players who played for South Africa in all three tests in 1903.

Tom Hobson
Full name: Thomas Edward Carter Hobson

Born: Somerset East, 26 March 1881

Deceased: At the house of CC Wayland, Lovedale Farm near Belmont in the Herbert District, 2 September 1937. He had lost an arm through blood poisoning; later he tripped over a dog in the passage at night, suffered a head injury and died.

Club: Hamiltons

Province: Western Province

International career: 1903: 1 test

William Carey Hobson, grandfather of Tom Hobson, was from Cottesbrooke in Northamptonshire and was an 1820 Settler. He was an early breeder of merino sheep. He married Susannah Bonnin, the daughter of Samuel and Ann Bonnin, also 1820 settlers who came out on the Aurora.

Samuel Hobson, father of Tom Hobson, first married a Miss Edwards, by whom he had nine children. She died, and he then married a Miss Carter who was born in India and whom he met on board ship on his way to a horseshow in Dublin. She then came out to South Africa and married him. They had five children. Samuel died young, having been flung from the back of a horse. Tom Hobson’s mother then worked as a postmistress to bring up the large family.

Tom Hobson was awarded the Croix de Guerre in World War I. He was 12th man for South Africa at cricket, founded a cricket club in Douglas, for which he played, still hitting sixes with only one arm.

Alec Reid
Full name: Alexander Reid

Born: Klip River Farm, Swellendam, 23 November 1878

Deceased: Kensington Sanatorium, Johannesburg, 18 May 1952

Club: Hamiltons

Province: Western Province

International career: 1903: 1 test

Alec Reid’s great-grandfather, James Reid, a millwright, with his son Alexander, came from Perth in Scotland in 1817 with Benjamin Moodie, the miller, on the Brilliant. In 1840 his son, Alexander, started farming on the farm Klip River in the Swellendam district. Alexander’s third son was also named Alexander, the father of Alex and Bert Reid, both international rugby players.

Alec Reid worked for Barclay’s Bank in many places including Piet Retief and Vryburg. His brother Bert played for South Africa in 1906-07.

Alec Reid was a signatory to the amalgamation of the Hamilton and Sea Point clubs in 1909. He became a life member of the Hamilton-Sea Point RFC in 1913. In the same Hamiltons team with him were Baby Shum, Jock Anderson, Charlie Brown (who was on the committee but resigned half way through the season because he got married), Tommy Hobson and Arthur Burmeister, all of whom played for South Africa. Also in the team were J Dobbs (an Irishman), WG Mills and HC Flockhardt, all of whom played for Western Province. In those days they charged gate money to The Track for people who wanted to watch Hamiltons practise! Alex Reid was the first chairman of the Far East Rand Rugby Sub-Union.

Jock Anderson
Full name: John Winchester Anderson

Born: Cape Town, 31 December 1881

Deceased: Kalk Bay, Cape Town, 2 November 1953

Clubs: Hamiltons, Pirates

Provinces: Western Province, Transvaal

International career: 1903: 1 test

Captain James Anderson was a seafaring man, whose ships ran to the Far East to bring tea and rice to the Cape. One of them, Africa Star, was wrecked off Cape Point. A friend of his was James Murison, Donald Currie’s agent in the Cape for the Castle Line. Murison was a man of great stature at the Cape, a member of the Legislative Assembly, whose house in the Gardens is now the Helmsley Hotel. Like many of the shipping people at the Cape, James Anderson was a Scot. He owned an estate, Alexander Place, near where Mouille Point Lighthouse now stands. The following inscription appeared on his tombstone: The storms of life are over and he is anchored on the eternal shore.

Jock Anderson was a mine-owner (Pilgrims Rest and Sabie), hotel owner (Winchester Mansions -which is named after him – on the beachfront in Sea Point), owner of a liquor business, and a hotel proprietor (Standard Hotel, Cape Town). He joined Hamiltons in 1901 and left in 1906 for the Transvaal. He joined Hamiltons again in 1913 when he returned to Cape Town. According to his grandson, Jock Sparks, he was asked to go on the 1906 tour, but his wife would not let him go. His wife’s family were gunsmiths. His daughter Edythe was the first lady member of the Pirates RFC in Johannesburg.

John Botha
Full name: Johannes Augustus Botha

Born: Cape Town, 19 November 1879

Deceased: On his farm Vogelstruisfontein in the Standerton District on 8 December 1920. He is one of two Springboks killed by lightning.

Clubs: Hamiltons, Diggers

Province: Transvaal

International career: 1903: 1 test

The story goes that Fairy Heatlie and two friends who were helping him to select the team for the decisive third test in 1903, Biddy Anderson and Percy Twentyman Jones, were having tea in the Café Royal in Cape Town when John Botha walked in. They said that he was the sort of big man needed for the forwards to play against the British. They asked him if he played rugby and on receiving an affirmative reply, they then chose him.

His father was the last of three generations of gunsmiths and dealers in Cape Town. The Bothas were the first private gunsmiths at the Cape. Eventually, in 1901, the British bought their stock and dumped it out at sea, lest it fall into Boer hands. Rawbone’s then took over the business which they eventually sold to Armscor in the 1960s.

John Botha was the youngest of eight children. His brother, Albertus Stegmann Botha, was a keen rugby player at Heidelberg in the Transvaal. His sister, Johanna Catharina Elizabeth Botha, married Loftus Versfeld. John Botha often accompanied them to matches. The family tradition is that a knee injury prevented his touring with the Springboks in 1906. He was a clarinettist in the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra.

Burmie Burmeister
Full name: Arthur Richard Detlev Burmeister

Born: Cape Town, 1 May 1885

Deceased: The Monastery, Sea Point, Cape Town, 25 May 1952

Club: Hamiltons

Province: Western Province

International career: 1906-07 – 0 tests

Arthur (known as Burmie) Burmeister’s father started the first candle-making factory in South Africa. Burmie Burmeister was chosen to play for South Africa when Joubert declared himself unavailable, but after he broke a rib in the match against Somerset, he was replaced by Joubert. Burmeister played in six more matches on the tour after his injury. In Joubert’s first match on the tour he played on the wing, with Burmeister at fullback!

Burmie Burmeister played for Hamiltons from 1902 to1920. He was elected a life member in 1917 and was later honorary vice-president. He was a senior referee and his nephew, Ralph Burmeister, refereed at international level.

Lammetjie Luyt
Full name: Frederick Pieter Luyt

Born: Ceres, 26 February 1885

Deceased: Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, 6 June 1965

Clubs: SA College, Stellenbosch, Hamiltons

Province: Western Province

International career: 1910-13: 7 tests

Lammetjie Luyt, a lawyer, who was also called Fred or Freddie, was Paddy Carolin’s partner in a legal practice in Moorreesburg. Carolin, who wrote a great deal about the game of rugby, claimed that Luyt was South Africa’s first specialist scrumhalf and the first man to use the dive pass. The dive pass was a method of getting the scrumhalf away from marauding loose forwards who by the laws of the day were able to follow the ball through the scrum or ruck.

Dick Luyt
Full name: Richard Robins Luyt

Born: Ceres, 16 April 1886

Deceased: 2 Trappes Street, Worcester (returning home to Port Elizabeth from a cricket test), 14 January 1967

Club: Hamiltons

Province: Western Province

International career: 1910-1913: 7 tests

Universities: Victoria College, SA College

Dick Luyt was a brother of Fred and John. They are the only three brothers in world rugby history to have played together in an international. He also captained Western Province at cricket.

His son, Richard, who played for Western Province and won a Blue at Oxford, was invited to Springbok trials, but his father did not tell him of the invitation so that he would continue his studies. Richard, the son, joined the British Colonial Civil Service, serving first in Northern Rhodesia and Kenya. During World War II he served in the King’s African Rifles and led the platoon which rescued Haile Selasse. After the war he was governor of British Guyana and knighted for his services. Sir Richard Luyt was elected vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town in 1968 and died in 1994.

Dick Luyt’s other son, Peter, played provincial rugby for Eastern Province, Orange Free State and Northern Transvaal.

John Luyt
Full name: John Douglas Luyt

Born: Ceres, 6 December 1884

Deceased: Johannesburg, 3 October 1964

Clubs: Stellenbosch, SA College, Hamiltons, Crusaders

Provinces: Western Province, Eastern Province

International career: 1912-13: 4 tests

The oldest of the Luyt brothers, John was first a back but became a forward because there was an abundance of backs at the SA College when he moved there from Victoria College. The three Luyt brothers played in three tests together on the 1912-13 tour – against Scotland, Wales and England.

Wally Mills
Full name: Walter James Mills

Born: Durbanville, 16 June 1891

Deceased: Somerset West, 23 February 1975

Clubs: SA College, Hamiltons

Province: Western Province

International career: 910-13: 1 test

Wally Mills played for South Africa before he played for Western Province. He scored a try in the only test he played – the second international against the 1910 tourists. He was then inexplicably dropped for the third, but was selected for the 1912-13 tour to the UK, Ireland and France.

He was a cousin of Louis Louw and they played together in the same Springbok team. In World War I he fought first in German South West Africa (now Namibia) in the Royal Artillery. This was followed by a stint in the Indian Army, when persuaded to return to South Africa when his brother died in the great flu epidemic.

Later he managed a private estate and was chief judge of the SA Turf Club in succession to Vollie van der Bijl.

Hudie Hahn
Full name: Carl Hugo Linsingen Hahn (his mother’s maiden name was von Linsingen)

Born: Paarl, 7 January 1886. According to the church register, he was born in Paarl, but according to a passport application, made in 1947, he was born in Karibib in South West Africa (now Namibia). His father, the Rev. Carl Hugo Hahn of the Lutheran Church, was in Paarl from 1883 to 1921. He was baptised in Paarl. On his wife’s passport application, a decade before his, his place of birth is given as Paarl.

Deceased: Grootfontein, Namibia, 27 September 1948

Clubs: Pirates, Hamiltons

Province: Transvaal

International career: 1910: 3 tests

Hudie Hahn’s grandfather, Carl Hugo Hahn, was born near Riga in Livland in 1818. He went to Germany and joined the Rhenish Mission Society. After ordination he went to South West Africa to work amongst the Hereros, where he established himself with Chief Jonker Afrikaner in Windhoek in 1842. He was active in the field of linguistics. He left the Rhenish Mission Society’s service in 1873 and went to Paarl. He died in Cape Town on 24 November 1895.

His son, the Rev. Carl Hugo Hahn, was born at Reheboth in South West Africa in 1846. He was a minister in Cape Town and then at Paarl. He was educated in Germany, joined the Rhenish Mission Society, but left it and went to Cape Town in 1875, where he assisted his father. From 1883 to 1921 he ran a parish in Paarl. He died in Gordon’s Bay on 29 October 1933. His wife was of German extraction. They had ten children. His maternal grandfather, Baron von Linsingen, died in one of the Frontier Wars.

In World War I Hudie Hahn, who was also called Cocky, joined the Imperial Light Horse in which he held the rank of Major. From 1920 to 1926 he was the Native Commissioner in Ovamboland and in 1947 he served on the Public Services Commission in Windhoek. He was twice part of a Union of South Africa delegation to the United Nations. His wife was the daughter of the Anglican Bishop of Damaraland.

He was a fast wing three-quarter in his playing days and played in all three tests against Tommy Smyth’s 1910 British Isles tourists.

Toby Moll
Full name: Tobias Mortimer Moll

Born: Woodstock, Cape Town, 20 July 1890

Deceased: On the Western Front on 14 or 15 July 1916. He died of wounds received when a 2nd lieutenant in the Leicestershire Regiment.

Clubs: SA College, Hamiltons, Randfontein

Provinces: Western Province, Transvaal

International career: 1910: 1 test

CH Haig wrote to tell Toby Moll’s father, who was already dead, of the death of his son in action. His father was T.E. (Tobias Elias) Moll of Belgrave, Kimberley, manager of the Imperial Cold Storage Company. His mother was living with his sister (Helena Sophia Mellish) at Welbeloond, Potsdam. His father was born in Amsterdam but came to South Africa when “of tender years”. One of his mother’s sisters, Sarah Ellen Holdway, married CH Mortimer, hence Toby’s second name. A week before his father died his sister had also died. Their mother lost a husband and two children in a matter of two weeks.

His brother Henry also played for Western Province. Toby Moll played at forward in the second test against the 1910 tourists. He was playing for Transvaal at the time.

Baby Shum
Full name: Ernest Hamilton Shum

Born: Estcourt, 17 August 1886

Deceased: At home in Welkom on 27 June 1952

Clubs: SA College, Hamiltons, Pirates

Province: Transvaal

International career: 1912-13: 1 test

William Shum, his father, came to South Africa from Scotland to build the railway

line at the Point in Durban. The 2-mile stretch of line between the Point and Durban was opened on 26 June 1862. It was the first railway line in South Africa. Ernest Hamilton (known as Baby) was chosen as a forward for the 1012-13 tour to the UK, Ireland and France, playing in only the England test.

Tom van Vuuren
Full name: Thomas Frederik Janse van Vuuren

Born: Glen Lynden Farm, Adelaide on 9 July 1889

Deceased: Glen Craig Farm, Albany District on 7 July 1947

Clubs: Stellenbosch, Hamiltons, Albany, Somerset East

Province: Eastern Province

International career: 1912-13: 5 tests

Tom van Vuuren was the biggest rugby player of his day, standing 6 ft 4½ ins. He was also the heaviest member of the 1912-13 Springboks, weighing 208 lbs. He played in all five tests on the tour. He was first a teacher and then a farmer in the Albany District and was the president of Albany RFC in Grahamstown.

Jackie Tindall
Full name: John Christopher Tindall

Born: Stellenbosch, 26 March 1900

Deceased: Robert’s Heights (now Voortrekkerhoogte) on 3 May 1946, of pneumonia and viral meningitis

Clubs: Villagers, Somerset West, Hamiltons

Province: Western Province

International career: 1921-28: 5 tests

Jackie Tindall’s father Henry played for Griqualand West, his uncle William for Transvaal Country against the 1891 British Isles team. In the same team were Loftus Versfeld, Chubb Vigne, and Christiaan Beyers who became a Boer general in the Anglo-Boer War. In World War I Jackie Tindall was in the Royal Flying Corps. During World War II he was in Craven’s Physical Training Battalion and then at the Garrison at Robert’s Heights (Voortrekkerhoogte).

He was a brilliant rugby player, whether at flyhalf or fullback. At fullback he was famous for his ability to scoop the ball from in front of dribbling forwards and kick to touch in one movement. He was the reason for Bennie Osler’s move from Hamiltons to Villagers as Jackie Tindall then wanted to play flyhalf.

Theuns Krüger
Full name: Theunis Lodewicus Krüger (on his baptismal register his name and his father’s name is given as Teunis)

Born: Steynsburg, 17 June 1896

Deceased: Country Club, Waterkloof, Pretoria, on 6 July 1957. He had a heart attack while playing bowls.

Clubs: Pretoria, Hamiltons

Provinces: Transvaal, Western Province

International career: 1921-28: 8 tests

Theuns Krüger was one of the game’s first specialist hookers, but he was also remarkably fast about the field. He was an outstanding captain of Transvaal. His daughter Leonie married Ryk van Schoor.

Frank Mellish
Full name: Frank Whitmore Mellish

Born: Rondebosch, Cape Town, 26 March 1897

Deceased: Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, 21 August 1965

Clubs: Blackheath, Barbarians, Villagers, Hamiltons

Province: Western Province

International career: South Africa: 1921-24: 6 tests

England: 1920-21: 6 tests

Frank Mellish was one of 17 Mellishes who played rugby for Hamiltons. Uniquely he played international rugby for two countries in the same calendar year: he played rugby for England and then returned to take part in the trials to select the 1921 Springbok team and was chosen.

When Frank Mellish was chosen to tour New Zealand with the Springboks in 1921 he was given a Hamiltons scarf as a “token of esteem”. He had in fact just joined the Club, proposed by Piet Bayly and seconded by Cecil Mellish. He was elected to the Barbarians in 1920.

After his playing days came to an end he became a well-known administrator in the game. He was a national selector (1937 to 1962, convenor from 1953 to 1962). He was appointed manager of the 1951-52 Springbok team and regarded by Dr Danie Craven as the best manager ever. His grandson Peter played Craven Week rugby for Western Province.

Frank Mellish’s ashes were scattered on Newlands rugby ground – as were those of TB Herold, whose idea it was to buy the ground, H “Sausage” Versfeld, a life member, and Piet van Schaik a secretary of the Union from 1937 to 1961.

Bennie Osler
Full name: Benjamin Louwrens Osler

Born: Aliwal North, 23 November 1901

Deceased: Karl Bremer Hospital, Bellville, 28 April 1962

Clubs: UCT, Hamiltons, Villagers

Province: Western Province

International career: 1924-33: 17 tests

Benjamin Osler, a merchant of Falmouth in Cornwall, led a party of 1820 Settlers to South Africa on the Weymouth. They left Falmouth on 7 January, reached Table Bay on 26 April and Algoa Bay on 15 May. Benjamin and Jane had ten children. Benjamin Osler died in 1821, leaving his wife with a son Stephen and five daughters to look after. His descendant was Bennie Osler, whose grandfather, also Benjamin, was a magistrate in Riversdale. His six sons all played for Riversdale. Also on that voyage was the grandfather of Alf Richards who captained South Africa at rugby and cricket.

Bennie Osler’s uncle, Frank, played for Scotland in 1911 and his brother Stanley

for South Africa. Two cousins, TG and Duxie Osler, played for Western Province. His uncle Dr JJ Louwrens captained South Western Districts against the British tourists in 1910.

Bennie Osler scored 14 points against the All Blacks in the first test in Durban, a world record at that time. Against the Wallabies he reached 17 caps for South Africa, then another record.

After the successful tour of 1931-32 the nation was shocked when Osler was replaced as captain by Phil Nel. Nel believed that Osler was dropped because of the brand of rugby played on the tour of the UK and Ireland. He said: “That team of all the stars had not played the attractive type of rugby the selectors felt they should have done. They had been successful, yes, but they had made many enemies for the Union code by playing the game so closely and so safely with the accent on avoiding defeat. We had steamrollered our way to victory and our brilliant backs did not have a chance to show their paces often enough.” Others blamed it on the weather, as was the case on the 1960-61 tour.

After the trials at Newlands Bennie Osler went into the foyer of the Metropole Hotel in Cape Town and there saw the team on the notice-board, finding out for the first time that Philip Nel had been made captain in his place. Osler went straight to Nel to congratulate him and assure him of his support.

Brooke Duffy
Full name: Bernard Andrew Addingbrooke Duffy

Born: East London, 17 November 1905

Deceased: Provincial Hospital, Port Elizabeth, 16 March 1958

Clubs: Hamiltons (East London and Cape Town)

Province: Border

International career: 1928: 1 test

Brooke Duffy played for Hamiltons in Cape Town and for the club of the same name in East London. His provincial début was against the 1924 Lions. He was badly injured in the first test against the 1928 All Blacks when he collided with Bert Greenside, the All Black wing. Stanley Osler was also injured, but the Springboks won 17-0. In the second test Neville Tod suffered the same fate.

Brooke Duffy also swam and played water polo for Border and was a good oarsman. He was president of the Border RU. His brother Aubrey played for Border, and his son Gavin for Eastern Province and Natal. His granddaughter married Jackie Tindall’s grandson.

SP van Wyk
Full name: Stefanus Petrus van Wyk

Born: Middelburg, Transvaal, 12 January 1901

Deceased: Strand, 22 January 1978

Clubs: Stellenbosch, University of Pretoria, Hamiltons

Provinces: Western Province, Transvaal

International career: 1928: 2 tests: SA vs NZ

SP van Wyk, a forward, was a university lecturer and later a farmer.

Gerry Brand
Full name: Gerhard Hamilton Brand

Born: Cape Town, 8 October 1906

Deceased: Fish Hoek, 4 February 1996

Club: Hamiltons

Province: Western Province

International career: 1928-32: 16 tests

Gerry Brand’s father was an ardent Hamiltons man. Gerry was born the year Hamiltons won the Grand Challenge, hence his second name.

He was one of the legends of South African rugby, the fearless, fast fullback who never missed a tackle or an important kick at goal. His dropped goal against England at Twickenham on the 1931-32 tour is still regarded as one of the longest kicks of all time. On the 1937 tour to Australasia he was one of the team organisers – along with Phil Nel, Danie Craven, Boy Louw and Lucas Strachan. He was a national selector for a while.

He was a quiet man who would be at Western Province functions, always in his Hamiltons blazer, always quiet. Later a stroke robbed him of his speech entirely.

Tiny Francis
Full name: Murray Godfred Francis

Born: Bloemfontein, 26 August 1907

Deceased: 3 Lance Court, Bloemfontein, 2 August 1961

Clubs: Old Collegians, Gardens, Hamiltons, Ramblers

Province: Orange Free State

International career: 1931-32: No tests

Tiny Francis was first picked for Orange Free State at rugby and cricket in 1926. He was also picked for OFS at hockey in 1930, but could not play because of rugby commitments, though he later did play hockey for Orange Free State. On the 1931-32 tour he was understudy to the captain, Bennie Osler, a fellow Old Kingswoodian. As a result he did not play in any tests.

Tiny Francis played cricket for Western Province and was a good golfer. His wife was good at hockey and golf.

Freddie Turner
Full name: Frederick George Turner

Born: Port Elizabeth, 18 March 1914

Deceased:

Clubs: Crusaders, Pirates, Hamiltons, Military College, Union, Wanderers

Provinces: Eastern Province, Western Province, Transvaal, Northern Transvaal

International career: 1933-38: 11 tests

Freddie Turner played cricket for Eastern Province and Transvaal, and he swam and competed in athletics for Eastern Province. All four of his sons played hooker.

Jan Pickard
Full name: Jan Albertus Jacobus Pickard

Born: Paarl, 25 December 1927

Deceased: At home in Bishopscourt, Cape Town, on 30 May 1998, after a battle against Parkinson’s disease

Clubs: Stellenbosch, Hamiltons, Van der Stel

Province: Western Province

International career: 1951-58: 4 tests

Jan Pickard (known as Jan “Bull” Pickard) of Paarl was one of the great personalities of Western Province rugby, obviously one of the great men of Hamiltons. He caused a surprise when he left Stellenbosch to join Hamiltons at a time when it was not unknown for some Maties to spend their whole playing career as Maties.

When he was selected for the 1951-52 Springbok tour, he was given a Hamiltons blazer and a cheque. That year too the secretary of Hamiltons was instructed to write to him as his subs had not been paid!

He became a great, charismatic Western Province player and subsequently president during whose reign Newlands rugby ground was upgraded. During his tenure Western Province won the Currie Cup a record five times in successive years. He was on the executive committee of the SA Rugby Board and on the International Rugby Board.

He received the Order for Outstanding Service 1st Class: Gold, from the State President, PW Botha, on 7 June 1988.

Roy Dryburgh
Full name: Royden Gladstone Dryburgh

Born: Cape Town, 1 November 1929

Deceased: Durban, 10 May 2000

Clubs: Hamiltons, Berea Rovers

Provinces: Western Province, Natal

International career: 1955-60: 8 tests; captain in two tests

Roy Dryburgh was educated at Sea Point Boys’ High before finishing at Grey High in Port Elizabeth.

He was a remarkably athletic and skilful player – at home on the wing, at fullback and even in the centre – tall, fast, intelligent and skilled. He played for Western Province from 1949 to 1955. He then went to Natal and played for them from 1956 to 1960. In that year he was chosen as fullback and captain of South Africa for the first two tests against Wilson Whineray’s All Blacks.

In 1955 he became only the second Springbok fullback to score a try in a test – against the Lions at Newlands. (The previous Springbok fullback to score a test try had been Percy Allport – against the Lions in 1910, also at Newlands.)

Lionel Wilson
Full name: Lionel Geoffrey Wilson

Born: Cape Town, 25 May 1933

Clubs: False Bay, Hamiltons, Villagers, Palmerston North HSOB, North Island

Province: Western Province

International career: 1960-65: 27 tests

Very much a Southern Suburbs boy, Lionel Wilson joined Hamiltons in 1951 and the next year played fullback for the 1st team. He later left to join Villagers where he is vice president. He was given the second name of Geoffrey after Geoff Gray and is at present chairman of The Grays, a club within Villagers.

Lionel Wilson came into the Springbok team against the All Blacks in Bloemfontein – to replace Roy Dryburgh who had been dropped. He went on to set a Springbok record number of 27 tests at fullback, subsequently surpassed by André Joubert.

Wang Wyness
Full name: Melville Richard Kenneth Wyness

Born: Colesberg, 23 January 1937

Club: Hamiltons

Province: Western Province

International career: 1962-63: 5 tests

As the son of Bert Wyness, it was unthinkable that Wang Wyness would have played for any other club.

He was a surprise choice at centre for the Springboks against the Lions in 1962, but had an excellent series, making the big tackle on Mike Weston, which set up a try for Keith Oxlee resulting in making the series safe for the Springboks.

His nickname? He inherited it at Marist Brothers’ College in Rondebosch from his brother Keith who became a Springbok angler. A retired builder Wang now lives at Onrus.

Tiny Naudé
Full name: Jacobus Pieter Naudé

Born: Warrenton, 2 November 1936

Clubs: Randfontein, Hamiltons

Provinces: Transvaal, Western Province

International career: 1963-68: 14 tests

Tiny Naudé, captain of Hamiltons in the 1960s, had his finest hour at Lancaster Park in 1965 in Christchurch, New Zealand, when Colin Meads was penalised with the score 16-all in the third test. Tiny Naudé, big lock forward, placed the ball in the mud and drove it over the crossbar for a famous Springbok victory. After his playing days he was a provincial selector for a while.

Piet Botha
Full name: Pieter Hendrik Botha

Born: Rustenburg District, 13 November 1935

Clubs: West Rand, Westfield, Hamiltons

Provinces: Transvaal, Western Province

International career: 1965: 2 tests

Piet Botha came to Western Province from the Transvaal in 1962 along with Tiny Naudé. They both joined Hamiltons. Botha played for Western Province that year. He then went back to the Transvaal for whom he played 93 times between 1957 and 1972. Like Naudé he was chosen for the 1965 Springbok tour to Australasia. In New Zealand he dislocated his shoulder in some horseplay at the start of the visit and was out for so long that he never regained proper fitness.

Rob Louw

Full name: Robert James Louw

Born: Wynberg, 26 March 1955

Clubs: Stellenbosch, Defence, Hamiltons, Gardens-Technikon, L’Aquila (Italy), Wigan, UK (Rugby League)

Province: Western Province

International career: 1980-84: 19 tests

Rob Louw roamed the rugby world, ending his playing days with Wigan in rugby league whence he migrated after the cancellation of the 1985 All Black tour. In 1985 he played for Hamiltons.

He was one of the most charismatic Springboks of his time, gregarious and fun-loving. He enjoyed rugby which, as a loose forward, he played with great speed, courage and creativity. In 1996 and 1997 he coached Hamiltons.

Carel du Plessis
Full name: Carel Johan du Plessis

Born: Somerset East, 24 June 1960

Clubs: Stellenbosch, Defence, Merignac, Wanderers, Hamiltons

Provinces: Western Province, Transvaal

International career: 1981-89: 12 tests

Carel du Plessis’s stay at Hamiltons, like that of his brother Michael and several other players, was a short one at a time when rugby in South Africa was teetering on the brink of professionalism.

He played for South African schools at flyhalf, was first chosen for South Africa at centre and made his name as a wing – the “Prince of Wings”. He was one of the great Springbok wings, whose career would have been glorious had it not been circumscribed by isolation. He scored a try for an Overseas XV against a Five Nations XV at Twickenham in 1986, which was one of his greatest efforts.

He captained Western Province in 1988 when they shared the Currie Cup with Northern Transvaal. In 1997 he was the Springbok coach.

Michael du Plessis
Full name: Michael Josias du Plessis

Born: Somerset East, 4 November 1958

Clubs: Stellenbosch, Defence (Pretoria, Cape Town), Wanderers, Hamiltons, Police

Provinces: Western Province, Northern Transvaal, Transvaal, Eastern Province

International career: 1986-89: 8 tests

A rugby wanderer in rugby’s days of “shamteurism”, Michael du Plessis was also enormously talented, a player of huge influence, talent and creative ability. His grandfather played for Western Province, his father for Eastern Province, his brothers Wille and Carel for South Africa and his youngest brother Jacques for Western Province and Eastern Province. Carel, Willie and Michael played together in the Currie Cup Final of 1982.

Heinrich Fuls
Full name: Heinrich Theodor Fuls

Born: Hoopstad, 8 March 1971

Clubs: RAU, Crusader-Technikon, Northerns Tygerberg College (Parow), Hamiltons

Provinces: Transvaal, Eastern Province, Western Province, Border

International career: 1992-93: 8 tests

A big, strong centre, Heinrich Fuls was young when he became a Springbok and could well still be playing were it not for repeated injury. In 1995 he signed to play rugby league, but returned to the normal game soon afterwards. Injury forced his retirement. He now lives in East London where he runs a security company.

Keith Andrews
Full name: Keith Steven Andrews

Born: Molteno, 3 May 1962

Clubs: UCT, Villagers, Stade Aurillacois, Defence, Hamiltons

Province: Western Province

International career: 1992-94: 9 tests

Born in the foothills of the Drakensberg, Keith Andrews, like his cousin Mark, was educated at Selborne College in East London. He was essentially a Varsity (UCT) player, ending his career with them in 1998. In between he played for other clubs as well. His sojourn at Hamiltons was short. He was a flank at school, but switched to prop under Basil Bey at Varsity.

Botha Rossouw
Full name: Paul Botha Rossouw

Born: Pretoria, 3 November 1969

Clubs: Potchefstroom University, Hamiltons, Correctional Services

Provinces: Western Transvaal, Western Province, Northern Transvaal, South Western Districts, Eastern Province

International career: 1992: no tests

Botha Rossouw, whose wife played netball for South Africa, went on the first post-isolation Springbok tour when still a young student at Potchefstroom University. He was one of the surprise choices for the tour, selected ahead of Francois Pienaar. He was injured on the tour and returned home before the English leg of the tour, replaced by FC Smit. In 1994 he moved to Northern Transvaal, came back to Cape Town and joined Hamiltons. He played in the Western Province trials, was injured and went back to Northern Transvaal. In 1997 he moved to South Western Districts and was in the team that beat Northern Transvaal at Loftus Versfeld.

Nick Wegner
Full name: George Nicolaas Wegner

Born: Nelspruit, 3 December 1968

Clubs: Stellenbosch, CA Villeneuve sur Lot, Parma, Hamiltons

Provinces: Western Province, Natal

International career: 1993: 4 tests

Tall and springy, Nico Wegner, who came to Stellenbosch from Nelspruit High School, seemed likely to solve South Africa’s line-out problems in a world which, then, forbade lifting in the line-out. Strangely for a man who played in four tests he struggled to get into provincial teams, except for Western Province in 1996.

Toks van der Linde
Full name: Albert van der Linde

Born: Senegal, 30 December 1969

Clubs: University of the Orange Free State, College Rovers, Hamiltons, Villagers

Provinces: Orange Free State, Natal, Western Province

International career: 1995-97: 6 tests

Big prop, Toks van der Linde played his 100th match for Western Province in July 2000. Before that he had played for Free State and then Natal. When he came to Western Province he played for Hamiltons until 2000 when he moved to Villagers. A big, friendly man, he is famous for his rendition of Figaro.

International Referee

Ralph Burmeister
Full name: Ralph Douglas Burmeister

Born: Cape Town, 6 April 1918

Deceased: Cape Town, 27 September 1990

Province: Western Province

Refereeing career: South Africa vs New Zealand, 1949 (2 tests)

South Africa vs Australia, 1953 (1 test)

South Africa vs British Isles, 1955 (2 tests)

South Africa vs New Zealand, 1960 (2 tests)

South Africa vs Australia, 1961 (1 tests)

Ralph Burmeister (Fred’s son and Arthur’s nephew) was one of South Africa’s greatest referees. He refereed 8 tests, which was a vast number for those days, refereeing tests involving all the major touring teams in his day.

Known as Takkies, he was a great disciplinarian but one with a feel for the game. Without doubt the greatest test he refereed was the first between South Africa and the Lions at Ellis Park in 1955 when everything hinged on Jack van der Schyff’s conversion. The kick missed and the Lions won 22-21.

He was chairman of the Western Province Referees’ Society for 25 years after the end of World War II.
 
 

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