1968 – Ian McCallum’s definition of varsity rugby

It is a great privilege to be a part of this edition of the history of UCT RFC. The privilege however, is for morethan the very small part I have played. It is the privilege of being a part of an ethos – a characteristic spirit unique to this great Club. It is an ethos that is not only enduring but central to the core meaning of the word Varsity itself. To me, Varsity was and will always be a mantra, another name for a striped form of DNA that unites people, places and the joy of playing a game, first and foremost, for the sheer love of it.

As far as I am aware, in this coun- try, to say that you played rugby for Varsity can only mean one place, one club … UCT. It tells us that the name Varsity is a copyright and a brand all in one. And it is not for sale. We can be very proud of that.

At times, deeply envied for the intellectual energy, the daring and adventure that it traditionally brings into this sometimes, brutish game, it is a brand and an ethos that cannot be adequately described or prescribed. It has to be experienced and if you are fortunate enough to have done so, you will know what I mean when I say that playing for "Varsity" comes with a guarantee – it will influence the rest of your life. Looking back, playing for this club was undoubtedly pivotal in my life. Like many before and after, I was shaped by great names, great team mates and by the joy and heartache of the game itself. Varsity was my field of dreams and my wake-up call. Yes, I took the cry “Wake up Varsity!” personally. It was the prov- ing ground for the realisation that individuality is impossible outside of relationship, companionship and mentorship. I am grateful to those who made this possible. To me, the words Varsity and Ubuntu are practically synonymous.

Ian McCallum played fullback for UCT, Western Province and the Springboks (1970 to 1974). He is a medical doctor and psychiatrist, author and poet. He has spent the past ten years guiding travellers throughout Southern Africa and parts of East Africa. 

1911 – Ikeys Maties history

The origin of the word Matie is in doubt. It was first used in 1911, apparently by the men of the south african College who looked down their noses at their country cousins, who called one another maat or its diminutive matie (chum).

Apparently the word is not a corruption of tamatie (tomato) as description of the maroon of the stellenbosch jersey. In 1918 the men of the stellenbosch song Committee put their heads to- gether and in retaliation came up with the name ikey for UCT, because of the large number of Jews at UCT. It refers to a silly verse, which started: “Ikey Moses, King of the Jews”.

The students’ representative Council (SRC) of UCT did not like the name because of its possible anti-semitism and protested in 1920 and 1921. In fact in 1921 they were due to attend a meeting with the Stellenbosch SRC to discuss the matter and 20 May was set down as a date for the meeting. But they had omitted to notice that there was no train to stellenbosch on a Friday and the meeting never took place.

There were sporadic protest in the early 1930s, but the name stuck. Both nicknames, born of some contempt, have become names of honour.

Explained by: Paul Dobson

1882 – The early years of UCT rugby