From “Fatcakes to Fame” – Nick Fenton-Wells

It is rumoured that when he was a delinquent junior player, Nick Fenton-Wells was inclined to pack on the pounds, in the old vernacular.

Whatever brought about the transformation (perhaps his famous uncle gave him a tongue lashing?); Nick went from Fatcakes to Fame in a rugby jiffy.

Well, there was a lot of sweat and blood spilled before he came to be recognized as the latest in a long line of Ikey rugby captains to be elevated to that special status which men like Tom Hugo-Hamman, Basil Bey, Gus Enderstein and a few others attained. Outstanding players all, but first and foremost, Ikey captains who were exceptional leaders, motivators and characters. The players would hobble, bare foot on broken glass for these men, to keep the name of the greatest rugby club in the world resounding throughout the rugby world. This does not in any way impugn the reputation of other UCT rugby captains, but some were so famous as Springboks or W.P players that their captaincy was different, not less.

Nick was that sort of captain who by sheer will and example 'persuaded' his players to go the extra mile. Fatcakes has come a long way. He is a classic example of a UCT man who has gone from rugby player to a credit to his Alma Mater whatever path he treads in life.

Nick Fenton-Wells is currently playing as a Flanker for the Bedford Blues in the RFU Championship. After a very successful two-year loan period from Saracens, the sturdy number 8 was made a permanent feature of Goldington Road and announced as the new captain rewarding his contribution to the team.

With his leadership ability and professionalism, the South African born forward makes the perfect Blues skipper, having taken over from James Pritchard at the start of the 2014/15 season. Renowned for his speed, strength and physicality in both open play or at breakdown he was picked for Martin Haag’s Championship XV side against Canada, which showcases the talent available in the Championship. We caught up with Nick and got his thoughts on playing in the UK

How are you enjoying life in the United Kingdom? 

I am really enjoying it, I’ve started my last year of my MBA (part-time through Durham University Business School), I have a contract at Bedford Blues until the end of 2016/2017 and I am currently living with my girlfriend and a 6 month old Sprocker puppy (cross between a springer and cocker spaniel) in a beautiful town 25 minutes north of London.

What does a typical week and match day entail?

We train 3 days a week, from 2pm-7pm in the evening and this is generally Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, depending on the day of the fixture, occasionally it is a Friday night or Sunday fixture, which changes our training days. Sunday is an inidividual recovery day.

A typical training day starts with gym at 2pm, physio and analysis between 3pm-4.30pm, Units from 4.30-5pm, team meeting at 5pm, training from 5.30pm – 7pm (length of team session varies depending on day of the week too).

On my off days I am mostly studying, on the odd occasion playing golf and drinking a lot of coffee with friends. Typical house chores on a daily basis and walking Rocky every day for an hour

What has been the highlight of your time with The Bedford Blues so far?

In my first loan season to Bedford Blues, we made the final of the Championship and lost narrowly to Newcastle, but being awarded the honour of club captain has definitely been my own personal highlight to date

What advice would you give to anybody wanting to play rugby professionally in the United Kingdom?

It’s not always easy going to the top clubs to build your rugby career. The competition is fierce and if you miss your one opportunity, it can impact on your career significantly. Ensure that when that opportunity arises take it with both hands. Go to a club where you can enjoy longevity, a club that has your best interests at heart (not only rugby) and has a good club culture. A holistic rugby club does not only view you as an asset, but builds you for life after rugby too. Although I missed my opportunity at Saracens, they gave me the opportunity to build my career outside of rugby by pushing me to do my MBA. 

Bedford Blues build the individual and play rugby for the love of the game. It is not a job, but a passion. In the profesisonal era it has become too much about a job. Many great rugby players that I know lost the passion for the game when they turned professional. Some say that they were do not possess the strength of mind for it, but I disagree. These are men who have featured in heineken cup finals, played for top clubs in europe, but they are rugby romantics and many clubs and national sides don’t play rugby for the romance.

Do you follow the UCT Ikey Tigers and the Club?

Yes, I am subscribed to the Ikey Tigers database and I am in regular contact with John Le Roux (He’s taller than me and you) and Neil Macdonald and I went to watch the Ikeys play in the world universities competition hosted at Oxford, where I had a chance to catch up with former team mates, coaches, physios and my former mentors!

What do you miss most about UCT rugby?

At UCT, we played for the love of the game, for the love of each other and to become better people. Our goals were different, yes we wanted to win, but we wanted to win playing an attractive style of rugby that we all enjoyed. That is the great thing about Bedford Blues. They have a similar outlook to how we approach the game, albeit still slightly more structured.

And of course my mates. I miss my mates from all my years at UCT rugby. From 2006 until 2011 I made friends that will be great mates for life.

Varsity Cup – South Africa Leads the Way

There are different ways to measure the success of the Varsity Cup tournament. If one were to only measure it on the basis of how many players went on to play Provincial and National Rugby it would historically be a great success. Over 65 percent of the players who took part in the Currie Cup semi-finals in October of this year came through via the FNB Varsity Cup competition.

Of the 88 players selected in the four match day teams, 61 played in the competition since its inception in 2008. The Free State Cheetahs and Western Province had 16 players each (72 percent), the Golden Lions had 15 (68 percent) while the Blue Bulls has 14 players (63 percent).
22 of the players originated from UP-Tuks, 14 from Shimlas, 7 from, Maties, 8 from UCT-Ikey Tigers. 5 from UJ and 1 each from Pukke and the Madibaz. Three of the Varsity Shield sides, Wits, UWC and CUT also had one player in the match day teams.

Add to that, eight of the players who represented the Springboks at the World Cup are also alumni of the universities, although some of them did not play in the competition. Handré Pollard (University of Pretoria), Damian De Allende (University of Cape Town), Eben Etzebeth (University of Cape Town), Trevor Nyakane (Central University of Technology) , Lodewyk De Jager (North-West University) Coenie Oosthuizen (University of Free State), Siya Kolisi (University of Cape Town) and Rudy Paige (University of Johannesburg). 

This representative success is expected to diminish as the new Varsity Cup rules come into effect.  In the 2012 season, Varsity Cup and Shield sides were required to have 16 full-time students in their 23-man squads. In the 2013 season, Varsity Cup teams were required to have 18 full-time students in their 23-man squads. In addition, students needed to have passed at least 30% of their previous year's courses, and all players, even non-students, must have finished high school. From the 2014 season, Varsity Cup teams were required to have 20 full-time students in their 23-man squads. 2014 was the last year in which non-students were not allowed to play. There are additional rules being implemented which precludes first year students from playing so players will have to have passed their first year of studies at University to qualify to play etc.
Many young players who cut their rugby teeth at Varsity Cup level will testify to the fact that being on show early in the season, in an intensive race to the title of being the best university club in the land, was a springboard to their rugby careers.

Eight years of Varsity Cup has produced a constellation of professional rugby players, some of whom were on the biggest stage of all, the Rugby World Cup 2015. Others are regular members of provincial and Super Rugby squads, in South Africa, England and Australia. Fame and fortune has been their reward for all the hard work and effort which started in the off season before a year of Varsity Cup.

The Varsity Cup has changed somewhat, in the sense that the organizers have been compelled to look very carefully at the letter and spirit of eligibility of students to ensure that 'geen verneukery' takes place to boost squads with players whose status as 'bona fide' students can be brought into question. The spirit of the Varsity Cup is as important as providing a platform for young players to go on to bigger things in rugby, and life. It is imperative that the original concept of The Varsity Cup is not buried underneath egos and hubris from universities throughout our land.

Ikeys Rampant In Hong Kong

Hong Kong has lately had a massive influx of ex Ikeys playing in their top league. Hong Kong which is normally associated with the Hong Kong 7’s has seen a number of old boys taking up the 15 man game on the Island.

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The first Ikey to go over was Matthew Rosslee and like any good old Ikey he soon started recruiting his old teammates. Dayne “Daynger” Jans soon followed his teammate. Dylan “Dguy” Rodgers was next and unsurprisingly Matthew and Dylan are flat mates in Happy Valley. 

The latest “Cell” of players saw Varsity Cup Ikey champions Nick Holton, Liam Slatem and Tiger Bax join the men in stripes battling it out in the Far East. Grant “Kempy” Kemp joined the boys not long after so incredibly UCT has seven players all playing in the Hong Kong Top division. If we are to add to that Zubayr “Egg” Abrahams to the mix who played a season for Valley last year that would be 8 total ex Ikeys within a 2 year period.

Nick Holton with the trusty South African right foot lined up a 55 metre penalty to sink arch rivals Hong Kong Football club on debut. The top division promotes a ball in hand style of play so to see a man with such an educated boot is uncanny. The look of horror when Football club realised that any penalty in their half would have them behind the poles was reminiscent of Morne Steyn's 2007 Blue Bulls season. 

Dylan and Liam play for Hong Kong Cricket Club and the five others Dayne, Matthew, Nick, Grant and Tiger all play for Valley Rugby in the Suburb of Happy Valley. It has been rumoured that Daynger Jans put in a request to have the club name changed to Valley Ikey Club, however after 50 years of existence the directors found it not in its best interests!

Hooker, Tighthead, Flyhalf and the midfield are all players that started in 2007 on the Green Mile B field under John Dobson. With a spattering here and there in the pro leagues it is almost mystical that the players find themselves all in the same team 8000 Kilometres from home. While Castle have been swopped out for overpriced Heinekens, Forries for the BAR&GRILL and Dobbo's house for Daynger's flat the boys are all tight as ever to this day. 

Valley club plays an exciting fast paced brand of rugby. With 5 Ikey players in the starting line up I am sure this too doesn’t come as a shock. Valley are the defending grand champions and no doubt that Valley Captain, Matthew Rosslee, will be looking once again to retain the trophy alongside his vice captain Dayne Jans. To stay in touch with some of the old boys be sure to Like the Valley Rugby Football Club Facebook page. 

 

The 1974 British Lions Tour of South Africa

The British Lions have only toured South Africa six times since 1960 so not many players get the opportunity to represent the Springboks against the tourists. In the 1974 tour, which was probably the most controversial and talked about Lions tour to this country, there were no less than five Ikey players who represented the Springboks against the tourists. 

Ikey players in the Bok team: 

 

Back Row: 2nd from left, Roy McCallum; 3rd from left Dugald MacDonald; 2nd from right Peter Whipp.

Middle Row: 2nd from right Chris Pope

Front Row: 3rd from left Ian McCallum

The ’74 Lions side had no weaknesses and they came to South Africa with a thorough understanding of the Springboks mind-set. It was Captain McBride’s 5th tour as a British and Irish Lions; his first Lions tour to South Africa was in 1962. They knew that if you can beat the Springboks in the scrums they can be beaten so they targeted the scrum and practiced this area in particular many months before the tour. 

South Africa didn’t have television in the early 70’s so South Africans didn’t see that coaching and training methods had taken a more professional turn in the UK. The printed press was the only information that was readily available and were very superficial with what it actually revealed about the players.

The games against Western Province, Transvaal and Free State had significant impact on the selectors and the series. Western Province ran the ball at the Lions and scored two good tries on a dry field. This was incidentally the last time a try was registered on a Saturday match against the Lions up to the fourth test. The success of the WP backline and the ability of their pack to manage upfront resulted in eight Province players being selected for the first test.

Ironically, Newlands was heavy with rain on test day and the Lions controlled the match with forwards and scrumhalf while the Springboks never tried to run the ball. SA lost that first test 12-3 and the Springbok selectors panicked and started what is now known as “the farce of ‘74” selection process. That test was the first of Chris Pope’s 9 tests. Sadly that was Roy McCallum first and only test. He deserved a second chance as much as anyone as he was a brilliant scrumhalf, but suffered behind a springbok pack dominated by the British Lions. He paid the ultimate price for his forwards lack of dominance.

For the 2nd Test, Morné du Plessis was moved from No8 to 6 and Dugald McDonald was brought in as No8. In total there where 6 changes and one positional shift to the team. The Lions won 28 – 9. The selection panic continued and a total of 9 changes and one positional switch was made for the third test, which South Africa Lost 9 – 26. The fourth and final test was drawn 13 – 13 and will be remembered for all the controversy around some of the refereeing decisions.

The tour will be remembered as well for the violence and the '99 call' (originally the '999 call' but it was too slow to shout out) which was meant to show that the Lions were a team and would not take any more of the violence being meted out to them. It was a harsh response to what the team were facing, but intended to show that the Lions would act as one and fight unsporting behavior with more of the same. The idea was that the referee would be unlikely to send off all of the Lions if they all attacked. At the 'Battle of Boet Erasmus Stadium', in Port Elizabeth, one of the most violent matches in rugby history, there is famous video footage of JPR Williams running over half of the pitch and launching himself at Moaner van Heerden after such a call. 

The 1974 Tour of the Lions to South Africa was undoubtedly the most unsettling tour ever for Springbok rugby. Touring unbeaten through South Africa superior in every aspect in virtually every single match including the test matches it was a massive wake-up call for South African rugby.

 

Gus Enderstein – Ikey Legend

A collection of Varsity rugby players spanning three decades from the sixties to the nineties, a like number of men who passed through the hands of Gus Enderstein, the educator, and many other people whose lives have been enriched by this very special man, were eager to tell ‘their story about Gustav.’

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Time and space does not allow for the full panoply of ‘Tales of Gus’ to be fleshed out. A few choice stories are on offer, and as it is the intention of this writer to compile a ‘Complete Collection of Gus Tales’ in the near future, suffice to say that these stories are the hors d’oeuvre in a grand five course meal.

So, let the Gus Tales begin!

One of the people from way back in the six-ties who knows Gus better than most, and shared so many rich experiences on and off the field with Gus is, Mike Hoard. This most excellent of men and a damn good hooker to boot, tells of Gus thus:

 

MIKE HOARD – LOS HOM JACK

Gus returned to UCT in 1964 having done a stint at Hamiltons as a wing/flank. He had decided to further his career as a loose-head prop. I came to UCT in that year from Rhodes University in Grahamstown. We were the only two players to play every game for the first XV that year, other than the tour to Durban. We played together in the UCT front row from 1964 to 1967 when I left to join Villagers and then were fortunate enough to join up again on the UCT Past & Present Tour of the British Isles, Ireland and Europe in 1968/69.

There is no inner place to forge friendships with your teammate than the front row. Remember that in those days hookers actually hooked the ball and your props were vital to the tighthead count – regardless of the score! There are many stories that spring to mind when reflecting on those years. In particular, I recall a cold, wet Saturday afternoon at Newlands where UCT were to play Northerns, the leaders in the Grand Challenge at that time. Club rugby generally had a big following— Northerns in particular had a big crowd of enthusiastic supporters. UCT too, with stars such as HO de Villiers, Mike Lawless, Derek Van den Berg, Ian McCallum and others had a faithful following. With five first league fixtures scheduled on Newlands A and B fields, there was a sizable crowd in attendance.

‘REMEMBER THAT IN THOSE DAYS HOOKERS ACTUALLY HOOKED THE BALL’

Northerns kicked off and at the first lineout their flamboyant captain, Bertie Genade – his Bryl-creamed blond cows ‘lick undisturbed by any warm-up callisthenics – walked down as his players lined up. I expected some fiery utterances to his men but he rubbed his hands and said “Fok dit manne, maar dit’s koud”. I digress – after some unsavoury exchanges with their hooker, their tighthead, one Jack Wolfaardt, told me he was going to ‘f%$* me up’ and I saw his fist on its way when Gus grabbed his wrist and said “Los hom Jack”. This happened for the next three or four scrums when Jack lost interest – “Thanks Gustav“I muttered. For what it is worth, I was fortunate enough to play with some highly rated looseheads, including several Springboks, if you had to wake me tonight to tell me that we were playing the All Blacks tomorrow and who would I want as my loosehead, I would reply immediately: Gus Enderstein.

 

GAVIN FERNIE – FULFILLING QUESTION-ABLE POTENTIAL

I offer my little piece next as we (Mike Hoard) and myself are old friends and I had the privilege of playing behind Mike and Gus quite a few times at UCT. Besides, our age alone entitles us to kick off the Gus Tales. ‘I can remember the thrill of lining up with a UCT 1st XV in 1964 and 1965 (unlike Gus and Mike Hoard I did not play all the first team games in those wonderful years, but enough to pass comment on the events of the time) as if it was yesterday.

‘GUS DID NOT WANT SOME SLAPGAT LOCK PUSHING BEHIND HIM AND HARRY HOARD’

At the beginning of 1965 Gus decided that I had not fulfilled my questionable potential as a Varsity lock during the 1964 season. Without further ado he told me in no uncertain terms that if I followed his every instruction from the 2nd of January until the season kicked off in late March, I might just be elevated from a ‘A bloody lazy, trying to be a playboy lock, to something vaguely useful in the Varsity pack; and after all, he, Gus, did not want some slapgat lock pushing behind him and Harry Hoard!’

The persuasive powers of Gus, a burning desire to show him that I was not quite so bloody useless, and a fired up ambition to fulfil my so called potential as a first league lock in the fiercely competitive Western Province league of the time, all combined to induce me to undergo what closely resembled a three month SAS/ Recce training course, from the 2nd January until the early practices at the Green Mile in March. Suffice to say that a regimen of running up mountains, agonizing gym sessions under the ruthless hands of two ex-Springbok wrestlers, weight training under the expert eye of Gus, wind sprint sessions, touch rugby and a special diet, all embracing a 6 day per week commitment, was somewhat different from the way I was accustomed to spending the summer months in Cape Town in the lush of my youth. On one occasion, after a brutal tight practice, Gus followed me into the old Pig and Whistle to see that I was not exceeding my beer and curry and rice ration; such is dedication! It all paid off, as Gus was wont to remind me during the 1965 season. It is the only time in my life that I have been really it, and I still smile happily when I recall the terse comment from Gus at the end of that memorable season, at the usual ‘rite of passage‘ 1st Team Dinner at the old Glendower Hotel; he said ‘Well, Fernie, that was just the beginning!’ And then, of course, that wonderful roar of laughter erupted from him, followed by a mighty punch on the arm. I went home that night a contented man. I had pleased the mighty Gus. Nothing tops that.’

 

DAVID VANRENEN – AWOL IN 1969

I remember the time on the ‘69 tour when we went AWOL and stayed with that British Lions prop (can’t remember his name). We spent a couple of uncomfortable nights sharing a bed!! We returned to the touring party in the middle of a team practice and received a nasty reception! I also recall sitting next to Gus at the new musical ‘Hair’, only to notice his seat was empty after the interval! 

By Gavin Fernie: I am intruding on Dave Vanrenen’s lovely little anecdote to add that this mighty oak of a man has his own special place in the Varsity rugby annals. I scrummed behind him on many occasions as well, and can confirm that a duo of AWOL Varsity players on the 69 Tour comprising of Vanrenen and Enderstein was good cause for Porky Wells (Tour Manager) and Louis De Waal (Team Captain) to wish they had never left home.

 

JOHN DOBSON – BUON GIORNO, GUS!

Gus Gus Gus. Memories are so many, and the thing is he probably did not want nor expect to make so many memories. Mine are countless.

In my first game under Gus after he took over the First team in 1997 he dragged us up the West Coast (Weskus as he called it) to play Vredendal or Vredenburg. He shook us a bit with his pre match speech, which coming hot off the heels of the Solly era was a little different. “Now I know you chaps are hopeless, but you are also serious. Now for god’s sake, if you are enjoying yourself, smile. Now go out there and play rugby.” And after the game and with Vredenburg or Vredendal not exactly being the Copa Cabana or the nightlife capital of the world, we were keen to get back on the bus. Not Gus. He was stuck in the corner for hours talking very, very bad Afrikaans to some ‘Weskussers’ he claimed to have grown up with. We sat on the bus. So bad was his Afrikaans one of the locals came up to us and asked us, so as not to appear rude, to rather speak in English.

He was never known for his language skills. Whilst he was coaching in Italy, I visited the Endersteins. Billy and the girls were absolutely fluent in Italian, doing Italian homework, singing in Italian choirs. Gus dragged me to the gym to, according to him, ‘to lift very heavy weights.’ We waddled along and he assured me his Italian, whilst not quite up the ladies standard, was ‘very very good’. We walk into the gym and the owner welcomes him. “Buon Giorno, Gus, come stai?” Here came the reply “Morning, Pietro. How are you” Not one syllable of Italian. I remember being at a post-match function there when one of his props came past sweating profusely and clutching several beers. Ah says Gus, what a good prop. Drags the fellow (who cannot speak any English) closer and says “Dobbo, Carlo here reminds me of Keith in the way he scrums, but he has Derek’s back and feet position. Don’t you, Carlo?” The poor fellow had not understood a word let alone known who on earth Keith (Andrews) or Derek (van der Berg) were, but out of politeness nodded a few desperate ‘Si Si’s. 

SO DOBSON, WHAT IS THE AERIAL VIEW OF DESPATCH LIKE?’

One used to enjoy touring with Gus where he was like the lead duck and we, his fleet of trailing ducklings, were expected to follow. On a SWD tour (manager the late and legendary John Dallas and that was the sole, thirsty, management team) on the day of playing Oudtshoorn the local club champions he insisted on taking us to the local Ostrich Museum. He made it compulsory and we traipsed after him from room to room where he invariably got fact after fact wrong. E.g. “the Ostrich industry boomed in the 40’s chaps” only to be met with a sign “WW2 and the 40’s – the dark years”. By the time we reached the last exhibit, it was only myself and Alistair Collins (capt) left, the rest had climbed out of windows. It was more pleasant in Knysna when he took us to the Mitchells Brewery. Or when on another Weskus tour he collected mussels for hours with the late and great Ish Dramat (management had expanded beyond Dallas and Enderstein to include a more sober minded and well behaved Muslim) to serve a very awful pre match sea food pasta that would have killed most.

Or playing against the mighty Despatch and getting scrummed to smithereens. It was a tough and fraught night in the front row. We lost to an intercept and should have won, although we had been pushed all over the Eastern Cape. We trouped off dejected and there was a gleaming coach. “So, Dobson,” those shoulders shaking with laughter, “What is the aerial view of Despatch like?” Bugger him.

 

SIMON PERKIN – GUS, A TRUE EDUCATOR

I taught with Gus at Rondebosch Boys’ High School from 1976. 

One wonderful story comes to mind: Gus was coaching the School 1st XV at the time, his captain was Adam Barnard, son of Dr Marius Barnard of heart transplantation fame. In the winter months a group of us (Gus, Dave Craig, Peter Glover etc.) would go to the Fairmead Ladies’ Bar on Friday nights for a drink before moving onto Brad’s Grill for a steak. On one particular Friday Gus was in his usual position when he saw his captain with a girlfriend ordering drinks in the lounge area. Gus summoned the waiter – ordered two glasses of water and instructed the waiter to tell his captain and partner to drink the water and to ‘piss off’ very quickly! He handled the situation like the true educator he was – the young Barnard played a blinder the next day!

 

GRAHAM WEPENER – YOU’RE LEAVING IT LATE, BOSCH

I think of Gus every time I jog across the Meadowfields at Rondebosch Boy’s High. It was there that I first met him when he coached our Under-14A forward pack the inner arts of scrumming and lineouts. It was at Rondebosch where I also encountered Gus’s famous sarcasm for the first time. In 1988 Bosch were taking a drubbing at the hands of a crack Bishops team. At the time it was the worst defeat in history and at about 52-4 to Bishops Rondebosch scored with five minutes to go to make it 52-10. Gus (1stXV coach) was standing behind the poles and shouted at the Rondebosch players as they were walking back to the halfway line: “You’re leaving it late Bosch!” Classic! 

 

‘A YOUNG VARSITY BACKLINE INCLUDING ROB FLECK SCORED FIVE TRIES PAST THE

POWERFUL VILLAGERS’

I met up with Gus again at UCT where he was the U20 coach. A legendary figure who appeared at every practice with his three whistles around his neck, always on time to set us off on a loop of the three Varsity fields. Practices were always hard and always fun just like the rugby he wanted us to play. The score not always being the most important thing to Gus, instead he took great pride in the style in which UCT played the game and the number of tries they scored. Later I came to select and coach with Gus and it was there that he made even more of an impression on me. When no-one else wanted to touch the UCT 1stXV in 1997 Gus in his inimitable way just said, “Just give me fifteen players and I’ll coach them.” A merry band of pilgrims both young and old, Gus forged them into a formidable unit. Memorable games were played against Villager (full of Springbok and provincial players) and Parow-NTK. UCT lost to Villager but a young Varsity backline including Robbie Fleck scored five tries past a powerful Villager backline containing amongst others Christian Stewart. Gus enjoyed his beers that night!

Then there was the win against at that stage the high-riding Parow-NTK. I remember their coach, Francois Bonthuys, sitting relaxing behind the poles at UCT as Parow scored from an early lineout drive. Then Varsity transformed and opened up. Burly Zimbabwean winger Ant “Animal” Roberts and the Portuguese flyer Pedro Morinello cut loose and Varsity scored a great come from behind win. Rightly, Gus was so pleased!

Selecting teams on a Monday night with Gus was great. Not only did he drink his beers very fast but he always did the honourable thing and selected the next player in line even when others on the committee thought the player may be out of his depth at A-team level. His integrity during selection and his loyalty to players left a lasting impression on me and is something I aspire to in my own coaching to this day. Many an evening I sat on my own pondering Gus’s wisdom as I watched him wander off (often in pouring rain) and disappear across the Varsity fields and back to his car. I was still finishing my beer as Gus always swallowed his in one sip it seemed.

Like anyone who was coached by or coached with Gus I will never forget him as long as I live. I salute a truly great rugby-man.

 

PRESTON ROBERTSON – SEVEN AGAINST THE HEAD

‘A lasting memory in the rugby life of Preston Robertson’. The reason why this very short story is well stored in my memory, is because we won the game but more importantly because it was such a fast paced, ferocious match.

My first game of rugby was for Prince Edward School U13 against Umtali U13 in 1956, and my last game was for Rhodesia against Eastern Province in a Currie Cup semi-final playoff in 1972.

The game which is the centre of the story was played in 1966 between UCT (us) and the touring Glenwood Old Boys (them) as a pre-season friendly. The UCT side was fairly inexperienced, but it was the core of the team that went on to bigger things over the next three years, out playing the Maties in 9 games (won four, drew three, lost two). The Glenwood Old Boys team was heaving with talent and experience. Rodney Gould the in-cumbent Springbok fullback, Errol Patterson and Pat Stack in the backline.

Their forwards were their strength with Willem Labuschagne, Don Walton and Barry Burnell in their front row. Lock Len Fry had a couple of Natal caps and Ian Grant (No.8) and Don Campbell (lank) had both played inter-provincial rugby. It is critical to mention that Walton was the incumbent Springbok hooker, and Labuschagne had previously been capped as a Bok front ranker. Something else that should be mentioned pertains to the scrum rules of the day. None of your current crouch, touch, pause, engage and then the scrum half puts the ball in under his locks feet or sometimes even the eighth man’s feet. The scrum used to go down quickly and the scrumhalf had to put the ball in the middle of the scrum tunnel at least a shoulder length into the scrum, at which time, and not before, the hookers would strike for the ball.

‘LABUSCHAGNE WAS DETERMINED TO SHOVE GUSTAV ENDERSTEIN’S HEAD UP HIS READ END THE WHOLE GAME’

The game started at a wicked pace and never let up for the whole game. Our one lock (Joe Ireland) and eighth man (Gavin Birch) were concussed during the second half and had to be repeatedly pointed in the direction of the ball. We could not afford to let them go off as there were no reserve benches in those days. The scrums were the focus of the game and one would have thought that UCT would have been lucky to hook back any ball at all, especially with Willem Labuschagne determined to shove Gustav Enderstein’s head up his rear end the whole game. Willem was behaving very badly, and seemed determined to maul our front row. No one would have bet that Mike Hoard the UCT hooker, would have hooked much ball at all. The amazing feature of Willem screwing Gustav every scrum, was that Gus ended up so low in the scrum that Don Walton very rarely got any sight of the ball. This enabled Mike (aka The Silver Foot) to rake back the ball including seven of the team’s own put-ins. That is how the legend of “Seven Against the Head” got into the annals of UCT rugby. If Gustav had not been so fit and pliable, Harold would never have that famous scalp on his belt.

 

BILLY ENDERSTEIN – ONLY A MATTER OF WHEN

Most people have known Gus longer than I and when I meet them I am in for another interesting tale with my husband at the centre; in the classroom or staff room, in the scrum or on tour. I am touched by the friendship and the memories that you share and was prompted to let you know how I came into the picture. I met Gus through a mutual friend, Lalage Maurer, in November 1993, and was taken by his distinguished looks, hunky frame and exceptionally deep voice. I prayed hard not to fall in love with him… and then did. However, dating was a new phenomenon to Gus and I guess he was strategising on the best approach as we only started going out in 1997! He may have been slow, but he proved steady and sure, there were after all three of us in the bargain.

Time passed, Gus even had a three month coaching stint in Portugal in the hope that I would forget all about him, but his girlfriend was there when he got back. More time passed and Gus started getting used to the three of us being around, but Coila (then aged 8 and the youngest of the three Second girls) was not content with the status quo. One Friday evening she was seated on Uncle Gus’ lap outside watching the fire when she asked if she could talk to him, to which he replied ‘ Sure go ahead’ and to which she added ‘ Not here, privately.’ She sat Gus down in the bedroom with the door closed and posed the question: ‘Uncle Gus when are you going to ask my mother to marry you?’ I had no knowledge of this however and when I mentioned marriage many months later on the way from the Constantia gym in early morning traffic I got the response ‘Oh it was never a matter of if, only a matter of when.’ Well I took the gap and we were married 3 weeks later on the 18th December 1999, at St Andrew’s Church in Newlands on Athena’s 13th birthday. The girls danced behind us down the aisle and we were no sooner out of the church when Coila asked Gus, ‘Uncle Gus can we call you dad now?’    

I have to say that despite all the cautionary advice I was given about confirmed bachelors and Rugby coaches, there were no adjustments necessary. Gus was 150% present as a partner and parent and a walking talking encyclopaedia to boot – much to the delight of Theensie and Coila who were adopted by Gus a month or two before we left for Italy at the end of 2000.

Italy was another chapter in our lives and a very special one at that, for which we have Gus to thank. Without his talent as a coach and his inimitable character we would not have had the opportunity of living and working overseas, let alone Italy with its amazing art and culture. It was a unique experience for each one of us and as a couple Gus and I had the privilege of spending time alone with one another for the first six months, whilst the girls were at school during the day. We also made friends together – and this was important to me as when I met Gus he had a stockpile of this commodity and we needed to forge a few friendships of our own.

When Gus had his brain haemorrhage in November 2002, I have to say that the Italian friends were absolutely amazing and the rugby and education communities and friends and family in South Africa were too. John Dobson used to call and speak to Gus for over an hour at a time and Estelle his sister would do the same for me. It is wonderful that the girls and I have the opportunity now to thank each and every one of you for your friendship and support over the past few years in this tribute to Gus, who truly is an exceptional man not only because of what he was, but because of who he is 

 

Some background by Gus’ brother Willem:

Lars Gustaf (Gus) Enderstein was born at Langebaan on 10 August 1940. He attended primary school at Langebaan till the end of 1953. He attended High School from 1954 at Hopefield. It was in Hopefield were he started playing rugby as a wing. Being a good athlete he played in his final matric year for the school side in the morning and then for the village team in the afternoons. Gus matriculated at the end of 1958. Gus did his National Service at the S.A.S. Saldanha Naval Base in 1959, where he also excelled as a very good wing. 

As from 1960 he enrolled for a B.S.C. degree at UCT. It was here and under the head coach, Dr Tom Hamman that he changed from playing wing to front ranker. It took a lot of gym work to get his body ready for this new challenge but he turned out to be a very successful prop and played in this position until his retirement. He played front ranker for Southern Varsities and was also part of their wrestling team.

After varsity he started to teach at Rondebosch High School where he coached rugby. He was involved with the coaching at the University until his retirement. Gus also coached in Portugal and Italy before returning to South Africa