A message from Club Director, Johnny Biderman-Pam
What can one say about 2020 that has not already been said or felt. On 25 March 2020 our world changed (forever?) as we began to grapple with a life that none in the Club had ever envisioned.
A year of imagining and reimagining. Everything. Again and again.
My rugby analogies for 2020… a monstrous rolling maul? an infinite loop of reset scrums? a swirling up and under that still has not come down?
Our preparations for 2020 were precise, but even by my ambitious standards I could not have hoped for a better start to the year. I remember visiting our Under 20 Young Guns and First XV training camps in Worcester and Hermanus respectively in early January. I was in awe at the level of intensity that our top 80 players and coaches were working on in terms of their skills, strength, conditioning and mental preparedness for Varsity Cup 2020. THIS WAS GOING TO BE THE YEAR OF THE IKEYS.
The rest of the Club was not forgotten. Our Swifts women’s squad grew exponentially and began training in earnest, committed to being competitive, having fun and driving forward university level Women’s Rugby in South Africa. We organised a phenomenally successful Friday Lights Night friendly tournament with False Bay, Villagers and the Maties for our 2nd and 3rd Men’s teams. Picture this, a perfect, barmy, windless evening in late January on the Green Mile. Villagers take on False Bay in the curtain raiser and then Ikeys and Maties go toe to toe in a ding dong battle. And once the feral action between the lines was over then the laughter, revelry and joy of a heaving Ikeys pub was enjoyed by all teams. How I wish we could have had many experiences like this with all our supporters this year.
Our now traditional Doc Cecil Moss Memorial evening was once again a huge success with our First Team overcoming our friends – but tough foes – Durbell, in a furious encounter. Afterwards, in the warmth of The Ikey pub, John Le Roux spoke warmly to the players about the legacy of Doc Moss and what the Club and its players had meant to him over many decades.
As the university year commenced, we experienced record numbers of players joining the club in Orientation Week. Not quite the numbers of the sixties and seventies, when the club fielded up to 8 teams. Well over 250 players signed up to pull our Blue and White striped jersey over their heads in 2020. Practices commenced with eager coaches working on fitness, skills and, most importantly, building bonds of friendship and inclusivity. The WP League season could not come soon enough.
And then Varsity Cup was upon us. The Green Mile was in pristine condition. Over two thousand students had bought season tickets. Our beer garden was marked out and we had begged the wind gods for mercy. LET THE GAMES BEGIN. Both our Young Guns and Firsts played outstanding, winning, running rugby and suddenly our competitors were starting to make grumbling noises that it could be the Ikeys year. What turned out to be our last games for the year was an away trip to the Dawie Craven stadium. Both teams lost by the smallest of margins, but we knew that we were competitive and could beat event the formidable Maties this year at the business end of the competition.
AND THEN THE LIGHTS WENT OUT ON RUGBY.
But the Club did not close. Not for one day. Our First and u20 coaches embarked on a yearlong programme to improve their management and coaching skills learning from top professionals, including Robbie Fleck and Eddie Jones.
We took our recruitment campaign to a new level with streams of young matriculants applying to UCT and the Club as early as in June. Two SA under 18s who were recently selected in a poll for a future World XV have signed up to play for the Ikeys.
Our academic support and tutoring programme for our players became instrumental in helping many of them manage the new online learning programmes. We are pleased and proud to share that, once again, the vast majority of our players have succeeded in passing their courses and degrees. Well done to them in what has been an incredibly tough academic year.
Our preparation for the 2021 season is now in full swing and we cannot wait to return to the Mile. Our players have a new gym and our Medical and Covid protocols are in full readiness. This includes a new mental health screening process where we will be able to support and monitor our players psychological well-being in the future.
For us at the coal face, we could not have kept up the motivation and commitment to do what we have without the rock solid support of our President Neville Isdell, Chairman Greg Fury and Vice Presidents Phil Kilroe, John Le Roux, Neil Macdonald and John Dobson. On behalf of all who love Ikeys I thank you for your counsel and commitment to spreading the love of the club to all. There are so many unsung heroes in a Club like Ikeys, but here are a few that I particularly want to thank for everything you do to make Ikeys special: Khaya Sontsele, Chris Campbell, Zahir Baker, David Jenkins , Kevin Forte, Denis Cassidy, Willie Claasen, Loki Manise, Dot Augustine, Bodo Sieber, Gavin Sheldon and Bronwyn White. A massive thank you. You are so appreciated. And who can forget our larger than life fan of the year, Vice Chancellor, Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng. Her enthusiasm was worth a good few tries and our young student supporters loved seeing her screaming, yes screaming, for the Ikeys in her Blue and white fitted jersey.
To all donors who have generously continued supporting the Club in a most difficult year. You keep the lights on and we are so grateful. It has been a difficult year, but I am especially proud of how well the Club responded to a demanding financial environment. We will work even harder in 2021 to ensure our players excel in every aspect of their young lives. Thank you to you all.
And finally to Tom Dawson-Squibb, our Head Coach, to all his management and support staff and volunteers, to all the players and the whole Ikeys community (wherever you are in the world); we salute your efforts in this tough year. We fight to live another day and await eagerly to catch that swirling up-and-under. May 2021 be filled with lots of running rugby and the indomitable Ikeys spirit.
It is the most privileged personal experience to spend my days engaging with so many in the Ikeys community.
A festive and safe holiday season to you all.