Cecil Moss Dies – A Quiet Achiever

Written by Paul Dobson, Rugby365

Cecil Moss – Doc to many – died on the evening of 27 October 2017 after undergoing surgery. He was 92.

It is reasonable to die when you are 92 but in Cecil Moss’s case it came as a shock for he was always so fit, lively and mentally sharp to the end. He had been the oldest living Springbok.

Cecil Moss achieved great things, in his profession and in his rugby, a remarkably loyal, skilled and generous man, and a quiet man – one who hardly ever talked about his involvement in great happenings. He came from humble beginnings, in a way, and managed to stay04_Doc Moss Family humble and confident at the same time. A man of determination and principled, he was quiet about it.  Cecil Moss was a really good man, which explains his wide circle of admirers. More than admirers – more like devotees. Loyalty begat loyalty, kindness begat kindness and wisdom begat admirers.

Cecil’s grandfather emigrated from either Lithuania or Russia to South Africa with his family in about 1909, when Cecil’s father was 13.  The grandfather was appointed as the rabbi in Calvinia and later Riversdale, caring for immigrants from Lithuania. In Riversdale, Cecil’s father Solomon, met and married Eva Mainkin. Father was a shop assistant and the family suffered hard times.  From Riversdale they moved to Bitterfontein and then to Muizenberg where  the family lived in a single room while the sons were given a good education.

School was SACS, then in Cape Town, when the family moved up to the Gardens. There he thrived academically. He did not play for SACS 1st XV because he matriculated at the age of 15.  He was just 16 when he enrolled in the medical faculty at UCT. In 1943 he was chosen for the UCT 1st XV. In 1944, at the age of 19, he broke his studies and joined up. En route up North, he played for Western Transvaal that year. He was a Medical Corporal in the Special Service Battalion of the 6th Division and was chosen for the 6th Division side to tour Europe. The team was coached by the great Bombardier Boy Louw who once sent an ambulance to Cecil’s base to bring him to rugby practice at Rapallo.

Back at UCT, Cecil graduated in 1948 and went off to King Edward VII hospital in Durban. Big things 06_Doc Moss vs New Zealandhappened to him there. He captained Natal at rugby, became a vice-captain of the Springboks who beat the All Blacks 4-0 in the series and met Jill Kalf, whom he married in November 1950. That year he came back to Cape Town, joined a firm of general practitioners and played rugby for Villagers. In 1951 he went to Springbok trials for the team to tour the UK, Ireland and France but was not chosen – surprisingly. He stopped playing at the end of that year and concentrated on his medical practice.

In those days, doctors could not specialise until they had spent two years in general practice. Cecil developed an interest in anaesthesiology and went to England to study it, returning to South Africa, well qualified, in 1959. He went into private practice and consulted at Groote Schuur till Louis Babrow asked him to help with the coaching of UCT.

Both careers flourished. He was an anaesthetist at the world’s first heart transplant in 1967, performed famously by Professor Chris Barnard. In 1979 he was the anaesthetist at Woodstock Hospital for a medical procedure on a prisoner on Robben Island – Nelson Mandela.

He coached UCT from 1966 to 1976, He coached Western Province in 1972 and 1973, was a Western Province selector from 1972 to 1993 including 12 seasons as chairman of selectors. He was the manager of the Western Province team from 1982 to 1993 when Western Province achieved much that was glorious. He coached the Springboks from 1982 to 1989 and was Springbok selector for those years.

07_Doc Moss Ikey SpiritGreat achievements, but Cecil was far greater than all his achievements. You only had to listen to what his players said about him to know that and they were his players, for he took enormous care of all his players and in the greatest detail.

You could not but love and admire such a man and better off just for meeting him.

Cecil Moss was born in Riversdale on 12 February 1925. He died on 27 October 2017, survived by his wife of 67 years, their son Jaime, their daughter Tessa and grandchildren.

The world is better for Cecil Moss.