Dave Vanrenen was an excellent and popular tight head prop playing for UCT from the mid to late sixties and later a very successful businessman. His son Charlie, who grew up in Australia, shared Dave’s love of rugby. He was playing rugby in Bali for the Singapore Cricket Club when he was killed in the Bali bomb blast in 2002.
Charlie Vanrenen was born during the Soweto riots in June 1976, and, as if touched by those momentous events, he never knew or wanted to take life easy. He had a lust for life – and an uncanny ability for accidents. His mother, Heath, recalls a litany of broken bones, trips to the hospital and, when he was three, how Charlie had his big toe cut off – and then sewn back on. “He was very brave,” she says.
Charlie had lived in South Africa, Britain and Australia – his adopted country – Hong Kong and Singapore, where he was rapidly climbing the high-tech tree. He had plans to branch out into biogenetics, in partnership with his father. He loved sport – rugby, tennis, skiing, tobogganing. He had done the Cresta Run in St Moritz and was a member of the Hong Kong Football Club and Singapore Cricket Club. The Vanrenen family moved to Sydney in 1982, with Charlie attending Tudor House, Moss Vale and then Kings School, Parramatta. They left Australia in 1991, when Charlie was 14, but not before becoming Australians. Says Heath: “He (Charlie) loved Australia with the sailing and beaches.”
He studied biochemistry and genetics at university in Britain, but wanted business experience in Asia. At the time of his death, he was working in Singapore. A colleague, Nick Hawkins, remembers Charlie as a “larger-than-life individual, with the ability to warm to all types of people”.
The Vanrenen’s now live in the south of France, near Avignon, where Charlie’s ashes are held by Heath and David in a garden created in his honour. “It just means he’s with us,” says Heath.
In 2008, Dave and his wife Heath decided to establish the Charles Vanrenen UCT Rugby Scholarship. The purpose of the fund is to provide bursaries to financially underprivileged talented rugby players to acquire an academic degree at the University of Cape Town. A number of successful UCT graduates (both on the sports field and in the business world) have been recipients of the bursary Current recipients are Nathan Nel (who scored the winning try in the 2014 Varsity Cup final), Jade Kriel and TIno Zakeyo, all of whom are in the Ikeys 2016 Varsity Cup squad. In 2015 when UCT competed in and won the World University Rugby Cup, the three played and were later pictured celebrating the trophy with Charlie’s sister (See picture below). In 2008, Dave and his wife Heath decided to establish the Charles Vanrenen UCT Rugby Scholarship. The purpose of the fund is to provide bursaries to financially underprivileged talented rugby players to acquire an academic degree at the University of Cape Town. A number of successful UCT graduates (both on the sports field and in the business world) have been recipients of the bursary.
Messages from Current Charlie Vanrenen Scholars:
Jade Kriel – I’m currently busy with my honours in quantity surveying and this keeps me very busy. Even though it is hard work, I’m enjoying every moment of it. Rugby wise I have only played one VC game as I came back from an ankle injury. However, I’m getting back into things and I’m very keen to play a game again. The bursary has meant a lot to me and my family. Not only has it given me the opportunity to finish my undergrad studies but it also gave me the opportunity to complete my post grad. Words can’t thank the Vanrenen family enough for the opportunity they have provided me.
Nathan Nel – This year should be very busy with studies and rugby happening at higher levels, but it’s fun and I’m enjoying it at the moment. I’ve been lucky with very few injuries this season and have played the most rugby I’ve played in a long time.
The bursary has opened many doors for me. The biggest opportunity I got is to study at UCT. Where I come from, these things don’t happen. I am able to obtain a degree and strive for a better life in the future. Being able to study here and participate in sports etc. has given me more opportunities.
Playing in the Universities World Cup in England last year was a life changing experience, especially winning it as well. The bursary has given me not only the opportunity to travel around the country but since last year around the world. If it wasn’t for this bursary, life would be very tough and I appreciate it very much. It motivates me and keeps me positive. It gives me hope.