‘Die Sacs Kom Terug’
‘A game without Cheerleaders is a world without spirit.’
Those evocative words capture the thrall of Intervarsity, the eagerly awaited clash of the two premier rugby playing universities in South Africa.
Club rugby was at its peak in South Africa in the sixties, and crowds of up to 25000 knowledgeable fans and supporters descended on Newlands on Saturday’s to enjoy the matches between 6 Western Cape Grand Challenge teams. Other Grand Challenge fixtures were played in Paarl, Stellenbosch and Somerset –West.
The cherry on top of the rugby lover’s cake was the occasional inter-provincial or Currie Cup match played at Newlands between Western Province and its redoubtable foes, and the even more occasional test match against visiting touring sides.
Intervarsity, be it at the old Coetzenburg or at Newlands, was a special occasion, packed with eager anticipation, excitement, and frantic preparation by the cast of supporters who made Intervarsity such a wonderful spectacle and sporting occasion.
Students from both universities vied to be an integral part of the spectacle by practicing their songs, cladding themselves suited and booted in the colours of the universities, the famous blue and white of UCT, and the maroon of the Maties.
Two significant players on the sidelines were the two respective Cheerleaders. Being nominated the Cheerleader was a massive honour, and demanded specific skills.
Whipping a whole stand of fired up students into a chorus of passionate support with ditties and songs was the music of Intervarsity. We are briefly going to explore the two men who paraded their skills and inspirational dance moves at Intervarsity in the mid-sixties.
The invaluable Ikey archives have produced some magnificent memorabilia. A cover page of the Western Province Rugby Football Union speaks so eloquently of the spirit prevailing in May 1940, a scant 8 months after the outbreak of WW2. Life went on, and rugby in the Western Cape was still alive, despite the absence of many of its stars.
The cover page on Saturday, 18th May, 1940 was emblazoned with SPRINGBOK, ’Die Sportman se sigaret’ Another page extols the virtues of ‘TRICOLOR Virginia Blend Cigarettes. How times have changed!
By the time Intervarsity was being played in the mid-sixties, two men stood out in the role of Cheerleader.
Jacobus Cornelius Krynauw, widely known as J.C, raised in a solid Afrikaans family with ties to Jan Christiaan Smuts, educated at Oude Molen Primary School AND Jan van Riebeeck High School, before enlisting in the South African Airforce Gym, and then completing his formal education at the University of Stellenbosch.
J.C is a born networker, with great interpersonal skills, an easy charm and the gift of the Blarney.
Allied to a steady work ethic, significant organizational skill , infectious enthusiasm, and a fierce determination to make his mark in life, J,C went on to build a successful insurance brokerage.
As to cheerleading, he set the bench mark with his inspirational routine in front of partisan Matie student crowds.
Here are some noteworthy quotes from J.C regarding INTERVARSITY and the role of the Cheerleader.
‘Dr.Craven deemed it necessary, from a psychological point of view, to insist that the Main Cheerleader went into the changing room, bedecked in his top hat and tails, meet and greet each player with the message that when the Maties were encamped 10 yards from the Ikey line, the Matie war cry of ROM, ROM, ROM would thunder out from the Matie stand as a threat to all the Matie players to annihilate the Ikeys; or face the wrath of Doc Craven..’
‘It is important to reflect that the origins of Intervarsity date back to the late 19th Century , but only in 1918 did the sing-songs become a part of the event, when a group of Wilgenhof students started singing songs, A Capella, and then introducing a Cheerleader, one Frikkie Schoen, with a pianist as accompaniment to lusty singing.’
Intervarsity in the sixties was a carefully programmed event, reaching a climax when the two Cheerleaders, each accompanied by a beautiful Champagne Girl. Pleasantries were exchanged in the form of the lucky Cheerleader kissing ‘his’ Champagne girl with gusto.
Finally, before kick-off, the two Cheerleaders would position themselves in front of his team and lead the packed stands in rousing song. Handshakes all round between the respective Cheerleaders and the playing captains, and, Voila, game on!
James (Spike) Espey OBE
Spike Espey came from a very different background to J.C Krynauw. Spike was born and raised in the old Northern Rhodesia, which produced many remarkable men and women who went from the classic colonial background of that era to make their mark in varying fields, including sport, medicine big business and academia.
In his own words Spike relates the past as follow:
‘’In 1963 I met J.C Krynauw, the Assistant Cheerleader, and whilst we were rivals we got on well and have remained friends to this day. That is the true spirit of Intervarsity.
Our finest moment together was Intervarsity 1965 at Coetzenburg. True to form, J.C had organized a coach, pulled by two magnificent hors. The parade through the streets of Stellenbosch was spectacular.
The culmination of Intervarsity Day was the formal ball in the evening.
Not immodestly, J.C and I believe that we were the best Cheerleading Team in the history of Intervarsity. We still do!’’
Spike Espey went on from the days of UCT and Intervarsity to carve a glittering career for himself in the liquor industry, holding directorships and top managerial positions in numerous world renowned liquor groups, marketing and spreading the fame of many of the great whiskey brands in the world, culminating in Queen Elizabeth bestowing the OBE on Spike Espey in 2013.
A renowned motivational speaker of yester year, Zig Ziglar, said.
‘What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become ‘by achieving your goals’
These two men, driven to make their mark in life, formed a partnership and a friendship back in the sixties. The significance of their enduring friendship is that two very different men, from significantly different backgrounds, found a great deal of humanity and love of pageantry in Intervarsity and all its trappings.
Despite social and political barriers the two universities came together for one glorious day.
That was Intervarsity!
The UCT RFC would like to thank Spike and JC for there help in compiling this article.