1949 – Heroes of the early varsity decades

"I confined myself to the years post-1937, and have therefore omitted famous Springboks such as Bennie Osler, Morris Zimerman and Willie Rosseau, to mention only a few”, explained Doc Moss in September 1998. “This is because I have only read about them and did not actu- ally see them play. My team consists of men with whom I played or coached. What a daunting task to be restricted to choosing only 15 when there have been so many brilliant Springboks, provincial and club players…but that’s the rule of this game. So, here it goes. You may, of course, not agree with me – but that is what makes it such an interesting exercise. We can all have great fun while agreeing to disagree!”

Fullback: Ian McCallum (Spring- bok). He was at one stage the best goal kicker in the world, and I believe a reliable “points” machine is a must in any team. He was also able to join the back-line and his positional play was excellent.

Left wing: Ho de Villiers (Spring- bok). Although he could challenge strongly for the fullback position, HO was 20 years ahead of his time in his ability to counter attack and to link up with his back-line. He was brilliant in the air and one of the most gifted, conscientious and deep- thinking players I have ever known.

Centre: Peter Whipp (Springbok). He picks himself as he was the fin- est distributor of a rugby ball: the timing of his pass was immaculate and his flair has not been matched since in South African rugby. It was a privilege to have coached Peter.

Centre: Louis Babrow (Springbok). I pick him by virtue of a tape I have of the 1937 Springboks in New Zealand. He scored two brilliant tries to win the series for South Africa. Possessed of tremendous speed off the mark and magnificent acceleration, he was able to beat his opponent on the outside and break the line. He went on to play for Guy's Hospital, British Hospitals and he captained the British Barbar- ians – not a bad pedigree.

Right Wing: Chris Pope (Spring- bok). Powerful, fast and determined. A great “finisher” and “corner flag- ger” and a prolific try scorer. Flyhalf: Dennis Fry (Springbok). I choose my own teammate. He was possessed of an outstanding rugby brain, a meticulous pinpoint boot with either foot, and was a wonder- ful distributor. He was a real “thinking” pivot.

Scrumhalf: Roy McCallum (Springbok). He had boundless energy, tackled anything that moved and his bursts around the scrum and speed were a hallmark of his play. He had a “never beaten” attitude and was always a factor, even behind a beaten pack of forwards. Loosehead: roger bryant (WP).

A sure Bok selection had he not been injured at a critical stage of his career. His scrummaging ability was unques- tioned and his strength and technique were of the finest. I once saw him pick up a current Springbok prop, carry him on his shoulders as you would a arcass, run 20 yards with him – and throw him out into touch.

Hooker: Piet Duvenage (SA Sixth Army). He was my captain at UCT and in the army. He would also be my “Fabulous XV” Captain. A man who commanded tremendous re- spect and was a born leader. He had a quick foot and a rare turn of speed. Perhaps it is because he was a cap- tain in the army and I was a corporal – or that he was a doctor while I was a medical student – but to me he was someone for whom you would strain every ounce of energy. His tragic death on the rugby field was a great loss to UCT rugby.

Tighthead: Keith Andrews (Springbok). A good scrummager and ball player, with a turn of speed (he started off as a flank). He typifies the modern, mobile tight forward. He is a tremendous team man and was voted the most popular tourist during the 1994 Springbok tour of New Zealand.
Lock: Derek van den Verg (Spring- bok). Aggressive lineout jumper willing to compete against all comers. Also possesses a fine turn of speed. Somebody you would not want to “mix it” with, and someone I would like to play with – but not against.

Lock: Butch Deuchar (WP). Might also have earned Springbok honours but for injury. An honest forward, good scrummager and a consistent performer. An outstanding lineout jumper and a great competitor. I once saw him completely outclass the Springbok lock at the time and win virtually every lineout ball. Having been kicked and battered around the eyebrows and face, he returned to continue his lineout domination. A courageous player.

Flank: Stephen Fry (Springbok). Like his brother, also a team mate of mine. A leader by example, he captained
the Springboks. He was extremely fit, mobile and possessed both attacking and defensive qualities. A player who was always where the ball was.

Flank: Andrew Aitken (Springbok). A great tactical rugby brain, and a “hunter” of opposing backs. A defen- sive as well as an attacking, linking flank equally at home in the No 8 berth. Also an astute leader capable of captaining Springbok teams.

Eighthman: Here I simply cannot drop one of my two contenders. Dugald Macdonald (Springbok). He “saw” the whole field from the back of the scrum. A player who, in modern rugby, would be equally brilliant. He taught us “how to play off the ball and run into open spaces”. A great character and con- stant performer. Or Nick Mallett (Springbok). A fierce competitor. Mobile, with linking qualities, he was also very good at the back of the lineout. A tremendous team man and a great rugby brain. He was physically strong, never intimidated, and competed with the best.

This then is my team. It possesses an outstanding kicker and captain, tremendous speed in the backs, tactical halfbacks, good scrummag- ers, lineout specialists and brilliant loose forwards.

The players already selected by Dr Moss most cer- tainly all rate as legends of UCT Rugby. Their special talents need not be duplicated here. Great players of the most recent years such as Mike Lawless, rob- bie Fleck and brent russell as well as dion o’Cuinneagain, captain of Ireland, and daniel Vickerman the Wallaby lock forward, have also not been considered here.

Time and space preclude acknow- ledging all the UCT legends, but the following volumes provide exten- sive information on their exploits during the early years: The Legends of Springbok Rugby (Craven and Clay- ton, 1989), The Captains (Griffiths, 2001), The Varsity Spirit (Babrow and Stent, 1963).

Please bear in mind that in 1918, the then-South African College be- came the University of Cape Town.


“Bob” Duff (Springbok). This re- nowned and superlative fullback played in all three tests in the series against WE MacLagan’s 1891 British side. One record suggests he captained South Africa in the third test. Among others, exceptional stalwarts M Louw and “oubaas” Versveld also played in some of these tests.

A great friend of Bill Schreiner. Named the "sporting Parson" after his clergy- man father, he inevitably became known as "sport Pienaar". an autocrat, yet a fair man, he possessed a warm sense of humour. His style was soon adopted throughout the sa rugby Board. He was President for 20 years and in 1947 and 1948 had the distinction of being Presi- dent of both sa rugby and sa Cricket.


William Alexander “billy” Mil- lar (Springbok, Captain). A product of the SA College, this extremely strong and robust forward was a magnificent leader of men. By example and wisdom he contributed immensely to nation building in volatile times. Badly injured in the Anglo-Boer war, his determination and self-will saw him recover and lead South Africa unbeaten in five home and abroad test matches.

Five past or present SA College men toured the UK in 1912. All played for South Africa with distinc- tion. Of these, Frederick Pieter Luyt was rated the finest halfback playing in the Cape at that time. richard robins Luyt, the father of Sir Richard Luyt, was a brilliant centre. The third was Jd Luyt and, later, WA “Wally” Mills and rCb “Clive” van ryneveld were towers of strength. The van Ryneveld/FP Luyt combination was particularly highly acclaimed.

BL “bennie” Osler (springbok, Cap- tain) remains an all-time legend of south african rugby. this flyhalf had very definite ideas of how the game of rugby should be played and how drop kicks should be kicked. Drop goal specialist extraordinaire, he discovered how to hold and drop the ball on its point so as to ensure accuracy and distance. Competent adversaries were delegated pre-game to smother his kicks. invariably their reward was a friendly pat on the back as they turned to view the ball sailing unerringly through the goal posts. Bennie re- peated these feats over and over again.

The supreme general; he dictated the course and result of matches using his intellect and boot to target the open ar- eas and sidelines in opposition territory.

BL Osler drop goals memorably swung the test matches against the British isles (1924) and all Blacks (1928). Bennie played in 17 tests and never lost a series. He victoriously cap- tained the springboks on four out of five occasions at home and abroad. His points tally in test matches survived until the advent of Naas Botha.

Stanley Osler (springbok). Ben- nie’s brother was a truly gifted and versatile centre, who cut defences at will. stanley is best remembered as the ultimate gentleman who played the game with great commitment, but mainly for fun. a highly principled man, he epitomised how to live a worthy life. 


“Jack” van Druten (springbok). tireless, the loose-forward covered the entire field with extreme speed and in- tensity. the all Backs of 1928 accorded him the greatest respect.

Willie Rousseau (springbok). a darting centre and devastating tackler,  he combined superbly with louis babrow and George daneel (spring- boks). the loose-forward also played for stellenbosch. His try against the 1928 all Blacks is rated the best ever seen at Port elizabeth.


Morris Zimerman (Springbok). Zimie was the ultimate destroyer. Huge, powerful legs and titanium knees, he was virtually unstoppable with the try line in sight. Extracts from The Legends of SA Rugby (1989) relate how the wing left many aspi- rant defenders with “four bumps on my head, but where they came from I could not recall except the first one which came from his inside knee. The second, third and fourth must have come from his other knee and his two elbows”. Tries inevitably re- sulted when his captain Bennie Os- ler punted and exhorted: “Chase it, Zimie!” This became a lighthearted stock phrase of the Springbok team whenever an attempted drop goal failed. He eventually became conve- nor of the SA Selection Committee. From this position, he frequently advised young players: “You must take risks, and if you give away a try in doing so, score more tries than your opponents, which you will, if you do take risks.”

Bertram “Geoff” Gray (Spring- bok). Devastating with ball-in-hand, scintillating to watch and one of the most innovative players of his time. This centre/flyhalf would have played many more tests had he not been bedevilled by injury. At his funeral Dr. Craven acclaimed his spirit of adventure and gentlemanly demeanor with “A gentleman loved throughout the land”

“Frankie” Waring (Springbok). His immense swerve and side-step led to him becoming a heavily marked man. He counteracted this by innovation – the result: the short punt and grubber kick which he employed with startling success. His knowledge of centre play and the ability to communicate and guide backline partners was awesome. 


Cecil Moss (springbok, Vice-Captain). a determined, intelligent runner with long legs that provided excep- tional speed for this wing. He scored a try against the 1949 all Blacks and subsequently became a national selector and the extremely successful national coach.

Basil Butler (Western Province). Prodigious, reli- able goal kicker, he was also a dashing wing. the 1948 intervarsity goes down in history as “Butler’s Game”, because of the immense impact his placekicking and running had on the outcome.

Dennis Fry (springbok). stephen’s brother was a flyhalf/centre rated one of the most gifted players of his time. a versatile tactician, his magnificent hand- ling and passing led to many tries. Dennis graced our playing fields for many years before eventually being selected for the great south african team that toured Great Britain in 1951. on tour he was named official understudy to the great Hansie Brewis for four test matches – only never to actually play. 


Paul Johnstone (Springbok). Epitomising the term mercurial, his phenomenal speed, side-step and swerve dumbfounded many adversaries. Added to these attributes were uncanny positional play and the power to read the game situation. Re- cognised as a genius, coaches allowed this wing to prepare for matches on his own. His two greatest impacts were scoring three tries against Scotland at Murrayfield and brilliantly engineering victory over the Maties in “Paul Johnstone’s Intervarsity”.

A “Bertus” van der Merwe (Springbok). A former UCT Third XV player, the hooker was picked for South Africa in 1955. Interestingly, former UCT First XV hooker, Colin Kroon, also played for SA that year. Bertus eventually played 12 test matches for South Africa – mostly while playing for Boland. In New Zealand 1956, the other Springbok hooker became seriously injured, Bertus played each Saturday and Wednesday for 14 consecutive matches including test matches. His son died while Bertus was on tour. He however, elected to stay in New Zealand as not to let his team down.

Stephen Fry (Springbok, Captain). Dr Moss has already described Fry’s admirable playing skills as a flank. His remarkable leadership how- ever deserves special mention. Decisive, prin- cipled, assertive yet considerate, he encouraged and guided the Springboks through the greatest home international series this country has ever witnessed – against the 1955 British Isles Lions.

“kallie” van der Colff (WP, later Captain of Griqualand West). A colossus, even by today’s stan- dards. The lock would single-handedly take on and subdue the opposing pack of forwards – particu- larly the Maties. He used his immense strength to prevail in ruck and maul situations. Played rugby for SA Universities and was crowned SA Universi- ties Heavyweight Boxing Champion; yet mild mannered; he eventually proved to be a great leader of men, both on and off the rugby field. Scottish rugby doyens stated that Kallie was: “The biggest rugby player ever to come to Scotland.”

Dick Lockyear (Springbok, Vice- Captain).

The scrumhalf took eight years to complete a four-year engineering degree – his great friend Basil Holmes took nine. Those were the days! Dick was the absolute student icon, epitomising UCT spirit and ethos. His humble, quiet demeanour and uncanny insight into strategies and tactics inspired his teammates. He knew each man’s special capabilities and talents and skilfully brought them into play. Coupled with this were excellent anticipation, coordination and reflexes and a prodigious, accurate pass. A lasting image is Dick Lockyear diving deftly to palm an awkward ball delivered from lineout or scrum to a waiting backline. He should have been picked for South Africa many years before he was. Eventually hon- oured as Springbok Vice-Captain, he even kicked the match-winning penalty in the final moment of a test match.

Brian Pfaff (Springbok). The flyhalf was possibly the most gifted player in the UCT team. Absolutely brilliant in spotting gaps, he would with unique style glide through opposition defences to create opportunities for his backline. He was the supreme tactician and served his university excellently. He manfully overcame ill health and injury, which eventually curtailed his international career.

Tommy Gentles (Springbok) was selected from UCT’s second team to play scrumhalf for South Africa. Dick Lockyear was the first team scrumhalf at the time. Scintillating breaks around the scrum characterised his play. Tommy’s reflexes were mea- sured to be the quickest in the Springbok squad. He left UCT to join Villagers and played numerous matches for the Springboks. 

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