A collection of Varsity rugby players spanning three decades from the sixties to the nineties, a like number of men who passed through the hands of Gus Enderstein, the educator, and many other people whose lives have been enriched by this very special man, were be eager to tell ‘their story about Gustav.’
Time and space does not allow for the full panoply of ‘Tales of Gus’ to be fleshed out in this publication. A few choice stories are on offer, and as it is the intention of this writer to compile a ‘Complete Collection of Gus Tales’ in the near future, suffice to say that these stories are the hors d’oeuvre in a grand five course meal.
So, let the Gus Tales begin!
One of the people from way back in the sixties who knows Gus better than most, and shared so many rich experiences on and off the field with Gus is, Mike Hoard. This most excellent of men and a damn good hooker to boot, tells of Gus thus:
Mike Hoard – Los hom Jack
Gus returned to UCT in 1964 having done a stint at Hamiltons as a wing/flank. He had decided to further his career as a loose-head prop.I came to UCT in that year from Rhodes University in Grahamstown. We were the only two players to play every game for the first XV that year, other than the tour to Durban.We played together in the UCT front row from 1964 to 1967 when I left to join Villagers and then were fortunate enough to join up again on the UCT Past & Present Tour of the British Isles, Ireland and Europe in 1968/69.
There is no finer place to forge friendships with your teammate than the front row. Remember that in those days hookers actually hooked the ball and your props were vital to the tighthead count – regardless of the score!
There are many stories that spring to mind when reflecting on those years.In particular, I recall a cold, wet Saturday afternoon at Newlands where UCT were to play Northerns, the leaders in the Grand Challenge at that time. Club rugby generally had a big following—Northerns in particular had a big crowd of enthusiastic supporters. UCT too, with stars such as HO de Villiers, Mike Lawless, Derek van den Berg, Ian McCallum and others had a faithful following. With five first league fixtures scheduled on Newlands A and B fields, there was a sizable crowd in attendance.
‘Remember that in those days Hookers actually hooked the ball’
Northerns kicked off and at the first lineout their flamboyant captain, Bertie Genade – his Brylcreamed blond cows ‘lick undisturbed by any warm-up callisthenics – walked down as his players lined up. I expected some fiery utterances to his men but he rubbed his hands and said “Fok dit manne, maar dit’s koud”
I digress – after some unsavoury exchanges with their hooker, their tighthead, one Jack Wolfaardt, told me he was going to ‘f%$* me up’ and I saw his fist on its way when Gus grabbed his wrist and said “Los hom Jack”. This happened for the next three or four scrums when Jack lost interest – “Thanks Gustav“ I muttered.
For what it is worth, I was fortunate enough to play with some highly rated looseheads, including several Springboks, if you had to wake me tonight to tell me that we were playing the All Blacks tomorrow and who would I want as my loosehead, I would reply immediately: Gus Enderstein.
Gavin Fernie – fulfilling questionable potential
I offer my little piece next as we (Mike Hoard) and myself are old friends and I had the privilege of playing behind Mike and Gus quite a few times at UCT. Besides, our age alone entitles us to kick off the Gus Tales.
‘I can remember the thrill of lining up with a UCT 1st XV in 1964 and 1965 (unlike Gus and Mike Hoard I did not play all the first team games in those wonderful years, but enough to pass comment on the events of the time) as if it was yesterday.
‘Gus did not want some slapgat lock pushing behind him and Harry Hoard’
At the beginning of 1965 Gus decided that I had not fulfilled my questionable potential as a Varsity lock during the 1964 season. Without further ado he told me in no uncertain terms that if I followed his every instruction from the 2nd of January until the season kicked off in late March, I might just be elevated from a ‘A bloody lazy, trying to be a playboy lock, to something vaguely useful in the Varsity pack; and after all, he, Gus, did not want some slapgat lock pushing behind him and Harry Hoard!’
The persuasive powers of Gus, a burning desire to show him that I was not quite so bloody useless, and a fired up ambition to fulfill my so called potential as a first league lock in the fiercely competitive Western Province league of the time, all combined to induce me to undergo what closely resembled a three month SAS/ Recce training course, from the 2nd January until the early practices at the Green Mile in March. Suffice to say that a regimen of running up mountains, agonizing gym sessions under the ruthless hands of two ex Springbok wrestlers, weight training under the expert eye of Gus, wind sprint sessions, touch rugby and a special diet, all embracing a 6 day per week commitment, was somewhat different from the way I was accustomed to spending the summer months in Cape Town in the flush of my youth. On one occasion, after a brutal tight practice, Gus followed me into the old Pig and Whistle to see that I was not exceeding my beer and curry and rice ration; such is dedication!
It all paid off, as Gus was wont to remind me during the 1965 season. It is the only time in my life that I have been really fit , and I still smile happily when I recall the terse comment from Gus at the end of that memorable season, at the usual ‘rite of passage‘ 1st Team Dinner at the old Glendower Hotel; he said ‘Well, Fernie, that was just the beginning!’ And then, of course, that wonderful roar of laughter erupted from him, followed by a mighty punch in the arm. I went home that night a contented man. I had pleased the mighty Gus. Nothing tops that.’
David Vanrenen – AWOL in 1969
‘Congratulations Gus, I didn’t realize you were so old!!’
I remember the time on the ‘69 tour when we went AWOL and stayed with that British Lions prop (can’t remember his name). We spent a couple of uncomfortable nights sharing a bed!! We returned to the touring party in the middle of a team practice and received a nasty reception!
I also recall sitting next to Gus at the new musical ‘Hair’, only to notice his seat was empty after the interval!
By Gavin Fernie: I am intruding on Dave Vanrenen’s lovely little anecdote to add that this mighty oak of a man has his own special place in the Varsity rugby annals. I scrummed behind him on many occasions as well, and can confirm that a duo of AWOL Varsity players on the 69 Tour comprising of Vanrenen and Enderstein was good cause for Porky Wells (Tour Manager) and Louis De Waal (Team Captain) to wish they had never left home.
John Dobson – Buon Giorno, Gus!
Gus Gus Gus. Memories are so many, and the thing is he probably did not want nor expect to make so many memories. Mine are countless.
In my first game under Gus after he took over the First team in 1997 he dragged us up the West Coast (Weskus as he called it) to play Vredendal or Vredenburg. He shook us a bit with his pre match speech, which coming hot off the heels of the Solly era was a little different. “Now I know you chaps are hopeless, but you are also serious. Now for god’s sake, if you are enjoying yourself, smile. Now go out there and play rugby.” And after the game and with Vredenburg or Vredendal not exactly being the Copa Cabana or the nightlife capital of the world, we were keen to get back on the bus. Not Gus. He was stuck in the corner for hours talking very, very bad Afrikaans to some ‘Weskussers’ he claimed to have grown up with. We sat on the bus. So bad was his Afrikaans one of the locals came up to us and asked us, so as not to appear rude, to rather speak in English.
‘So Dobson, what is the aerial view of Despatch like?’
He was never known for his language skills. Whilst he was coaching in Italy, I visited the Endersteins. Billy and the girls were absolutely fluent in Italian, doing Italian homework, singing in Italian choirs. Gus dragged me to the gym to, according to him, ‘to lift very heavy weights.’ We waddled along and he assured me his Italian, whilst not quite up the ladies standard, was ‘very very good’. We walk into the gym and the owner welcomes him.
“Buon Giorno, Gus, come stai?” Here came the reply “Morning, Pietro. How are you”. Not one syllable of Italian. I remember being at a post match function there when one of his props came past sweating profusely and clutching several beers. Ah says Gus, what a good prop. Drags the fellow (who cannot speak any English) closer and says “Dobbo, Carlo here reminds me of Keith in the way he scrums, but he has Derek’s back and feet position. Don’t you, Carlo?”. The poor fellow had not understood a word let alone known who on earth Keith (Andrews) or Derek (van der Berg) were, but out of politeness nodded a few desperate ‘Si Si’s.
One used to enjoy touring with Gus where he was like the lead duck and we, his fleet of trailing ducklings, were expected to follow. On a SWD tour (manager the late and legendary John Dallas and that was the sole, thirsty, management team) on the day of playing Oudtshoorn the local club champions he insisted on taking us to the local Ostrich Museum. He made it compulsory and we traipsed after him from room to room where he invariably got fact after fact wrong. Eg “the Ostrich industry boomed in the 40’s chaps” only to be met with a sign “WW2 and the 40’s – the dark years”. By the time we reached the last exhibit, it was only myself and Alistair Collins (capt) left, the rest had climbed out of windows. It was more pleasant in Knysna when he took us to the Mitchells Brewery. Or when on another Weskus tour he collected mussels for hours with the late and great Ish Dramat (management had expanded beyond Dallas and Enderstein to include a more sober minded and well behaved Muslim) to serve a very awful pre match sea food pasta that would have killed most.
Or playing against the mighty Despatch and getting scrummed to smithereens. It was a tough and fraught night in the front row. We lost to an intercept and should have won , although we had been pushed all over the Eastern Cape. We trouped off dejected and there was a gleaming coach. “So, Dobson,” those shoulders shaking with laughter, “What is the aerial view of Despatch like?”. Bugger him.
Simon Perkin – Gus, a true Educator
I taught with Gus at Rondebosch Boys’ High School from 1976.
One wonderful story comes to mind: Gus was coaching the School 1st XV at the time, his captain was Adam Barnard, son of Dr Marius Barnard of heart transplantation fame. In the winter months a group of us (Gus, Dave Craig, Peter Glover etc) would go to the Fairmead Ladies’ Bar on Friday nights for a drink before moving onto Brad’s Grill for a steak. On one particular Friday Gus was in his usual position when he saw his captain with a girl friend ordering drinks in the lounge area. Gus summoned the waiter – ordered two glasses of water and instructed the waiter to tell his captain and partner to drink the water and to ‘piss off’ very quickly! He handled the situation like the true educator he was – the young Barnard played a blinder the next day!
Graham Wepener – You’re leaving it late, Bosch
I think of Gus every time I jog across the Meadow fields at Rondebosch Boy’s High. It was there that I first met him when he coached our Under-14A forward pack the finer arts of scrumming and lineouts. It was at Rondebosch where I also encountered Gus’s famous sarcasm for the first time. In 1988 Bosch were taking a drubbing at the hands of a crack Bishops team. At the time it was the worst defeat in history and at about 52-4 to Bishops Rondebosch scored with five minutes to go to make it 52-10. Gus (1stXV coach) was standing behind the poles and shouted at the Rondebosch players as they were walking back to the halfway line: “You’re leaving it late Bosch!” Classic!
‘A young varsity backline including Rob Fleck scored five ties past the powerful Villagers’
I met up with Gus again at UCT where he was the U20 coach. A legendary figure who appeared at every practice with his three whistles around his neck, always on time to set us off on a loop of the three Varsity fields. Practices were always hard and always fun just like the rugby he wanted us to play. The score not always being the most important thing to Gus, instead he took great pride in the style in which UCT played the game and the number of tries they scored.
Later I came to select and coach with Gus and it was there that he made even more of an impression on me. When no-one else wanted to touch the UCT 1stXV in 1997 Gus in his inimitable way just said, “Just give me fifteen players and I’ll coach them.” A merry band of pilgrims both young and old, Gus forged them into a formidable unit.
Memorable games were played against Villager (full of Springbok and provincial players) and Parow-NTK. UCT lost to Villager but a young Varsity backline including Robbie Fleck scored five tries past a powerful Villager backline containing amongst others Christian Stewart. Gus enjoyed his beers that night!
Then there was the win against at that stage the high-riding Parow-NTK. I remember their coach, Francois Bonthuys, sitting relaxing behind the poles at UCT as Parow scored from an early lineout drive. Then Varsity transformed and opened up. Burly Zimbabwean winger Ant “Animal” Roberts and the Portugese flyer Pedro Morinello cut loose and Varsity scored a great come from behind win. Rightly, Gus was so pleased!
Selecting teams on a Monday night with Gus was great. Not only did he drink his beers very fast but he always did the honourable thing and selected the next player in line even when others on the committee thought the player may be out of his depth at A-team level. His integrity during selection and his loyalty to players left a lasting impression on me and is something I aspire to in my own coaching to this day. Many an evening I sat on my own pondering Gus’s wisdom as I watched him wander off (often in pouring rain) and disappear across the Varsity fields and back to his car. I was still finishing my beer as Gus always swallowed his in one sip it seemed.
Like anyone who was coached by or coached with Gus I will never forget him as long as I live. I salute a truly great rugby-man.
Preston Robertson – Seven against the Head
‘A lasting memory in the rugby life of Preston Robertson’. The reason why this very short story is well stored in my memory, is because we won the game but more importantly because it was such a fast paced, ferocious match.
My first game of rugby was for Prince Edward School U13 against Umtali U13 in 1956, and my last game was for Rhodesia against Eastern Province in a Currie Cup semi-final playoff in 1972.
The game which is the centre of the story was played in 1966 between UCT (us) and the touring Glenwood Old Boys (them) as a pre-season friendly. The UCT side was fairly inexperienced, but it was the core of the team that went on to bigger things over the next three years, out playing the Maties in 9 games (won four, drew three, lost two). The Glenwood Old Boys team was heaving with talent and experience. Rodney Gould the incumbent Springbok fullback, Errol Patterson and Pat Stack in the backline.
Their forwards were their strength with Willem Labuschagne, Don Walton and Barry Burnell in their front row. Lock Len Fry had a couple of Natal caps and Ian Grant (No.8) and Don Campbell (flank) had both played inter-provincial rugby. It is critical to mention that Walton was the incumbent Springbok hooker, and Labuschagne had previously been capped as a Bok front ranker. Something else that should be mentioned pertains to the scrum rules of the day. None of your current crouch, touch, pause, engage and then the scrum half puts the ball in under his locks feet or sometimes even the eighth man’s feet. The scrum used to go down quickly and the scrumhalf had to put the ball in the middle of the scrum tunnel at least a shoulder length into the scrum, at which time, and not before, the hookers would strike for the ball.
‘Labuschagne was determined to shove Gustav Enderstein’s head up his read end the whole game’
The game started at a wicked pace and never let up for the whole game. Our one lock (Joe Ireland) and eighth man (Gavin Birch) were concussed during the second half and had to be repeatedly pointed in the direction of the ball. We could not afford to let them go off as there were no reserve benches in those days.
The scrums were the focus of the game and one would have thought that UCT would have been lucky to hook back any ball at all, especially with Willem Labuschagne determined to shove Gustav Enderstein’s head up his rear end the whole game. Willem was behaving very badly, and seemed determined to maul our front row. No one would have bet that Mike Hoard the UCT hooker, would have hooked much ball at all. The amazing feature of Willem screwing Gustav every scrum, was that Gus ended up so low in the scrum that Don Walton very rarely got any sight of the ball. This enabled Mike (aka The Silver Foot) to rake back the ball including seven of the team’s own put-ins.
That is how the legend of Seven Against the Head got into the annals of UCT rugby. If Gustav had not been so fit and pliable, Harold would never have that famous scalp on his belt.
Billy Enderstein – Only a Matter of When
Most people have known Gus longer than I and when I meet them I am in for another interesting tale with my husband at the centre; in the classroom or staff room, in the scrum or on tour. I am touched by the friendship and the memories that you share and was prompted to let you know how I came into the picture.
I met Gus through a mutual friend, Lalage Maurer, in November 1993, and was taken by his distinguished looks, hunky frame and exceptionally deep voice. I prayed hard not to fall in love with him… and then did. However, dating was a new phenomenon to Gus and I guess he was strategising on the best approach as we only started going out in 1997! He may have been slow, but he proved steady and sure, there were after all three of us in the bargain.
Time passed, Gus even had a three month coaching stint in Portugal in the hope that I would forget all about him, but his girlfriend was there when he got back. More time passed and Gus started getting used to the three of us being around, but Coila (then aged 8 and the youngest of the three Second girls) was not content with the status quo. One Friday evening she was seated on Uncle Gus’ lap outside watching the fire when she asked if she could talk to him, to which he replied ‘ Sure go ahead’ and to which she added ‘ Not here, privately.’
She sat Gus down in the bedroom with the door closed and posed the question: ‘Uncle Gus when are you going to ask my mother to marry you?’ I had no knowledge of this however and when I mentioned marriage many months later on the way from the Constantia gym in early morning traffic I got the response ‘Oh it was never a matter of if, only a matter of when.’ Well I took the gap and we were married 3 weeks later on the 18th December 1999, at St Andrew’s Church in Newlands on Athena’s 13th birthday. The girls danced behind us down the aisle and we were no sooner out the church when Coila asked Gus, ‘Uncle Gus can we call you dad now?’
I have to say that despite all the cautionary advice I was given about confirmed bachelors and Rugby coaches, there were no adjustments necessary. Gus was 150% present as a partner and parent and a walking talking encyclopaedia to boot – much to the delight of Theensie and Coila who were adopted by Gus a month or two before we left for Italy at the end of 2000.
Italy was another chapter in our lives and a very special one at that, for which we have Gus to thank. Without his talent as a coach and his inimitable character we would not have had the opportunity of living and working overseas, let alone Italy with its amazing art and culture. It was a unique experience for each one of us and as a couple Gus and I had the privilege of spending time alone with one another for the first six months, whilst the girls were at school during the day. We also made friends together – and this was important to me as when I met Gus he had a stockpile of this commodity and we needed to forge a few friendships of our own.
When Gus had his brain haemorrhage in November 2002, I have to say that the Italian friends were absolutely amazing and the rugby and education communities and friends and family in South Africa were too. John Dobson used to call and speak to Gus for over an hour at a time and Estelle his sister would do the same for me. It is wonderful that the girls and I have the opportunity now to thank each and every one of you for your friendship and support over the past few years in this tribute to Gus, who truly is an exceptional man not only because of what he was, but because of who he is.
In honour of his 70th Gus met up with a bunch of players he used to coach for a birthday dinner at the Hussar Grill. Some great Gus and UCT stories made the rounds as the likes of John Dobson, Martin Bey, Dex Kirsch, Rob Fleck, Neil Ellard, Graham Wepener, Bodo Sieber, Rory Viljoen, Adrian Hewlett and Doug Boyes shared their experiences with the charismatic coach.