1968 – Ian McCallum’s definition of varsity rugby

It is a great privilege to be a part of this edition of the history of UCT RFC. The privilege however, is for morethan the very small part I have played. It is the privilege of being a part of an ethos – a characteristic spirit unique to this great Club. It is an ethos that is not only enduring but central to the core meaning of the word Varsity itself. To me, Varsity was and will always be a mantra, another name for a striped form of DNA that unites people, places and the joy of playing a game, first and foremost, for the sheer love of it.

As far as I am aware, in this coun- try, to say that you played rugby for Varsity can only mean one place, one club … UCT. It tells us that the name Varsity is a copyright and a brand all in one. And it is not for sale. We can be very proud of that.

At times, deeply envied for the intellectual energy, the daring and adventure that it traditionally brings into this sometimes, brutish game, it is a brand and an ethos that cannot be adequately described or prescribed. It has to be experienced and if you are fortunate enough to have done so, you will know what I mean when I say that playing for "Varsity" comes with a guarantee – it will influence the rest of your life. Looking back, playing for this club was undoubtedly pivotal in my life. Like many before and after, I was shaped by great names, great team mates and by the joy and heartache of the game itself. Varsity was my field of dreams and my wake-up call. Yes, I took the cry “Wake up Varsity!” personally. It was the prov- ing ground for the realisation that individuality is impossible outside of relationship, companionship and mentorship. I am grateful to those who made this possible. To me, the words Varsity and Ubuntu are practically synonymous.

Ian McCallum played fullback for UCT, Western Province and the Springboks (1970 to 1974). He is a medical doctor and psychiatrist, author and poet. He has spent the past ten years guiding travellers throughout Southern Africa and parts of East Africa. 

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