THE IKEY SPIRIT LIVES ON
I have long mulled over how to articulate the mystical concept of the ‘Ikey Spirit’, that strange but powerful sense of pride, passion and total commitment to UCT rugby which, once you have pulled the famous blue and white jersey over your head, and embraced the Ikey challenge, remains an integral part of your life.
I gnawed at the best way of capturing the sense which infuses the mind and body of any Ikey rugby player, of any age, no matter whether he played for the muddy 4th team, or was a superstar who captivated the Newlands faithful at the highest level. The superstar’s W.P or Springbok jersey represents a badge of great honour and achievement, but the jersey which made him the rugby player and man he becomes, and remains for the rest of his life, is the famous UCT rugby jersey, and the mystical ‘Ikey Spirit.’
The ‘Ikey Spirit’ embraces the privilege of belonging not only to a very special rugby club at an important time of one’s life, when your values and your philosophy toward life are forged, but the very special comrades and friends you make in those years at UCT.
I believe Nic Groom (Former Ikey Tiger & Current DHL Stormers Scrumhalf) sums this idea up nicely, when asked to describe his experience of UCT rugby:
Height: 1.71 m (5 ft 7 in)
Weight: 81 kg (12 st 11 lb)
Rondebosch Boys High School
2011 Varsity Cup Winner with the Ikey Tigers
Current DHL Stormers Scrumhalf
2015 Barbarians Cap Against
“When I joined UCT I found a home. There were guys from Bishops, SACS and Rondebosch and other schools who were now part of the UCT family. At UCT it wasn’t actually about the rugby. We were focused on becoming better individuals. There was room and freedom to express yourself. People from different cultures and backgrounds subscribed to a way of training and playing and a way of bonding with each other. The environment and commitment shown by everyone was amazing and to be a part of that was indescribable. Honestly, it changed the entire way I looked at rugby and life.”
“Being at UCT I learnt valuable lessons about being part of a team. Many of those guys I played alongside were incredible rugby players, but they were also studying serious degrees. Yet, against these odds, we went on to do incredible things without being paid – like many players in the other teams were. We would rock up every Monday and none of the opposition would know who we were, because so few of us had played Craven Week or been to an academy. But still, we would beat them, because there was a total disregard for who we played against. It was all about UCT, playing the way we wanted to play and representing the style and brand that is unique to UCT. In fact, we beat teams we probably should never have beaten.”
“We made a final (2010), and then we won it the following year (2011). Just the idea of these guys beating the odds on so many levels, and the fact that they are still my best mates to this day, makes it special.”
The ‘Ikey Spirit’ Lives On 40 Years Later
The historic gathering last week at False Bay Rugby Club, a rugby club which has close ties and a heartwarming association with UCT rugby, is another good example of the ‘Ikey Spirit’. Nearly 70 UCT rugger buggers turned out to celebrate the life of one of UCT rugby’s great men, Basil Bey, and to relive the ‘Ikey Spirit’ one more time.
UCT rugby players and the absolutely amazing ladies who supported their men through long, muddy seasons of the ultimate team game, sat on hard concrete seats in all kinds of weather, and in many cases became partners for life with the young warriors they met at UCT – when all were young and full of passion and hope for the future – still embodied the ‘Ikey Spirit’ all those years later.
The gathering was the best way of witnessing the incredible bond and concern for each other these men and women have maintained throughout for more than 50 years. That is the ‘Ikey Spirit!’
2016 ‘Ikey Tigers Spirit’ #WhateverItTakes
The young men who went into battle in Stellenbosch earlier this week to salvage not only pride for their rugby club, but to demonstrate that Ikey Tigers are a mirror of the young men who have responded to the call of the ‘Ikey Spirit’ for 134 years. They triumphed, to retain their status in the top echelon of university rugby in South Africa, and will go on to spread the ‘Ikey Spirit’ for the rest of their lives.
UCT rugby is by its very nature subject to the coming and going of students, genuine students it must be emphasized, and will always have peaks and valleys in its rugby fortunes. The most important thing is that the Ikey Tigers will stand up from the field of defeat to rise like a veritable Phoenix from the ashes. No other university has such a passionate support group of coaches, mentors, experts and loyal supporters who pitch in to help their beloved rugby club for nothing other than the quiet satisfaction of giving something back to UCT rugby. That too, is what is meant by the ‘Ikey Spirit.’
Without a moment’s debate the most important consequence of playing for UCT RFC with all the passion and commitment one can muster, is the friendships formed, and the partners for life acquired in many cases, during those wonderful carefree salad days. Many of those who look back on 20, 30, 40 or even 50 plus years since moving on from UCT, attribute their success in life, in business, to the precious lessons and values the ‘Ikey Spirit’ instilled in them at the greatest rugby club in the world.
Written by Gavin Fernie (Ikey 1963 – 1965)