Grand Challenge Victories
Hamiltons won the Grand Challenge in the Western Province 14 times, in the following years: 1883 (inaugural year), 1885, 1886, 1887, 1889, 1890, 1895, 1898, 1900, 1906, 1908, 1927, 1929 and 1936.
World War II
World War II again saw many Hamiltons men in action. The WPRFU split over support for the Governor-General’s War Fund. The Weskaaplandse Rugbybond was formed, in which George van Reenen played a prominent part. The split occurred largely along language lines. Rugby went on in the WPRFU. There were two teams of servicemen – Fortress Red and Fortress Green, and Hamiltons and Villagers combined to produce a team. The president of the WPRFU at the time was JD de Villiers. He was stubbornly in favour of support for the war effort. The Gardens Club, which had some 200 members in the army, split and the Union Club was formed, a powerful club for many years. Union promptly won the Grand Challenge in its first year of existence.
The split in the WPRFU was healed at a meeting on 3 April 1945. Stellenbosch, Gardens, Paarl and Maitland came back to the Union and the secessionist UCT (University of Cape Town, “Varsity”) side, called Groote Schuur, ceased to exist.
During the War some provincial friendlies were played, in which Bjorkie Björkman, Bo Wintle, Don Duffett and Bull Bisogno took part.
On 19 September 1949 the chairman, Piet Bayly, reported to the committee that he had had discussions with Colonel Stephan and members of the City Engineer’s Department when the group visited the site on Green Point Common where Hamiltons would have its future fields. The Club asked for three grounds which it offered to grass. The rent would be £1 per annum.
This sudden move after the clubhouse had just been completed was to accommodate the needs of Coloured sportsmen. It was not a move which Hamiltons members welcomed as it meant starting all over again – planting grass (done by members), getting a clubhouse going, partly with a soft loan from the Council and partly by selling life associate membership for £5 per person. The members’ disapproval disappointed Colonel Stephan who offered to build two squash courts there at his own expense. In the end the Club had to fight the City Council for permission to build a clubhouse at the grounds.
In addition to rugby, the Club had a tennis section, a cricket match was played against Villagers and a golf day arranged. A biannual golf match was organised with Union RFC. One of the Club’s serious golfers referred to such days as “agricultural courses”. An annual dance was held, as well as a Christmas dance and braaivleises with dances. There was an Injuries Fund, from which the highest payment to a player in 1949 was £4 to Japie Verwey.
The Club started 1950 with £327 16s 5d on fixed deposit. There were some Under 19 players who had not paid for their photos and a list of members who had defaulted on their subscriptions was put up on the Club noticeboard. It was decided that members should pay their subs before being allowed to play during the season and when V McFarlane asked for permission to buy a blazer and badge, he was allowed to do so on condition that he paid two years’ arrears in subscriptions, amounting to 10 shillings. (Thurstons were the Club stockists at the time.)
Paying subscriptions would seem odd to many players. On the other hand when P Steyn of the Crusaders Club in Port Elizabeth wrote about a move to Cape Town, the Club investigated and found him employment.
In 1950 Hamiltons celebrated its 75th Jubilee, as did Villagers. The committee set up to organise the celebrations was A Fish, who was soon replaced by Frank Moore, S Millar and Vincent Thompson. They were to work with the Villagers Committee. A joint dance was to be held on 24 June 1950 at the Rotunda Hotel in Camps Bay, tickets a guinea (£1 1s) a double.
A joint bank account, called the Hamilton Villager Benevolent Fund, was opened at the Cape Town Branch of the Standard Bank. Signatories for Hamiltons were Piet Bayly and V Björkman, and for Villagers C Hofmeyr and Herby Twine. Invitations were extended to the Governor General and the presidents of the SARB, WPRFU, Villagers and Hamiltons. The net profit from the dance in favour of the benevolent fund was £43 5s 11d.
Hamiltons decided, after much deliberation, to present Villagers with a chairman’s chair – at a cost of £15. It was “not to be of inferior quality to the one presented to us”. The response to the dance was poor – only 80 tickets sold by due date. An so it was decided to open the dance up to members’ friends. In the end the dance was pronounced a great success and Villagers were presented with their chair. In addition, Villagers had won the Derby Match 9-6 and Hamiltons presented Villagers with a shield to commemorate the event. A joint golf day was organised at Westlake Golf Course for 8 October 1950.
The Union’s fixtures would start on 22 April 1950. However, the fixture list was not yet available by 12 April, and so Hamiltons and Villagers decided to hold celebratory matches on 1 April, and Hamiltons would play friendlies against Van der Stel and UCT. The first practices of the season took place on 25 March 1950 – a week before the Villagers matches! The coach of the 1st and 2nd teams was Bo Wintle, with John Appleton and Jimmy Bain coaching the Under 19 teams, which had an abundance of players to choose from. V Thompson, S Millar and S Venn would “take practices” on Thursday evenings.
Francis Mellish was elected captain for 1950, ahead of Keith Elliott and Frank Moore. Mellish exhorted the members to keep fit, admonishing them “not to spoil all the good work put in by living a hectic life”. Frank Moore was then elected vice-captain. The captains and vice-captains of the other teams were elected in the changeroom on the day of the first Union fixture, 22 April.
For the match against Villagers the clubs appointed referees alternately. This would be a Hamiltons home match and so they appointed referees for the 1st team, 3rd team, Reserve B and Under 19A matches. They were be Ralph Burmeister, A Rutter, A Russell, D Veitch and John Appleton respectively. Seven teams played and the results were as follows:
1st XV: Hamiltons 0 Villagers 0
2nd XV: Hamiltons 0 Villagers 6
3rd XV: Hamiltons 8 Villagers 6
Reserve A: Hamiltons 1 Villagers 3
Reserve B: Hamiltons 14 Villagers 8
U/19 A: Hamiltons 0 Villagers 3
U/19 B: Hamiltons 0 Villagers 12
The Hamiltons 1st XV for that day was: R Dryburgh, H Morkel, L MacKay, A Arnold, R Lazarus, G Tasker, D Brodziak, R Bisogno, A Barichievy, J Morris, W Hamilton-Browne, F Moore, J Bresler, K Elliott, and D Olivier. Notable absentees were Francis Mellish and Don Duffett. (Roy Dryburgh and Don Duffett played for Western Province in 1951.)
The main celebrations would actually take place at Newlands on 24 June, which was labelled Derby Day.
Seven matches were also played against van der Stel, freshly back from its “loan” to the Boland. Van der Stel won the 3rd XV match, the Under 19A was drawn and Hamiltons won the rest, winning the 1st XV match 11-10. As van der Stel had not been granted a portion of the gate, it was decided to grant them £25 to cover travelling expenses, just over £3 per team!
Eight matches were played against UCT. The first team beat Varsity 5-3, and for the rest Hamiltons won three matches and Varsity four. Varsity won the Grand Challenge in 1950.
It was decided to produce a history booklet commemorating Hamiltons’ 75th anniversary.
Once again Hamiltons and Villagers celebrated a jubilee year together, this time their centenary, in 1975. The teams for that historic clash were:
Parker (capt.) 15 H.O. de Villiers (capt.)
McPetrie 13 M. O’Brien
Keyser 11 M. Gluckman
Cloete 12 G. Abernethy
A Laurence 14 R. Bryant
B Nicol 10 K. Kolesky
Kagan 9 R. McCullum
Breach 1 R. Collie
Telo 2 T. Venables
Schmidt 3 M. Stein
v.d. Westhuizen 6 B. Rookledge
Calder 4 P. Reynolds
Murie 5 K. McQueen
Lurie 7 M. du Plessis
Greenacre (v.-capt.) 8 P. Geldenhuys
Isolation and Towards Unity
In the seventies South Africa began to feel the cold winds of sporting isolation, starting in rugby with the cancellation by Scotland of its tour to South Africa. This whole period caused the development of a different rugby culture within the country, one increasingly greased by money to keep it going.
Out of this isolation came increasing efforts to get the four national rugby bodies together – the SA Rugby Football Board (SARB), the SA Coloured Rugby Board (which became the SA Rugby Union), the SA Bantu Rugby Board (which became the SA African Rugby Board (which became the SA Rugby Association – SARA) and the SA Rugby Football Federation (SARFF). Eventually the SARB, SARA and the SARFF united to form the SA Rugby Board and the gulf between that body and SARU grew wider.
The change meant that all rugby, including club rugby in the Western Province, and all facilities at grounds, including Newlands, were opened to all races. The first league of the Western Province had four teams which had previously represented provincial units within the Western Province league which in turn was an affiliate of the Federation. Those teams were Bellville South, Paarl League, Northerns League and Coronations which was based in Stellenbosch.
After the government of the day declared an end to all forms of apartheid, the unbanning of political organisations, the freeing of Nelson Mandela and the extension of the franchise to all people, negotiations started for the unification of all sport in South Africa, including rugby football.
This happened eventually in 1992. In the Western Province six provincial units came together to form the new provincial body – Western Province based at Newlands and founded in 1883, Western Province with its headquarters at the Track in Green Point and founded in 1886, City and Suburban with its headquarters at City Park and founded in 1899, Tygerberg, based at Florida Park, Somerset Board of Somerset West, a part of Boland, based in Paarl, and Western Province Board with headquarters in Langa.
The new Western Province RFU took a great deal of organisation and patience. New structures had to be put in place, and in a hurry. As far as Hamiltons was concerned, the face of club rugby was changed. From the 30 clubs it was accustomed to in its old Union, its new Union comprised nearly 100 clubs.
On to 125
The demographics of Sea Point had been changing for many years. This change was accentuated from the 1970s on. The area became less residential and the two main schools in the area, Sea Point Boys’ High and Christian Brothers College, became co-educational establishments and phased rugby out. The Atlantic shift was towards Camps Bay and there rugby was a keen pursuit under Hamiltons member Eban Tucker, though the school had by the turn of the century not achieved the rugby name which Sea Point Boys’ High had had in the past. Because the suburbs of Sea Point and Green Point ceased to be the same sort of residential areas as they had been, so the Club was forced to resort to various means to attract players. This frequently involved a form of “shamteurism” in pre-1996 days, especially to entice top players to the Club.
After the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa, the game was declared officially professional. This brought added pressure to clubs. Players suddenly had an expectation of plenty. Some clubs strained their resources, demanded ingenuity of the club in raising funds, including exploitation of the excellent clubhouse facilities and the generosity of individuals to provide some of that plenty. Nothing could be more foreign to players than the idea of paying subscriptions or buying jerseys. On the contrary, the players looked to be played – at least those in the 1st XV.
The introduction into the Union of promotion-relegation put added pressure on a club which lacked the local infrastructure to provide players. In 1999 the Club barely escaped relegation to what was tantamount to the second division of Western Province rugby and in 2000, the year of Hamiltons 125, the prospects were even bleaker.
In 2000 the Club celebrated its 125th anniversary. Its contribution to rugby in South Africa has been enormous, as John Appleton reminded the Club time and again. “It is the finest club in the Western Province – nay, in South Africa,” he would say with conviction.