Rugby has been a part of the fabric of the school since its founding in 1873. One of the earliest 1st team captains was WP Schreiner, who went on to become the prime minister of the Cape as well as the president of the South African Rugby board.
The first recorded match was played in September 1886 against St Andrew’s College. 130 years later you will still find rugby matches being played, with Saturdays perhaps being the highlight of the school week. These days, on any given Saturday, you will find around 10 teams representing the high school with the junior school fielding 8 sides.
In 1962 a leopard badge was introduced to the famous blue and gold jersey. The 1st team sides of the 70s and 80s give inspiration to Graemians of the 21st century, who seek to rub shoulders with the best that the Eastern Cape, and South Africa, has to offer.
The 1980s saw the emergence of Graeme College’s – to this date – most famous rugby son. Hennie le Roux played for the 1st team from 1983 to 1986. Mr le Roux’s name will forever be writ large for the instrumental role that he played in the Springboks 1995 World Cup victory. As a school we will fondly remember how he was chosen by his teammates to present President Mandela with a Springbok cap after a practice session, which he later wore to the final against New Zealand’s All Blacks. One son of the soil paying homage to another.
“I think it was the ’86 year where we had five guys in the EP Schools side. We were due to play a strong Grey PE team in the afternoon, so it was a game where we needed all our resources. The problem was that there was a morning game for EP and so many of the guys were committed to that. As soon as the EP game ended though, we rushed back to get to the school derby. But we were just late, and had to watch our team lose from the sidelines. It was the only game we lost that season.”
Hennie le Roux
Other players of note from Graeme College include Dirk de Vos (South Africa) and David Walters (Zimbabwe). Tony Markow was a Sevens Springbok. Cheeky Watson was a Junior Springbok who went on to play in SARU’s competitions.
Younger generations of Graemians include Kataro Matsushima (Japan), Luzuko Vulindlu (Sharks andKings), Xandre Vos and Josiah Twum-Baofo (Kings), Busanda Mabena (UCT Varsity Cup captain), Siya Nzuzo (UJ Varsity Cup) and Mhlangabezi Mtwanambi and Arno Nel (NMU Varsity Cup).
Graeme has had long rivalries with numerous schools. Among these, current fixtures against Gill, Muir, Union, Cambridge, Queens, Grey, Kingswood and St Andrews have stood the test of time. ‘New’ opposition includes schools such as Hudson Park and Nico Malan.
One of the highlights of the school’s rugby calender is Rugby Day. Traditionally this one-day festival is held on the final Saturday of the first term. From humble beginnings in 1998 when 4 schools participated, it has grown into the most prestigious day of rugby in the Eastern Cape featuring no less than 16 schools and over 1200 players. Rugby Day is an opportunity for selectors to view some of the best talent in the province and a chance for players to enjoy the special camaraderie and fellowship that is evident in a sporting contest when played in the right spirit.
Derby Day, South African Schoolboy Rugby, 2008, Bryce Hepburn et al, Laugh It Off
Top South African Rugby Playing Schools, 1994, Chris Dutton and Michael Collins
Graeme College Rugby Day Programme, 2020, 22nd edition