DURBAN HIGH SCHOOL OLD BOYS: A CLUB THAT HAS SERVICED RUGBY IN KZN WITH DESTINCTION IN KZN
In the winter of 1910 the then headmaster of Durban High School Mr. A.S. Langley ruled that from that year onwards rugby would be played at Durban’s oldest school. It wasn’t surprising therefore that in the same year the DHS Old Boys Club was founded so kick starting an institution that was to make a huge contribution to the game of rugby football in the then young colony of Natal and further into the future structures of the game in the province.
The young club couldn’t have got off to a finer start when they immediately gained promotion to the Premier Division followed by seven members of their First XV being selected to represent the Junior Inter-town side against a Maritzburg Select XV. This was just reward after the club had won the Junior Murray Cup in only their second year of existence, such was the impact they had made on the game during their early beginnings.
In an early edition of the Natal Mercury dated 3 April 1911 when the Inter-town squad was announced it was reported that DHS Old Boys were a very enthusiastic young club and should be considered an up and coming force in local rugby to be reckoned with. They have come a long way since then of course taking quite a while to capture a major KZN Club Rugby title together with some silverware. When they did it was in fine style back in 1933 winning the Murray Cup for the first time.
The club situated at 20 Gainsborough Drive in Durban North has produced many great players and administrators together wit some of the great characters of the game and have a wonderfully rich rugby heritage to be proud of. Affectionately known as ‘Oldies’ they developed very strong ties with many overseas international players and if it hadn’t been for the fact that they had remained a closed club just for the passed pupils of their great school for some 50 years who knows what they could have achieved.
As it was when the eventually became an open club and the likes of Wallaby flank Dick Cocks, All Black Murray Mexted, another two Wallaby loose forwards Mark Loane and Gary Pearse joined their ranks in the seventies the club really started to take off. There was also the flying flanker from Argentina Jorge Allan. The club soon became the home to so many overseas players they became known as the ‘League of Nations’.
There was the English connection as well with Peter Winterbottom, Chris Butcher and Mike Teague. Butcher later moved across to Crusaders across the valley but it was the then innovative committee that were inspirational in bringing the international stars to their club and what an impact it made on the support base at the time. The crowds at club rugby in those days were immense and what made it that more impressive was the fact that ‘Oldies’ had been relegated to the then Wylie Cup Second Division but were still drawing bigger crowds than what were seen at First Division games.
There can be no doubt that Dick Cock played a huge role in helping the club get back into Premier Division at the time and when they did there was no looking back. Then came a golden era with the arrival of first, current Sharks forwards coach, John Plumtree and later Wallaby hooker Tom Lawton together with quite the most awesome line up that included the Blakeway brothers Andrew and Lyle, a great skipper in Peter Edmonds, and a string of hugely talented flyhalves including Matt Alexander who went on to represent the American Eagles. They won the KZN double for three years in a row in the late eighties and into the early nineties before Rovers then Crusaders took over the championship mantle. It certainly was a memorable period in the club's history.
The club has produced many great Springboks including N.S. Tod who was their first capped in 1928 followed by Pat Lyster in 1933 who was later selected for the legendary Pilip Nel’s all conquering 1937 Springbok side to New Zealand, which to this remains the only side to have won a test series in the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’.
More recently Cabous van de Westhuizen, Andre Snyman, Mark Andrews, Justin Swart and of course Percy Montgomery have their names on their roll of honour. An Old Boys story would not be complete without mentioning the likes of Basher Downs who also played for the American Eagles and nor would it be complete if we didn’t make mention of many wonderful administrators who have done Old Boys proud. Robbie Savage, that remarkable rugby man who has become an institution in KZN rugby circles, Pat Mun Gavin, once a top referee then manager of the first ever Natal Currie Cup winning side under Craig Jamieson in 1990, Niel King and Don Speirs to name a few.
The late Joe Stewart will be long remembered for his efforts and wonderful support together with Mike ‘Zulu’ Webb. The list could go on and we could talk of Trevor Warman and many more who all once served this great game out of Old Boys but perhaps in the end we should mention the fact that the KZN Duikers was founded out of this grand old club and that should tell us just what contribution has been made by the club. We will save the Duikers story for another day and in the meanwhile await 100 years of rugby excellence for the club in the year of the Soccer World Cup - 2010.