Maritzburg College School Profile

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maritzburg college emblem logo

Maritzburg College profile

Maritzburg College was founded as the Pietermaritzburg High School in 1863 to accommodate the influx of children arriving at the new city of Pietermaritzburg and its surrounding farmlands within the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. As the school swelled, city architects were commissioned to build a larger classroom and boarding block, which was completed in 1888 and later became known as “Clark House”, honouring the school’s third headmaster, Mr RD Clark (MA (Oxon)), who is often referred to as “the Father of College”. Clark House is a Pietermaritzburg landmark and carries South Africa’s heritage seal, certifying it as a national monument. A similar honour was bestowed on the school’s Victoria Hall, the building of which was commenced in 1897 (Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee year) and which served as a British Army hospital from late 1899 until mid-1900 during the Second Boer War.

The school crest is a red shield with a crossed carbine and assegai over the Latin scroll bearing Pro Aris et Focis (For Hearth and Home). Debate has taken place as to the origins of the school’s crest and colours of red, black & white. A popular belief is that they highlight the various skirmishes, battles and wars between the British and the Zulu that took place in the late 19th century, with the colours representing the warring parties (white and black) and the blood that was shed between them (red). As recently as 2005, this issue had not been conclusively settled by the school’s Archives Committee. As an aside, four Old Collegians perished during the famous Battle of Isandhlwana, at which over 1,300 British and colonial troops were slaughtered by the Zulus on 22 January 1879, during the Zulu War. A memorial in honour of those fallen Old Boys was unveiled on the battlefield in 1969.

Rugby at Maritzburg College

Maritzburg College is traditionally the dominant school rugby force in KwaZulu-Natal. The first recorded rugby match in the province of Natal took place in the Market Square of Pietermaritzburg in October 1870. The contestants were Maritzburg College (then known as Pietermaritzburg High School) and Hermannsburg School. Played on a sun-baked, wheel-rutted, gravel surface, the contest lasted for more than three hours and ended in a victory, for the High School, by two goals to nil.

The arrival of James Mervyn (Skonk) Nicholson, as a master at Maritzburg College, signalled a revival in the school’s rugby fortunes. From 1948 he coached the First XV for 35 consecutive seasons, until 1982. In 1949 the First XV was unbeaten, as were ten other teams of his, while a further thirteen First XVs during that period lost only one match each.

His teams’ record was:

Played Won Drew Lost

504 403 49 52

His teams in the 1950s and early 1960s were particularly successful, at one stage losing only five matches in eleven years!

Skonk’s successors were scarcely less successful. The 1985, 1988 and 1995 teams were unbeaten and four other First XVs lost only one match. Since the turn of the new century, College has often found it difficult to match those statistics. The reasons for this are many: the increasing importance placed on sporting success by schools; the greater spread of talent, often owing to lucrative bursaries offered to promising players; the erosion of the rural core of College boarders; and the greatly strengthened fixture list.

The First XV’s record, however, represents only a fraction of the rugby played at Maritzburg College. Every weekend, as many as thirty teams take the field, playing the game with fierce enthusiasm and pride. The school’s rugby success is therefore built on a very firm and broad foundation.

For many years, Maritzburg College’s rugby has been characterised by the rugged qualities and outstanding support work of its forwards, the hard running and punishing tackling of its backs and an eagerness to move the ball at every reasonable opportunity. Most notable, however, is the fierce determination and spirit typifying College teams and imbuing them with an indomitable will to win.

Maritzburg College’s superbly consistent record, great depth of talent and enviable reputation for a hard but sporting approach to the game have made it, historically, the premier rugby school in KwaZulu-Natal. No one would seriously dispute College’s right to that title.

When a banquet was held in his honour a few years back, Skonk Nicholson was asked to name his College Dream team for the era 1948-1982.

Maritzburg College boys have won 22 South African Schools caps, an achievement surpassed by only one South African school.

SA Schools Representatives

1974 MK Thompson
1074 BV White
1976 PJ Lindsay
1977 PJ Lindsay
1978 DJ Mills
1979 CM Jamieson
1984 JT Stransky
1985 SR Glover
1986 JRD Thomson
1987 BW Catterall*
1987 UH Goedeke
1987 DAG Reed
1987 WG Wilson
1989 CD Mayer
1994 WGA Munn
1995 PJ Dixon*
1996 RC Kelly*
1997 RF Linde
2002 PJ Grant
2002 EA Penzhorn
2002 B Squires

(*Captained SA Schools)

Old Boy Joel Stransky (1984) became the darling of South Africa when he won the 1995 Rugby World Cup for his country with a superbly taken drop goal in extra time of the finals.

World Cup Rugby Finals and College Old Boys is no stranger to each other, be it in playing capacity or official’s capacity. A career in rugby refereeing which started when he was a spindly 15-year-old on the backfields of Maritzburg College reached its glorious summit when Old Boy Craig Joubert took charge of the Rugby World Cup final between New Zealand and France in 2011.

List of College Springboks (Test Caps Only)

DebutYear Player
1913 Eddie Shum
1921 Wally Clarkson
1924 Bill Payn
1924 Bertram van der Plank
1928 Phil Nel
1937 George Van Reenen
1960 Keith Oxlee
1962 Ormy Taylor
1969 Andy van der Watt
1993 Joel Stransky
2001 Butch James
2007 Peter Grant

A further two players received springbok colours for going on tour, but never played in a test match, Jeremy Thomson (1996) and Pieter Dixon (2000).

In addition, several College Old Boys have represented other countries: Hubert Freakes and Geoff Appleford (England), Juan Grobler and Chad Erskine (United States), Brenton Catterall (Zimbabwe), Wim Visser (Italy), Frank Goedeke (Germany) and Andrew Binikos (Cyprus).

Last updated 14 June 2012 (please reply on this post or email media@schoolrugby.co.za if any information is outdated)

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