DHS celebrates a centenary of rugby

2010-03-16 00:00

DURBAN High School is celebrating its centenary of rugby in 2010. They played Maritzburg College in their opening fixture on the weekend.

These two schools first played one another in 1910 and so it was fitting that the schools met one another on this historic occasion, with College winning 36-20.

The first match in 1910 was played at Maritzburg College and won 5-0 by College.

Maritzburg College actually played their first game in 1870 against Hermannsburg. From that date until the early 1890s ,reports of matches were sketchy and most school rugby was played between Michaelhouse, Maritzburg College, Hilton and St Charles.

These are presently the four schools that form the core of schools’ sport in the Inland of KwaZulu-Natal.

Durban High School and Maritzburg College have now played 183 matches in the 100 years of playing. Only in two of the years since 1910, in 1925 and again in 1958, did the two schools not meet. It is unclear why, but as there were troubled times at College in 1925 this is the likely reason. In 1958 there was an extramural strike by the teachers and both games between the two schools were affected.

College have won 113 matches with 13 drawn and 57have been won by DHS. The largest points difference was in 1913 when College won on Goldstones by 65 points to three.

In modern times the biggest score was in 1997 when College won 59-3, with DHS reportedly short of a number of players due to injuries. The biggest win by DHS was 30-0 in 1927 and in recent years 34-7 in 2008.

The two schools have been even more closely linked than by the rugby played.

A. S. Langley, when he was the sports master at College, stopped the boys playing soccer and they all had to play rugby. This was in the late 1890s and it put College on the map as a rugby-playing school.

Langley was then promoted to headmaster at DHS and there he banned the round ball in favour of the oval ball, hence DHS played their first rugby in 1910.

The first rugby coaches at DHS were both College old boys — Bill Payn (later to play for the Springboks) and Arthur Martin. Skonk Nicholson, headboy, captain of rugby and cricket at DHS in 1935, was posted to teach at Maritzburg College in 1945 after demobilisation from the South Africa army due to injury.

Under the legendary Nicholson’s leadership, after he was appointed rugby coach of the 1st XV, College came to be one of the powerhouses of schools’ rugby in South Africa. In his coaching time from 1948 to 1982, he produced 14 unbeaten 1st XVs, 171 Natal Schools’ players and seven South African Schools’ players.

Nicholson, who is now 93, still keeps in regular contact with his alma mater and with the school where he spent so many years as a geography master and rugby coach. During his time as coach College won 45 of the 67 matches played, with DHS winning 13 and nine being drawn. This equates to a winning percentage of 67, compared to the 61% that College have won overall.

Only twice did College lose both games in a season against DHS when Nicholson was in charge, the first in Nicholson’s first year of coaching in 1948 and again in 1975. What was more remarkable was that in seven of the eight years where DHS won the first game, the second was won by College as Nicholson was able to fashion a way in which to beat the DHS XV.

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