Hundreds mark 100th birthday of a special Bok supporter

2007-12-24 00:00

Josie Nel, the widow of legendary Springbok rugby captain Philip Nel, who led the 1937 South African side to a famous series win in New Zealand, turned 100 on Saturday.

Over 200 guests from around South Africa travelled to Greytown to attend a garden luncheon at her family home.

Among the guests were 1981 Springbok captain Wynand Claasen, who read out a message on behalf of Regan Hoskins, the president of the South African Rugby Union, who is away in the United States.

Hoskins referred to Mrs Nel as the first lady of the South African Rugby Union, and said that she has been part of a golden era in the history of the game in this country.

Claasen also highlighted the similarities between his side’s tour to New Zealand in 1981 and that of the 1937 squad; how he and Nel were both left out of the first Test before being reinstated as captains of their respective teams.

He said that one bad refereeing decision in the 1981 series has left the team of 1937 as the only Bok side to have won a Test series in New Zealand.

He also recalled vividly how Philip Nel sent his team a good luck message advising him to scrum, scrum and scrum — a message that Nel himself received from Oubaas Makotter back in 1937.

Longtime school coach Skonk Nicholson presented a message to Mrs Nel on behalf of Maritzburg College, adding that the Nels and Nicholsons have been long-standing family friends.

George Laas, chairman of the Sharks Supporters Club, represented the Sharks (Pty) Ltd and the KZN Rugby Union at the function.

Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick Titlestad, the commanding officer of the Umvoti Mounted Rifles, Philip Nel’s regiment during World War 2, and Tony Day, chairman of Maritzburg Collegians, the Natal rugby club which Nel represented, were also on hand to pay tribute.

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