Players of ‘72 reunite after 45 years

2017-11-09 06:00
=EP Senior Schools Sports Union players during 1972 (back/left) Johan Benson (coach/manager), Denzil Petersen, Hennie du Plessis, Toyer Lillah, John Mitchell, Fahmy Abrahams, Nicholas Prinsloo and Farouk Wicomb (coach/referee). In the middle are Saliem Wicks, Richard Filander, Clive Fredericks, Abraham Matabata, Desmond Kramer, Desmond Booysen, Gilbert Whitebooi and Clarice Norris. In front are Keith Potgieter, Esau Gibson (vice captain), Mellville David (captain), Claude Lewis, Ismail Salie and Ashton Bosman.                       Photo:SUPPLIED

=EP Senior Schools Sports Union players during 1972 (back/left) Johan Benson (coach/manager), Denzil Petersen, Hennie du Plessis, Toyer Lillah, John Mitchell, Fahmy Abrahams, Nicholas Prinsloo and Farouk Wicomb (coach/referee). In the middle are Saliem Wicks, Richard Filander, Clive Fredericks, Abraham Matabata, Desmond Kramer, Desmond Booysen, Gilbert Whitebooi and Clarice Norris. In front are Keith Potgieter, Esau Gibson (vice captain), Mellville David (captain), Claude Lewis, Ismail Salie and Ashton Bosman. Photo:SUPPLIED

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In what can be termed a first in the history of the Eastern Province Senior Schools Sports Union (EPSSSU), an affiliate of the South African Senior Schools Sports Association (SASSSA), a reunion of the 1972 rugby and netball teams was held recently in Uitenhage.

One of the rugby players of 1972, Abraham Matabata, in an attempt to locate another team member, Clarice Norris, found that he had already passed on a long time ago. This spurred him on to get the other team members together.

A WhatsApp group chat was created, regular informal meetings followed and eventually it culminated in a superbly-organised get-together.

The first meeting was attended by Matabata together with Stag Mitchell, Ismail Salie, Keith Potgieter, Saliem Wicks, Hennie du Plessis, Fahmy Abrahams and Denzil Petersen.

Soon thereafter they started with arrangements for a reunion of players of 1972, 45 years after having played in a SASSSA tournament at Kimberley. To make it even more exciting, they invited the EP schools netball girls who had accompanied them to the tournament.

“And what an exciting social event it turned out to be when the ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ of 1972, some bald, others grey-haired and stout in stature turned up,” said Farouk Wicomb, a rugby coach of the team of ‘72.

“In some cases players had undergone such a change, that they had to be introduced to one another after not being recognisable.”

Only three of the living members of the rugby squad could not attend. They were Claude Lewis, Gilbert Whitebooi and Desmond Booysen. Also in attendance were the team’s well-known rugby coaches, Farouk Wicomb and Johan Benson.

At the glamorous reunion, Ebrahim Wicomb, former SASSSA rugby convener and Joseph Slingers, a former SASSSA vice-chairman, refreshed the players’ memories of the struggle for a non-racial South Africa.

“The question today, however, is still: Are we experiencing what our motto was then…No normal sport in an abnormal society?” said Wicomb.

A thanksgiving and memorial service was led by the 1972 team’s prop forward, Reverend Abraham Matabata.

Added to this highly charged atmosphere, the rugby coaches Farouk Wicomb and Johan Benson brought the house down with raw, emotional speeches remembering the fallen heroes. The grown, hardened men broke down as the Last Trumpet Call was played while the names of their comrades were read out.

As the 1972 EPSSSU members left, homeward bound, some from Gauteng, Kwazulu Natal, Western Cape, Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage, there were whispers of “We are Blessed…Thank You… See you in 2019”.

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