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In the opening paragraph of the book Natal 100 The Centenary of the Natal Rugby Union by the late Reg Sweet a former Natal Mercury Sports Editor – it reads ‘ While the winter closed in on Pietermaritzburg and the mists shrouded law-abiding citizens in hazy out line as they shrugged deeper into upturned collars of warm overcoats, it became apparent that a couple of dozen of them were converging on the old Town Office. There business was sporting, indeed they were about to make the most important recreational decision yet contemplated in the fledgling Colony of Natal.’
The year was 1890 but far more precisely it was Tuesday 24th June a date that will long be remembered as the birth of we now know as the KZNRU – a franchise of the Sharks. It is also the year that club rugby as we know it today was born in the province with the Kokstad Rugby club having also been founded that year making them the oldest rugby club in the Natal.
It took Natal 100 years to win the Currie Cup and that they did in style beating the Blue Bulls in that memorable final in 1990. As for the Kokstad Rugby Club who also celebrated a memorable centenary year in 1990 it took them 30 years to win their first official piece of KZNRU silverware the Hollywoodbets Murray Cup presented to the Union by the first President of the now KZNRU, Sir TK Murray.
In the early years of club rugby and the playing in the Murray Cup the British and to a lesser extent New Zealand and Australian Regiments doing duty during the Boer War pretty much dominated the game. The York and Lancaster and West Riding Regiments together with The New Zealanders are among the names that appear on the 130 year old trophy in those far off days.
A name that appears on the Murray Cup knockout trophy with the winning New Zealanders RFC side of 1904 is one R. Goldstone who later became a teacher at Maritzburg College. His contribution to the 157 year old school was such that the now famous hallowed turf of Goldstones at the College was named after him.
College Rovers the second oldest rugby club in the province was founded in 1899 and became the first Durban Club to win the Murray Cup that year. Originally known as the Durban Rugby Club back then and SA Home Loans Durban Collegians founded in 1906 are undoubtedly two clubs that have successfully survived amalgamations and proved that their strength has been largely due to the strong administrators that have served for them with distinction over the years so helping them to survive the test of time.
What of the Fidelity Services Moor Cup one may ask and the role its played in the history of the club game. A cup that went missing for 81 years after being first won by a multiracial side way back in 1875 three years after it had been manufactured in Birmingham. The Moor Cup as said before is the oldest piece of silverware in World Rugby and played for in one of the youngest club competitions in the club game. Named after George Moor who won the cup in a raffle as a member of the winning team in 1876 the cup but went mysteriously missing only to suddenly reappear 81 years later and handed to Vic King the then President of the Maritzburg Rugby Sub Union at King Sports in 1957 in the capital with the missing years remaining a mystery to this day.
The Moor Cup Is older than all the clubs in South Africa including the oldest Hamilton Sea Point RFC founded in 1875 in the Fairest Cape. For the records, locally, the Eshowe Rugby Club will be joining the KZNRU 100 club next year with Kokstad 130, Rovers 121, Matatiele 119, Matitzburg Collegians 117, Durban Collegians 114, UKZN Pietermaritzburg 108, Sentraal in Dundee 102, Zululand Rhinos 101 and Vryheid 100.
Durban High School Old Boys RFC was founded in 1910 but disbanded before their Centenary to amalgamate with Glenwood Old Boys RFC founded in 1926. The club became known as Old Boys and is now the home of Varsity College. Durban Wanderers was founded in 1903 as well but disbanded in 1984 to amalgamate with Gosvenor Old Boys RFC founded in 1965 to become Durban Harlequins.