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Before we delve into the early history of College Rovers, we would like to dedicate this column to four rugby men who have all left us in early May and fittingly two played for Rovers while the third was All Blacks, Alan Sutherland who we gave a little obituary on Facebook yesterday already.
Sanele Sibanda played for UKZN Impi before he joined Rovers. A charismatic character and aptly nicknamed ‘Smiley’. A fabulously gifted player who hung up his boots in 2017 the year Rovers lost to False Bay in the final of the Gold Cup in Cape Town. He was also selected for the Sharks Club XV.
Robin Hopkins started at Rovers in 1975 out of Kearsney College. An absolutely brilliant athlete he represented Natal Schools in the sprint events and on leaving school joined Rovers he was chosen to represent Natal Under 20 but injuries put paid to a hugely potentially successful career in the game.
Visiting teams down the years also had good reason to be thankful for the fine caliber of liaison officers from the KZNRU who looked after their needs. The two best known were Eddie Roomer who passed away a day ago on the left with Dr. Nic Labuschagne and the late Bennie Munro. Eddie was the Uncle of former Natal flank Peter Edmunds.
THE DURBAN RUGBY CLUB – THE EARLY YEARS OF COLLEGE ROVERS WHEN IT ALL STARTED.
On Friday 15th May College Rovers will turn 121 years old for on that day in 1899 under the heading DURBAN RUGBY CLUB in the then Natal Advertiser the following article was carried.
“Mr. S.P. Woollatt presided last night at a meeting of the recently formed DURBAN RUGBY CLUB. Mr. Woollatt was unanimously elected captain (Chairman) and Mr. Lees-Smith his vice-captain (Vice-Chairman), and so began the incredible journey of the second oldest club in the Garden Province of the fledgling country”
Mr. McIntyre was appointed the club’s first Secretary/Treasurer with E.P. Field, F.H. Brown, P. Osmond, and A. Field the clubs’ first recorded committee. The Durban Rugby Club was to make history in their first year of existence by becoming the first coastal side to win the Hollywoodbets Murray Cup after the Maritzburg Clubs had dominated the proceedings in those early far off days.
The long-standing association between SA Home Loans Durban Collegians and Rovers goes back to 1906 when Old Collegians Durban (now Durban Collegians) was founded, which was the same year that the Durban Rugby Club amalgamated with Rovers to become Durban Rovers. Three years later in1909 the club would win the Murray Cup for the second time and for the first time as Durban Rovers.
The Club would go on to play in countless finals winning the Murray Cup as Durban Rovers two more times in 1913 and 1925.
In 1939 the Durban Rugby Club amalgamated with the Berea Cricket Club, which had been founded in 1886, to become then known as the Berea Rovers Rugby Club winning the Murray Cup nine years later just after the Second Great War in 1948.
It would take another 23 years before Berea Rovers would claim the Murray Cup for the second time in 1971 after having had their name engraved on the Fidelity Services Moor Cup for the first time in 1970, 13 years after the cup had first been played for and won by FNB Durban University.
After a brief amalgamation with Marist Old Boys becoming known as Rovers Marist with the last and arguably most successful amalgamation taking place in the 80’s with Maritzburg College to now be known as College Rovers winning the Moor Cup as College Rovers 22 years later in 1992, which saw them representing the KZNRU at the National Club Championships a year later in 1993 for the first time.
In 1999 the clubs Centenary year they would win the Murray Cup a huge bonus 100 years later after first winning the trophy in 1899. In 2000 they reclaimed the Murray Cup and the last two decades have undoubtedly belonged to Rovers.
With two Springbok Captains in Roy Dryburgh and Gary Teichmann on their honors board together with Junior Bok Skipper, Peter Taylor, and the man who led Natal to that first historic Currie Cup victory for Natal, Craig Jamieson Rovers have served the game with distinction.
EDITED EXCERPT FROM A CLUB RUGBY JOURNEY WITH JOS ROBSON.