Jan 24, 2021

The first 15 man game of rugby celebrates its 150th Anniversary

By Jos Robson

On the 6th October 1870 three years before the oldest piece of silverware, The Moor Cup was manufactured in Birmingham, the first game of rugby as we know it today was played in South Africa on the Market Square in Pietermaritzburg between The Pietermaritzburg High School (Maritzburg College) and Hermannsburg. The game was officially reported about as a 15 man game in the Natal Witness on 11th October stating unequivocally that it was indeed a game of rugby football.

For years there have always been debates as to where the first game was actually played in this country with Bishops and SACS in the Western Cape also laying claim to that honor. None the less in the documentary I did with Hugh Bladen and Dan Retief, about The Moor Cup, the late legendary rugby historian Paul Dobson highlights the fact that there were many forms of the game being played back then and certainly there was no written proof that they were recognized as rugby games as we know the game today. It was in 1970, the centenary of the game being played when Danie Craven met with the legendary Maritzburg College rugby coach Skonk Nicholson that the game on the Market Square would be accepted as the first 15 man rugby game played in South Africa.     

To celebrate the historic 150th Anniversary of the game played in 1870, The Maritzburg College Old Boys Association will be holding a celebration on 6th October to mark the historic occasion as an all-important chapter in the annals of the history of the game in KZN with the KZNRU and indeed The Sharks.

Hugh Bladen;

If we know nothing about our past or where we came from, what is there to play for?

Koos Beukes;

We can never be bigger than the game for when we have gone, the game continues without us.

Shana Devitt

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