Skonk Nicholson (1917-2011)

James Mervyn "Skonk" Nicholson, the legendary schoolboy rugby coach out of Maritzburg College, passed away peacefully on Sunday morning.

He grew up in the farming community of Underberg and was educated at Durban High School and the University of Natal Pietermaritzburg majoring in Geography.

Nicholson who turned 94 on 6 February started teaching at Maritzburg College soon after graduating as a teacher. He wrote a geography text book for scholars, which was prescribed by the Education Department.

Skonk, however, became better known as a rugby coach, starting with the College First XV in 1947. He was one of the founders of Craven Week, and was a selector for the first ever South African Schools’ side that toured Italy and France in 1974.

He became known as the icon of schoolboy rugby, coaching many Springboks including their three famous flyhalves: the late Keith Oxlee, Joel Stransky and Butch James. Stransky was deeply saddened on hearing of the legendary coach’s passing stating that Skonk had been a huge influence on his career. “He was a coach who just knew how to bring out the best in even the most ordinary of players”, Joel explained.

Ian McIntosh highlighted the fact that rugby as a whole will miss the man whose contribution to the game has been immense. "We will all certainly miss this wonderful character and for those who had the privilege and pleasure of working with him will cherish special memories on and off the field."

"He was a true friend and rugby legend – long may his legacy be with us," McIntosh concluded

From all of us at the KZNRU and The Sharks we pass on our deepest sympathies to the Nicholson family.

The funeral arrangements will be advised shortly