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Since their foundation more than 100 years ago, they have made a substantial contribution to KZN and South African rugby

On 15th May in 1899, as the sun rose over the young city of Durban, businessmen were winding their way to work and coffee shops were alive with patrons - some reading the Natal Advertiser - a new rugby club had been born.

Had we been a patron and an enthusiastic follower of the sport that had in earlier years taken the Capital by storm, in one of those coffee shops all those years ago, we no doubt would have been discussing the notice that had appeared in the early edition of the newspaper that everyone had been reading that brisk autumn morning.

The notice read as follows - "Mr. S.P. Woollatt presided last night at a meeting of the recently formed Durban Rugby Club. The rules were discussed and it was agreed that two teams be chosen: an 'A' and a 'B' side with a sash distinguishing the one from the other. Mr Woollatt was unanimously voted in as captain and Mr. Lees-Smith as vice-captain.

"Mr. D. McIntyre who has been so energetic in the formation of the new club was appointed Secretary/Treasurer while Messrs E.P. Field, F.H. Brown, A. Osmond and A. Field were elected as the inaugural committee members."

So the club College Rovers as we know it today was founded. Strangely enough until that date, Durban's only winter sport had been soccer, in total contrast to Pietermaritzburg where rugby had already been played as a competitive sport and their clubs had been challenging for the Murray Cup, a trophy that had been sponsored by Sir. T.K. Murray, the first President of the KZNRU, since 1890.

The club has certainly come a long way since that autumn day as winter approached the fledgling colony of Natal. It would be the first time that a Durban side competed for the Murray Cup Challenge trophy and it would be a good omen for the club as they won the competition in their first year of existence.

No one had expected a Durban club to perform so well and the rugby fraternity in the Capital were astounded at the new Durban club's performance and just how quickly they had managed to understand and grasp the game.

During the First Great War of 1914-18, clubs battled to survive so it wasn't surprising that a decision was made for an amalgamation of the Durban Rugby Club and the Rovers Rugby Club. Remarkably, the subscriptions at the newly-named Durban Rovers club during those times was 10s-6p, and remained as such into the post war years of the twenties.

In 1936, Durban Rovers amalgamated with the Berea Cricket Club, which had been founded in 1885, thus making the newly named club Berea Rovers Sports Club, the oldest spots club of its kind in KwaZulu-Natal and one of the oldest in the country.

After surviving the Second Great War, the club grew immeasurably to become one of the foremost rugby clubs in the province producing one of their most famous captains of that era, the late great Peter Taylor who also captained the Junior Springboks.

The club more recently amalgamated with Marist Old Boys to become known as Rovers Marist in the early 80's while in the late eighties there was their most successful amalgamation with the Maritzburg College Old Boys Association, which has subsequently grown into one of the most respected clubs in the country.

The club has a pretty impressive honours board boasting of 22 Springboks having played for the club together with two Springbok captains in Gary Teichmann and the late Roy Dryburgh. They have also produced a Springbok 7's captain in Marc de Marigny and two Springbok coaches in Dr. Cecil Moss and Ian McIntosh who also became the first KZN coach to take a side to Currie Cup glory. Needless to say his captain was also a Rovers boy - Craig Jamieson.

Among the many other well known Springboks who played for the club include Cecil Moss, Alf Walker, his son Harry Newton-Walker, Bill Zeller, Michael 'Musch' Antelme, Paul Johnson, Jack Gage who also represented Ireland and Peter Swanson together with the more recent players like Guy Kebble, James Small, Pieter Muller, Robbie Kempson, Joel Stransky, Jeremy Thomson, Toks van de Linde, Chris Roussouw, Gaffie du Toit, Dave von Hoesselin, AJ Venter, Butch James and Stefan Terblanche.

Ryan Kankowski was awarded his Springbok 7's colours this year and joined Keegan Daniel in the South African under 21 World Championship side in France this year while JC Strauss has represented the South African Under 19 side. De Marigny and James have both represented the SA Under 21 side as well.

The famous Rovers' 1970 side. Peter Hatchwell (front 3rd from right) and Terry Mehrtens (front far right)

The club has also had a host of international players besides Jack Gage from other countries that represented them including Dr. Nick Labuschagne (England), Murray Pierce (New Zealand), Bill 'Chief' Leversee (U.S.A.), Kim Elgie (Scotland), Ian 'Plat' Marais, Brenton Caterall, Mike Jakobi and Leon Greef (all Zimbabwe).

Terry Merhtens (the father of All Black flyhalf Andrew Merhtens) who also played for Rovers was a Junior All Black and joined forces at the club in the early seventies with one of their favourite sons Peter Hatchwell who went to the All Black trials in the late sixties. Reports have it that Hatch would have made the side had he not been injured.
Right: Keeping it in the Family: L-R: Terry Mehrtens, Sam Hatchwell, Andrew Mehrtens, Peter Hatchwell

Rovers have also produced an impressive list of sportsmen that have represented the province in two sporting codes. These include Herby Taylor, Herby Wade, Bob Harvey, Roy McLean, Dave Pearse and Errol Stewart (all rugby and cricket) together with the hockey/cricket provincial representatives Darryl Bestall, who captained Natal under 20 rugby team in the early seventies, Paddy Dobson and Jonty Rhodes who although never played cricket for Rovers represented them at hockey.

Rovers have won the Murray Cup Knockout Trophy 12 times and have become particularly stronger in the last five years. They have won the Moor Cup on six occasions and have produced one of the most successful under 20 sides of all time in the province having won the Frank Norris under 20 league and Basil Medway Knockout competition for five years on the trot having only lost two games in that period-a quite remarkable achievement.

They have also produced some remarkably successful administrators as well including Bill Zeller, Frank Norris, Peter Taylor, D.W. Geddie, Dr. Nick Labuschagne, Craig Jamieson and Kevin Dunkley just to name a few.

At the moment under the chairmanship of Graham McKenzie, they are unquestionably the most well administered club in KZN and certainly one of the best run outfits in South Africa.

Having made it to the final of the 2006 Fidentia National Club Championships in Stellenbosch there can be no doubt that College Rovers are now one of the top clubs in the country and have a very proud history that will surely see them grow from strength to strength as they travel towards many more milestones that will undoubtedly be etched forever in the history annals of this great game we all hold dear - RUGBY FOOTBALL.