The History of Club Rugby in KwaZulu-Natal - KOKSTAD
Kokstad is a town in East Griqualand that has produced many great characters, personalities, a legendary Springbok in Ebbo Bastard who was part of Philip Nel's famous 1937 Springboks to New Zealand and a Cardinal of the Catholic Church - His Eminence Wilfred Napier.
In 1990, the Kokstad Rugby Club, affectionately known as the 'Blacks', like the KZN Rugby Union, celebrated their centenary and what a memorable occasion it was, complete with commemorative centenary booklet, which outlined their splendid history. The booklet, which was compiled and edited with the help of their elder statesmen of the time John Vos, Gordon Dick and Gordon Eagle
There can be no doubt whatsoever that the Kokstad Rugby Club was founded in 1890 as it is reported in the Kokstad Gazette published on 2 May 1891 "Existing members together with the committee voted in last year, met on Wednesday 24 April and appointed Sgt. Hopkins as club captain. The re-election of Mr Alex Barker as honorary secretary and treasurer was confirmed and the acceptance of the balance sheet, which showed a balance of 85 shillings and 6 pennies in hand, was tabled and accepted."
The club accepted its first black player into the club in 1979 and has always been well-renowned for their exceptional hospitality, which dates back since the club was first founded. A report published in the 135 year old Advertiser publication in 1891 states "AFTER A GAME BETWEEN TOWN AND COUNTRY THE LOSERS DINED WITH THE WINNERS AT THE ROYAL HOTEL. MR G FOWLE FEATURED ON THE PIANO WHILE MR T S BAKER WAS THE RIGHT MAN IN THE RIGHT PLACE AS CHAIRMAN ALTHOUGH IT WAS FEARED HIS MANY TOASTS WERE ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE NUMEROUS HEADACHES THE NEXT DAY."
Nothing much has changed since then needless to say, and the many clubs that travel there to play at Elliot Park will still experience that old fashioned country districts hospitality, which is so important in the modern game.
The club has been struggling in the last few seasons or so but they can still be proud of their history and reminisce on some of their golden moments that they have had over the years none more so than the year that they won the Captain Morgan Murray Cup Knockout competition in 1920.
Elliott Park, the home grounds complete with original clubhouse of the 116 year old club was originally established in about 1932, and the first game ever recorded on the grounds was played in 1933. The grounds were named after JFD Elliott, a well-known personality in the area whose contribution to game and club was immense. His grandson Barry continued serving the club years later while his sons Bryn, Kevin and Rex, all products of Maritzburg College, all played the game with distinction.
The Club has produced a number of great players including their only Springbok Ebbo Bastard. His brother Cedric, who many believed should also have played for South Africa, represented Natal.
Great Natal players like Hannes Viljoen, Rex Greyling and Tiny Walker hail from those parts while legends like Jimmy Wardlaw, Gus Brown, Roy Pringle, Eric Groom, Graham and Billy King all contributed to the game with distinction in the area. It is also reported that former Natal playing brothers Jules and Paul Langenburg also originate from the area.
Kokstad 2001 1st XV
Louis Stander and the late Mervyn von Waltzleben are two great administrators in recent times that shouldn't be forgotten for their contributions either. These were truly two great rugby men that more than contributed to their club and indeed to the rugby community of Southern Districts and KZN.
Kokstad can certainly boast of a great history, and hold their heads high, for their contribution to the game, especially in the country districts, has been immeasurable.