SA Rugby congratulated the Leopards Rugby Union on their centenary celebrations and lauded the Potchefstroom-based province for their continued contributions towards the national rugby landscape over the last 100 years.
Founded in 1920 as Western Transvaal Rugby Union, the Leopards became the 10th member of the erstwhile South African Rugby Football Union.
Since then, the “Mielieboere” have contributed in a meaningful way to the development of South African rugby, while serving the North West Province, in particular, with distinction.
SA Rugby president, Mr Mark Alexander, wrote to Mr Mervyn Taylor, President of the Leopards, thanking him and his executives, current CEO Eugene Fourie, as well as the provincial players, coaches, management staff and clubs of the province, and congratulating them on this milestone.
“The Leopards will always be remembered as pioneers in the very rich tapestry of South African history when they became the first black-owned rugby team in South Africa, after securing sponsorship from Royal Bafokeng Sports Holdings in October 2007,” Mr Alexander said.
Over the years, the Leopards delivered a number of players and coaches to the Springbok cause, with the likes of Kobus Wiese, Marius Hurter, Gert Smal, Lood de Jager and Matt Proudfoot all playing a part in South Africa’s three RWC victories.
The late Prof Johan Claassen, who played in 28 Test matches for the Springboks, famously captained South Africa in nine of those as a Western Transvaal player.
The Leopards have over many years hosted international touring teams including the All Blacks, Wallabies, British & Irish Lions and claimed the international scalps of Uruguay and Namibia. Werner Lessing is their most capped player, with 191 matches (1998-2007), with Eugene Hare’s record of 129 matches as provincial captain remains a national landmark.
They also hosted a Test match between the Springboks and All Blacks at Royal Bafokeng in 2006, which the men in green and gold won 21-20 courtesy of a late penalty goal by Andre Pretorius, who later played for and is now the Leopards’ head coach.
That the Leopards have managed to survive through many turbulent times and up to today still continue to play a role in the administrating affairs of SA Rugby, is a testament to all those who have through the years refuse to give up its territory and its undoubted love for the game of rugby, wrote Mr Alexander.
“On behalf of the SA Rugby Executive I want to extend our warmest congratulations. Long may they continue with their quest to keep the game alive in the North West Province, and here’s to much more success for the following 100 years,” said Mr Alexander.
Springboks (out of the union): Nic du Plessis, Hans Aucamp, Champion Myburg, Jack vd Schyff, Harry Newton Walker, Dick Putter, Johan Claassen, Lofty Nel, Albie Bates, Johan vd Schyff, Dirk de Vos, Paul Durandt, Flippie vd Merwe and Botha Rossouw.
Players that left the union and became Springbok: Ockie Oosthuizen, Gert Smal, Deon Oosthuizen, Kobus Wiese, Robert du Preez, Schutte Bekker, Marius Hurter, Henry Tromp, Henno Mentz, Tiaan Liebenberg, Franco vd Merwe, Gerhard Mostert, Lood de Jager, Akker vd Merwe.
Springbok coaches and assistants: Johan Claassen, John Williams, Andre Markgraaff, Gert Smal, Matt Proudfoot.
Represented the union on SA Rugby management: Piet Bosman, Johan Claassen, Andre Markgraaff, James Stoffberg.