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The history of school rugby – Deutsche Schule Hermannsburg

The Deutsche Schule Hermannsburg may not be one of the more recognized rugby schools in KwaZulu Natal-certainly they have been better known for their great achievements in the arts but they still do certainly hold a very special place in the annals of the history of schools rugby and the sport we hold dear in the province.

Perseverance: Determination, Resolve-that is the name of the farm on which the first Hermannsburg missionaries settled in 1884. Two years later the school was founded by Lutheran minister Reverend Hohls and by all accounts this wonderful institution, which is situated between Kranskop and Greytown in a predominantly dominated German farming community, has survived because of these characteristics of determination and resolve.

The quaint village of Hermannsburg is an ideal setting for any youngster growing up and being educated in a boarding school environment and one can only find a wonderful sense of calm and serenity when visiting the school. With this in mind it is hard to believe whilst visiting the 155 year old institution that they played in the first ever recorded schoolboy rugby match in KZN.

A story appeared in the Natal Witness on the 11 October 1870 reporting on the game, which was played on the lower end of the Market Square in Pietermaritzburg. But what made it all that more unique the two teams played the best of three games namely cricket, football and rugby over a period of two hours with College eventually winning their first ever rugby game in the process mainly due the fact that the Hermannsburg players had made a bad judgment in not keeping their goal clear and as they say the rest is history.

The oldest co-ed school in KZN, Hermannsburg, in later years whilst still playing rugby as their preferred winter sport, became more well known for producing many great athletes including middle distance runner Pieter Gastrow who was later to become a well known local politician, high jumper Willie Kusel, hurdler Ralph Schreuder, Walli Kohne and more recently two time Two Oceans winner Monika Drogemoder.

It was fitting that the legendary Maritzburg College coach ‘Skonk’ Nicholson was a guest at the schools 150th anniversary in 2006-certainly they were honoured to have him there as the two famous schools are united in one famous moment in school boy rugby history.

They have never had more than 350 pupils at one time at the school and its remarkable to think that as small  as they are they have still managed to achieve remarkably well and still produce many quality rugby players including Wilhelm ‘Willing’ Schulze who played hooker for Maritzburg Varsity and Natal between 1935 and 1938 during the Phillip Nel era, Rupert Laatz who represented Natal during the 1959 Currie Cup season, Reinhold ‘Kehla’ Rohrs (South West Africa) and Siegfried ‘Jack’ Meyer (Eastern Transvaal) while international representatives include Jens-Erik Jorgensen (Denmark), Mark Schulze (Germany 1996-2000) and Roy Kunzier (Switzerland 1999-2001).

Current rugby coach Nils Rottcher himself an old boy (class of 1982) was enormously excited about the schools creation of their annual sevens tournament for seniors and Under 15 boys. The tournament which Hermannsburg will be hosting have invited co-ed schools Wembly College from Greytown, St. Dominic’s from Newcastle and Waterfall College from Hillcrest. Rottcher a passionate rugby man if ever there was is busy rebuilding the game at the school and feels with his talented young skipper Ulrich Bosse who is a South African Under 19 international Polo cross player the new era looks truly positive.

With the second ever lady principal in the schools history Ute Brand firmly in place and their first ever black boy Thabiso Manzini a product op DPHS as head boy and also in the First XV  Hermannsburg undoubtedly has a lasting foundation built on great traditions with an enormously proud history to live up to-long may they thrive and prosper.

Special thanks to the schools Public Relations department head Stella Cockburn for all her assistance and the wonderful German pastries.

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