Mens Sana in Corpore Sano: A Concise History of Sport at St John's College
by Dr Daniel Pretorius, Chairman of the Heritage Committee
Sport has been an integral part of the St John’s education from the very inception of the College in 1898. The school’s educational philosophy has always entailed the development of students not only in mind, spirit and character but also in body. This philosophy is articulated in the School Prayer and the School Hymn.
In the College’s early days, when the school was still located in downtown Johannesburg, the focus was principally on cricket, football, gymnastics and cross-country. Sport at St John’s expanded in scope and improved in standard after the Community of the Resurrection took charge of the school in 1906, especially after the school relocated to Houghton in 1907. Here it was possible to begin to develop sports facilities.
Father James Okey Nash and Father Eustace Hill believed in the value of sport (especially team sports) in the holistic development of boys. One can visualise Nash and Hill, in conversation over a cup of Darjeeling or Earl Grey (unadulterated by such extraneous luxuries as milk and sugar), reminiscing about a passage in the famous schoolboy novel by Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown’s Schooldays (1857). In that passage, Tom and his friend Arthur expatiate, for the benefit of one of their masters, upon the virtues of school sport. Adverting to the ‘noble game’ of cricket, Tom asserts that ‘it’s more than a game. It’s an institution.’ Arthur concurs fervently, proclaiming, perhaps only partly tongue-in-cheek, that it is also is ‘the birthright of British boys old and young, as habeas corpus and trial by jury are of British men.’ The master, while circumventing these extravagant claims, does not demur: ‘The discipline and reliance on one another which it teaches is so valuable, I think, it is such an unselfish game. It merges the individual in the eleven; he doesn't play that he may win, but that his side may.’ Tom agrees: ‘That's very true, and that's why football and cricket, now one comes to think of it, are such much better games than fives or hare-and-hounds, or any others where the object is to come in first or to win for oneself, and not that one's side may win.’
Nash and Hill wrote animatedly about the sporting exploits of the early generations of St John’s boys. It is clear from their writings that they did not regard sport as a mere diversion intended to while away boys’ idle hours. It was an activity to be pursued earnestly and with victorious intentions – naturally while maintaining the highest levels of fair play and sportsmanship. At times they seemed resigned to the fact that St John’s, being a smaller school than its rivals, would lose more often than win; but they also understood that more valuable life lessons were to be gained from defeat than from easy victories.
We are indebted to Fr Nash and Fr Hill for having inculcated a profound love for sport among St John’s boys. But it was Fr Henry Alston who was the master-in-charge of sport for many years, and who deserves particular credit for the growth of sport at St John’s College in its early decades.
Cricket has been played at St John’s since the very beginning of the school’s existence. The school had no playing fields at its original premises in the city centre, but rudimentary nets were erected in the grounds of the ‘Tin Temple’, where the school found a temporary home after the Anglo-Boer South African War. Impromptu games were played at the Union Grounds. Formal matches were played at the Wanderers Club (in the vicinity of Park Station), which had several cricket fields. Few schools in Johannesburg played cricket in those days, so school teams were entered in the Transvaal club leagues. Because matches were played against teams comprising adult men, College masters frequently played in the College senior teams.
One of the most remarkable early achievements by a St John’s cricketer was Toby Louw’s score of 201* against Pretoria Diocesan School in Advent Term, 1905. The first St John’s cricketer to be selected to play for Transvaal in the Currie Cup competition was Bertram Floquet, who made his first-class debut in 1903, while he was still at school. The first Old Johannian to play Test cricket was JW ‘Billy’ Zulch, who made his debut for South Africa against England (in the guise of Marylebone Cricket Club) at the old Wanderers in January 1910. He recorded his maiden Test century (105) in the third Test against Australia at the Adelaide Oval in January 1911, followed by a memorable innings of 150 in the fifth Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Inter-house cricket matches started in 1907, with the House Challenge Shield being awarded to the winning house from 1911 onwards. Alston won the Shield in 1911 and 1912, after which Hill won in 1913 and 1914. Notable inter-house matches included the 1938 final, in which Thomson scored 456 (RD Stacey 191) and Hill made 303 (PJ Warne 154). The 1940 final between Alston and Hill was played on a ‘timeless’ basis, presumably in imitation of the famous Timeless Test between South Africa and England played in 1939. In Alston’s opening partnership of 400 runs, WR Endean scored 183. MJL Bold went on to score 354, with Alston ultimately being all out for a mammoth 813. Hill scored 474, resulting in Alston winning by the not inconsiderable margin of 339 runs. In a junior inter-house match played in 1977, MW Dowsley (Clarke, 1980) hit 235* (including 25 sixes) in a 30-over game.
Regular school matches were initially played against King Edward VII School, Jeppe, Marist Brothers’ College (now Sacred Heart College), and against Pretoria Boys’, Parktown Boys’, Potchefstroom Boys’ and, later, Michaelhouse, Hilton College, Grey College and St Andrew’s School, Bloemfontein. The closest rivalry was with KES. The 1st XI matches against KES were among the most important events on the school calendar. Although KES were generally the stronger side, matches were always keenly contested and there were periods when the College was dominant. For example, from 1933 to 1938 the St John’s 1st XI won ten consecutive matches against KES. The St John’s 1st XI was particularly strong from 1935 to 1937, when we lost only four matches out of 36 played. In the match against Pretoria Boys’ played in Advent Term, 1937, OE Wynne (Hill, 1938) and TE Cook (Hill, 1937) recorded an unbroken opening partnership of 312 runs.
The 1980s was also a particularly good period for College cricket, with the 1st XI regularly reaching the final of the John Waite competition and winning the competition in 1987 and 1988. St John’s were the champions again in 1999, 2001, 2005 and 2008. The 2001 and 2008 1st XIs both defeated KES twice in one year.
Particularly noteworthy individual performances over the years, at 1st XI level, include the following:
- I Rosenberg (Thomson, 1908) took 11/40 in two innings v Pretoria Diocesan School (Lent Term, 1908)
- HG Freeman (Alston, 1911) took 9/35 in one innings v the Bishop of Pretoria’s XI (Advent Term, 1910)
- TE Cook (Hill, 1937) took 9/50 in one innings v Pretoria Boys’ High School (Advent Term, 1936)
- HJ Hearn (Alston, 1942) took 12/47 in two innings v Parktown (Lent Term, 1942)
- PJ Keeley (Hill, 1950) took 9/93 in one innings v KES (Lent Term, 1950)
- D St J Gladwin (Clayton, 1968) took 14/57 in two innings v Michaelhouse (Advent Term, 1968)
- RE Sierra (Nash, 1998) scored 207* v Hutchins School, Hobart, Tasmania (Easter Term, 1998)
- G Hansmeyer (Nash, 2007) and OA Ramela (Hodgson, 2006) posted a 343-run partnership v Tigers XI, with Hansmeyer reaching a personal tally of 206 (Michaelmas Term, 2006)
- DP Conway (Nash, 2009) scored fourteen centuries for the 1st XI from 2005 until 2009.
As far as is known, only one St John’s bowler has ever taken all ten wickets in an innings: AEV Newcombe (Alston, 1917) for the College under 13A team v Jeppe in Advent Term, 1914.
Collective team scores have ranged from the modest 6 all out recorded by the St John’s under 13 team v Marist Brothers (Advent, 1903) and 11 all out by the 3rd XI v Pretoria Boys’ (Easter, 1981) to the staggering 526/8 amassed by the under 14B team against St Benedict’s (Michaelmas, 2015). Well-nigh unbelievable are the T20 scores of 307/1 accumulated by the under 15C team against St David’s Marist and 296/7 by the under 16B team against Parktown, both in the Easter Term of 2016.
Several Old Johannians have distinguished themselves playing for South Africa. In the 1938/’39 Test series against England, two OJs featured in the South African team – B Mitchell (Nash, 1926) and RE Grieveson (Thomson, 1925). Mitchell was a superstar of his era. He started playing first-class cricket for Transvaal while he was still at St John’s. He was named Wisden cricketer of the year in 1936, and was known as the ‘Donald Bradman of South Africa’. He held the record for the most runs scored for South Africa until 1999. Apart from Zulch, Mitchell and Grieveson, OJs who have played for South Africa are: NV Lindsay, OE Wynne (Hill, 1938), WR Endean (Alston, 1941), CEB Rice (Thomson, 1966; Wisden cricketer of the year, 1981; captain of Transvaal, Nottinghamshire and Scotland) and MJR Rindel (Clarke, 1981).
Numerous College cricketers have won SA Schools and SA under 19 caps: RA Hope (Nash, 1941), JD Murphy (Nash, 1945), WE Patrick (Hill, 1953), BR Weedon (Clayton, 1969), NJ Cotterell (Alston, 1971), TM Glassock (Nash, 1983), GR Blow (Thomson, 1988), JA Ehrke (Nash, 1991), MR Street (Alston, 1996), BH Tucker (Clayton, 1997), RE Sierra (Nash, 1998), J Symes (Hill, 2005), WC Coulentianos (Nash, 2012), B Dial (Nash, 2013), NP Mvelase (Hodgson, 2014), F Sayanvala (Thomson, 2015), C McKerr (Thomson, 2015) and J Lees (Nash, 2018). SR Trollip (Thomson, 1964), JL Kuiper (Alston, 1969), MJ Mentis (Clarke, 1973), IDM Watson (Alston, 1972), GN MacNab (Nash, 1973) and OA Ramela (Hodgson, 2006) played for SA Universities.
Recent OJs who have played at first-class level are: MR Street (Alston, 1996 – Gauteng), BH Tucker (Clayton, 1997 – Griqualand West, Eastern Province), WC Swan (Clarke, 2001 – Boland, Cape Cobras, Gauteng), J Symes (Hill, 2005 – Lions, Scotland), OA Ramela (Hodgson, 2006 – Boland, Cape Cobras, Lions, South Africa ‘A’), DP Conway (Nash, 2009 – Dolphins, Lions, Wellington (New Zealand)), WC Coulentianos (Nash, 2012 – Easterns), B Dial (Nash, 2013 – Gauteng), NP Mvelase (Hodgson, 2013 – South Western Districts), C McKerr (Thomson, 2015 – Derbyshire, Surrey) and F Sayanvala (Thomson, 2015 – Gauteng, Northern Cape).
None of the accomplishments outlined above would have been preserved for posterity had it not been for the diligence of the unsung heroes with their pencils, erasers and scorebooks. Most of the 1st XI scorers are long since forgotten, having plied their trade solely for the love of the game. Fortunately, we can pay tribute to some of them: PB Ducklin (1977-‘78), CC Moses (1979-‘80), D di Pasquale (1980), R Matthews (1983-‘85), J Howard (1985-‘87), R Lilleike (1988-‘90), M Dalby (1991), JC Gunning (1992-‘93), G Buchanan (1994-‘97), N Malherbe and J Salivankwa (1998), E Fenwick (2000), B Childs (2002-‘03), M Posniak (2004-‘05), E Roelofse (2007), BE Marffy (2008’-10) and JP O’Connor (2011).
Cross-country running was another sport in which the first generation of St John’s boys participated and excelled. In 1902, St John’s entered the Inter-School Cross-Country League, in which we competed with KES, Jeppe and Marist Brothers’ College. The St John’s harriers won the league every year from 1902 until 1905. The term ‘cross-country’ was a slight misnomer: races had a distinct urban flavour (albeit of an Edwardian kind), and were run along the streets of Johannesburg. These events attracted many spectators. Race officials mounted on horseback accompanied the runners, who were followed by a retinue of juvenile cyclists. The medals and trophies were usually presented by important dignitaries. For example, in 1902 the guest of honour was Lord Alfred Milner, the Governor of the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony.
In time, though, cross-country receded into relative obscurity as athletics of the track and field variety gained ascendancy among Johannesburg schools. However, cross-country enjoyed a major revival in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1977, the College senior team was undefeated in the Johannesburg Central Districts League and won the Southern Transvaal schools championships. Sean Nicholl (Hill, 1979) was awarded Junior Springbok colours. In 1985, Douglas Girling (Thomson, 1985) and Louis Seeco (Nash, 1985) tied for first place in the Triangular Cross-Country Championship. In 1988, the senior team regularly won competitions, and Neil Gardner, John Makhubo, Benedict Molefe and Gregory von Holdt were selected for the central districts team. Benedict Molefe (Nash, 1991) continued to excel over the next two years, and was a consistent winner of cross-country races.
From the early days of the establishment of St John’s College, gymnastics formed an important part of the school’s sport programme. The legendary Mr Barend Vieyra was the gym instructor from 1900 for many years. The school’s annual gymnastics championships and displays were prestigious and popular events, attracting coverage in the daily newspapers. Shortly after the school’s relocation to Houghton, Fr Nash prioritised fundraising for the construction of a gymnasium, which was eventually built in 1911. For years the gymnasium also served as the school hall, and was ultimately converted into Big School.
St John’s achieved early success in rugby union. So much so that in 1903 we won the Transvaal schools’ junior rugby league (under 16) by defeating a team from Pretoria in the final of the competition. However, lack of rugby facilities, and the fact that most other schools in Johannesburg played soccer rather than rugby, prompted St John’s to shift focus from rugby to soccer from about 1905 onwards.
For the better part of three decades (coinciding roughly with the era of the Community of the Resurrection), soccer was the school’s main winter sport: it was compulsory for all boys to play soccer, and rugby disappeared from the school’s winter programme altogether. The College soon performed very well in the junior football leagues played against other schools. In 1909 our under 16 team was unbeaten and accumulated a total of 36 goals in the season while conceding only one. This remarkable record was achieved partly because St John’s won 20-0 against Turffontein Government School (who, it must be said in their defence, fielded only nine players.) In the League Shield final that same year, played at the old Wanderers, the St John’s under 16 team beat Jeppe 3-1 to win the trophy.
At first team (under 19) level, however, the College struggled for some years to compete with bigger schools such as KES and Jeppe. But in 1924 there was cause for great rejoicing, when the St John’s first team, captained by Edward Jones (Alston, 1924), beat KES for the first time, the score being 3-1. St John’s beat KES again in 1928 and 1929. The following year, 1930, St John’s, coached by Mr Stanley Dodson and captained by George Bird (Thomson, 1930), won the Witwatersrand under 19 League Football Shield for the first time. ‘For many years this trophy has been the object of our great desire,’ wrote Fr Hill proudly. ‘At various times in the past we have been near to seeing that desire realised. This year the team went smashing through to victory.’ To celebrate this great event, a stone bearing the inscription ‘1930 – 1st XI’ was built into the Clock Tower, ‘for all subsequent generations of St John’s boys to note and applaud.’ It remains visible to visitors who, strolling from the Gate House through David Quad, look up to admire the Clock Tower designed by Sir Herbert Baker.
However, two years later (in 1932), the College switched back to rugby as its main winter sport. The Prep continued to play soccer without interruption over the decades that followed. Soccer was eventually reintroduced at the College in 2003, after a break of some seventy years.
Kaizer Motaung (Clayton, 1999) played professional soccer for Kaizer Chiefs from 2003 until 2014, and made five appearances for the SA under 23 team.
Whereas soccer had been played on the main cricket field (today Mitchell Field), the College’s decision to revert from soccer to rugby in 1932 necessitated the development of rugby fields in the valley to the north of the school. These became known as the A, B, C and D fields. In time, A field became known as Burger Field, while B field was eventually replaced by the synthetic hockey field. But we still have the C and D fields lower down the valley. Following the conversion from soccer to rugby, the 1st XV’s first match was played against the Old Johannians on Gaudy Day in 1932. The school lost 0-19. By virtue of the fact that the College was numerically much smaller than it is today, there were fewer teams: by 1938, there were only three open teams, one under 15 team and one under 14 team.
In time, however, College rugby grew and scaled great heights. In 1938, the 1st XV beat Parktown, Pretoria, KES and Helpmekaar, but lost to Michaelhouse. In 1940, St John’s beat Michaelhouse for the first time (18-9), and repeated the feat in 1941 (6-5). In 1947, a successful tour of Rhodesia was undertaken. This was followed by a tour of the Western Province in 1948, with matches being played against Paul Roos Gymnasium, Rondebosch, Bishops and SACS. The 1948 match against KES was again won (11-6). In 1951, a victory was recorded over Hilton College (11-3). In 1952, there were victories over Jeppe (9-3), Parktown (17-0), Maritzburg College (17-10), Pretoria (11-8), KES (17-6) and Helpmekaar (11-3). A tour was undertaken to Grahamstown, where we beat St Aidan’s College but lost to Kingswood College and St Andrew’s College. After a poor start to the 1953 season, the Blues showed resilience to record victories in successive matches against Highlands North, Krugersdorp, KES (22-14), Potchefstroom, Jeppe (16-0) and Helpmekaar (11-3).
By this time, the elevated status of rugby at the College was reflected by the fact that rugby received much more expansive coverage in The Johannian than any other school activity. Six open teams were being fielded, as well as two teams at each of under 13, 14 and 15 level. Inter-house matches were keenly contested at junior, middle and senior level. Unfortunately, though, during the mid-1950s the rugby seasons were occasionally truncated on account of recurring polio epidemics. Nevertheless, in 1956 the College under 14 team enjoyed an unbeaten season, including victories over KES, Jeppe, St Stithians, Krugersdorp, Pretoria and Helpmekaar. In 1957, the College fielded fourteen teams; the under 15A team was unbeaten (beating Highlands North 77-0 – a significant scoreline at a time when tries counted only three points).
In the College’s diamond jubilee year, 1958, the Blues, captained by David Barrow (Thomson, 1958), had a very successful season, losing narrowly only to Jeppe (8-11) and Parktown (6-8). There were victories over Prince Edward (Salisbury), Old Johannians, Hilton, KES, Michaelhouse, Forest High School, St Andrew’s School, Kingswood, Potchefstroom, Parktown and Helpmekaar, and a draw against Pretoria. In 1960, both the 3rd XV and the 6th XV were unbeaten, both beating KES twice.
In that era, several OJs played senior provincial rugby e.g. ‘Spud’ Murphy (Nash, 1945), Pat Mills (Thomson, 1945) and Malcolm Macfarlane (Alston, 1942). Clive Ulyate, who attended St John’s Prep before going to a school in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands, played flyhalf for the Springboks against the British Lions in 1955 and against the All Blacks in 1956. Euan King (Hill, 1972), played for the Transvaal Craven Week team.
College rugby prospered from the 1980s onward. Despite being the perennial underdogs, the Blues beat KES in 1981 and 1991. Robert Walker (Clayton, 1981) and Garth Ritchie (Clayton, 1986) were selected for the Transvaal Craven Week team. The 1984 under 15A team was unbeaten. The 1994 1st XV, captained by Owen Nkumane (Clayton, 1994), who went on to gain Springbok selection, achieved a phenomenal 17-0 victory over Paarl Boys’ High School, one of the top rugby schools in the country. The 1st XV of 1999, captained by Jeremy Diviani (Clarke, 1999), beat their rivals from KES twice (17-10 and 16-10) during the course of the season. The 2003 1st XV, captained by Morné van den Berg (Hill, 2003), perhaps had the best record ever: the team played 21 matches, of which it won nineteen, drew one and lost only to Michaelhouse. In the process, the Blues scored 604 points and conceded 315. It was a record that earned the team a ranking of thirteenth in South Africa. In 2006, the College 1st XV, captained by Lachlin Niven (Hodgson, 2006), won thirteen of its sixteen matches. But it was not only at first team level that there were superb successes. In 2012, the under 14D team was unbeaten. In 2017, the under 16A team won all fourteen of their matches.
From an individual perspective, Mac Masina (Clayton, 1995) played for the Springbok Sevens team, Scott Spedding (Nash, 2004) played international rugby for France, while Demetri Catrakilis (Fleming, 2006) won the Varsity Cup with UCT, twice won the Currie Cup with Western Province, and the European Challenge Cup with Montpellier. Nick de Jager (Nash, 2008) played for Saracens and the Blue Bulls. Thapelo Rapelwana (Hodgson, 2013) and Devon Henson (Nash, 2014) were selected for the Golden Lions Craven Week team. Lorenzo Masselli (Hill, 2015) played for Italy in the 2016 and 2017 under 20 World Cup. Kieran Houlston (Clarke, 2017) and Julian Zille (Hodgson, 2017) played for South Africa in the Maccabi Games in Israel in 2017.
In recent years, Burger Field has witnessed many titanic battles and memorable victories for the Blues. Who can possibly forget the rousing 39-19 victory over Michaelhouse in 2017? Or the pulsating 28-15 come-from-behind upset against Pretoria Boys’ High in 2018, or the 43-10 triumph over Michaelhouse at Balgowan that same year?
Special mention must be made of the enduring contributions of long-time coaches such as Fred Hambly, Willem ‘Maxie’ Burger, Norman McFarland, Wynand Pretorius and Adrian Norris.
In 1905, St John’s entered the annual Transvaal Inter-High Athletics Sports, where we competed with schools such as KES, Jeppe, Marist Brothers, Pretoria Boys’, Potch Boys’, Parktown and others. KES and Jeppe won the competition most frequently. In 1912, St John’s came within half a point of winning the Transvaal Inter-High – but it was never to be. Nevertheless, individual St John’s athletes gave an excellent account of themselves. For example, in 1920 Lawrence Roberts (Alston, 1921) broke the national high jump record. He went on to represent South Africa at the Olympic Games in Paris in 1924, where another OJ, Cornelius Davies (Nash, 1914) ran in the long-distance events.
From 1906, St John’s has held annual inter-house athletics championships – one of the oldest continuous activities at the school. The annual Tabloids event was introduced in 1942.
Malcolm Spence (Thomson, 1954) ran in the 400 metres race at the Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956. He later held the Commonwealth record for the 440 yards and the 4x110 yards relay, and in 1960 he won the bronze medal in the 400 metres event at the Olympic Games in Rome.
In 1997, Rory Meleniclis (Thomson, 1993) was awarded Springbok colours for his hurdling feats. That same year, St John’s won the Inter-High Quadrangular athletics meeting for the first time in many seasons.
From the early 2000s, St John’s (and so too other independent schools) have found it increasingly difficult to stimulate growth in the sport due to the different termly calendar compared to that of public schools. The season was abridged to a maximum of four weeks; by 2018, it was shortened even further to about a fortnight. The independent schools, guided by Alan Lion-Cachet, formed a combined team to participate in the annual Inter-High meeting and to ensure that top athletes still had an opportunity to compete at a higher level. This team was selected after the annual independent schools meeting, which St John’s dominated for most of the 2010s. A number of top athletes emerged during this period and hold several of the current school records. Among them were Ryan Botha (800m & 1500m), Alexander van der Bijl (high jump) and Kieren Louw (who broke all age group 100m and 200m records).
One of the first things Fr James Okey Nash did after he became Headmaster of St John’s College in 1906 was to arrange for boys to go swimming (supervised by Fr Thomson) at the Village Main Reef Dam. After the school had moved to Houghton in 1907, Fr Thomson took the boys for weekly swimming practices at the Orange Grove Baths. In those days there was no swimming pool at the school, so the boys had to walk two miles down dusty Louis Botha Avenue to Orange Grove for a swim in the icy cold water, and then walk back to the school again. Swimming was one of the sporting codes in which inter-house competitions were first arranged. Eric Bell (Thomson) won the national 100 yards swimming championship for boys in 1910.
In 1916, our first swimming pool was built. It was known as the Gladstone Bath (named after Lord Gladstone, Governor-General of the Union of South Africa and generous donor to the swimming pool fund). It was located in what is now Clayton Quad, immediately adjacent to the mathematics classrooms. It was more a dam than a swimming pool, and had no filtration system. In those days, with cricket being the major summer sport, the standard of swimming was not very high, and there was little competition with other schools because most schools did not have pools.
In 1938, it was decided to hold the inter-house gala in the evening; on that occasion, Eric Bowden (Thomson, 1940), broke five school records. In his UV year, he won all the open swimming events at the inter-house swimming sports. In the 1940s and 1950s, water polo and lifesaving constituted part of the broader aquatics programme. In 1952, a swimming gala against KES was held. It was reported in The Johannian that ‘this was the first time for some years that the School had raised a swimming team’. The bilateral gala against KES became a regular event in ensuing years.
Long Walk Pool was built in 1958 at a cost of £10,000. Inter-school galas against KES, Jeppe, Athlone Boys’ High and Parktown soon became frequent occurrences. In the 1960s, the standard of schools swimming improved dramatically, and swimming became one of the main codes in which Johannesburg boys’ schools competed with one another. In the 1980s, several St John’s boys gained provincial selection. St John’s won the Inter-High Gala in 1984. That same year, history was made when Form VI girls were first selected to represent St John’s in swimming.
Craig Jackson (Clarke, 1986) left St John’s holding eleven College and thirteen Prep swimming records. He went on to represent South Africa with aplomb, and competed at the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992. That same year, Bretton Woods (Hill, 1993) won SA Schools swimming colours. Kristopher Matulovich (Thomson, 2009) was ranked number 1 in his age in South Africa for the freestyle, backstroke, butterfly and 200 individual medley disciplines. He won eight gold medals at the 2005 All-Africa Games in Mauritius and four gold medals at the 2005 Pan-Pacific Games in Melbourne.
Water polo first made its appearance at St John’s in the late 1920s. The boys played informally in the Gladstone Bath, which was not really suited to water polo because it was only three feet deep at the shallow end and six feet deep at the deep end. The first water polo match played by St John’s took place in 1928, when we played against an English Public Schools team, comprising boys from schools such as Winchester, Merchant Taylors, Tonbridge, King’s College, Harrow, Sherborne and Lancing (Fr Hill’s old school). They were on a cricket and cultural tour of South Africa, but agreed to try their hand at water polo. The match report stated (perhaps with excessive candour) that ‘several members of both teams had only a very rudimentary knowledge of the game.’ The visitors ‘put up a good fight’ but St John’s won 5-1. By the late 1930s, weekly water polo practices took place, and inter-house matches were played at the annual swimming sports.
From the 1970s onwards water polo flourished at St John’s. In 1975, St John’s was placed second in the Johannesburg league. Bruce Chalmers (Clayton, 1986) received national colours. In 1990, St John’s was invited to participate in the prestigious SACS tournament for the first time. The arrival of Mr Vlado Trninic (who played for the SA national team from 1993 to 2000, after which he coached the national team for a decade) in 1994 ensured that the upward trend in St John’s water polo continued. In 1998, Mr Trninic and Duncan Woods (Hill, 1995) represented South Africa in the World Championships in Perth, Australia. Duncan Woods captained the national team from 1999 until 2010, including the Commonwealth championships in Manchester (2002) and Melbourne (2006). Other OJs who have played for the SA national team are: Greig Bannatyne, Chris Brown, Jon Marc de Carvalho, Brian Dudley, Andrew Jones, Etienne le Roux, Jean le Roux, Pierre le Roux, Rob Logan, Andre Lotz, Karl Niehaus, Roarke Olver and Miguel Morais. St John’s aquatics coach Nicholas Rodda has also been selected to participate in multiple international water polo tournaments. SA Schools senior players have included Byron Grigoratos (2001), Jean le Roux (2002), Ben Potter (2002), Pierre le Roux (2003), Andre Lotz (2006), Chris Icely (2007), Jonathan Hock (Hodgson, 2008), Andrew Jones (Clayton, 2008), David du Plessis (Hodgson, 2009), Jason Mostert (Clarke, 2009), Nicholas Hock (Hodgson, 2010), Michael Irvine (Clayton, 2010), Alex du Plessis (Hodgson, 2011), Wesley Antonites (Alston, 2012), Roarke Olver (Clayton, 2013), Dan Trninic (Hill, 2013), Ross Rugheimer (Hodgson, 2014), Byron Ledlie (Fleming, 2016), Malcolm McCallum (Hodgson, 2016) and Miguel Morais (Clayton, 2017). Michael Smith (Clarke, 2018) and Luca Allasio (Thomson, 2018) played for the SA under 18 team in 2018. In 2019, the following boys were selected for the SA under 18 team: Jarred Boere (Nash, 2019), Oliver de Sousa (Thomson, 2019), Triston McKay (Hodgson, 2019), James Norman (Fleming, 2019) and Luke Sawkins (Hodgson, 2019). Tayne Beswick (Clayton, 2020), Ethan Berriman (Clayton, 2020) and Oliver Krynauw (Hodgson, 2020) all achieved the same honour in 2020.
St John’s water polo teams have won numerous major tournaments:
- The first team has won the St Stithians tournament twelve times, the KES tournament seven times, the SACS tournament five times, and the Clifton tournament twice.
- The under 16 team has won the DHS tournament twice.
- The under 15 team has won the Wynberg tournament twice.
- The under 14 team has won the Jeppe tournament eleven times and the Grey College tournament once.
- The under 13 team has won the SACS tournament once.
The OJ Eagles have won the SA national Currie Cup championship fifteen times in the last seventeen years – an indication of the lofty standard maintained by St John’s water polo over a protracted period.
Another sport that enjoyed much prominence in the early decades of St John’s was fencing. It was not a common activity at other schools, so it was largely an internal endeavour – but nevertheless one that was very popular among St John’s boys. Photographs dating back to the 1910s show St John’s boys lunging and parrying in Pelican Quad. Lack of inter-school competition eventually led to the termination of fencing at the College, although it did make a brief but ultimately futile comeback in the 1970s. Perhaps the recent exploits of Alexander Tafur (LIV, Fleming) will lead to a revival of fencing at the College. He won a silver medal in the under 17 épée event and a bronze medal in the under 20 foil event at the Gauteng Fencing Association Ranking One competition held in February this year. He has been selected as a training partner of the SA Olympic Fencing Squad for 2020 – 2024.
It might come as a surprise that another sport that once enjoyed immense popularity at St John’s, but which has long since vanished, was boxing. As early as 1909, boxing lessons were offered at St John’s. An Old Johannian, Hugh Maxwell Hughes (1907) was the national amateur heavy-weight boxing champion in 1910 and 1912. Caesar Hull (Alston, 1931) represented South Africa in the lightweight division at the British Empire Games held in London in 1934.
In the 1930s, boxing acquired official status at St John’s, with an inter-house competition being introduced. Thomson won the inter-house competition in 1933, and Hill won in 1938. Mr Huggett was the master-in-charge. The College’s annual boxing championships were held under the auspices of the Johannesburg & District Amateur Boxing Association. St John’s boxers regularly went to Sophiatown to compete with pugilists of the Ekutuleni club. After a hiatus in the early 1940s, boxing regained importance at St John’s from 1944 onwards. However, in 1948 the Games Committee decided to abolish the inter-house competition (won by Alston in 1947), although annual championships in various weight divisions continued to be contested. Glenn Brownrigg (Nash, 1949) was the school’s extra-heavyweight champion in 1949. Ronald Townsend (Nash, 1948) and Kenneth Smale-Adams (Hill, 1949), both of whom fought in the heavyweight division, received colours for boxing. In the 1950s, boxing disappeared from the College sport programme. However, in Big School one can still see where the boxing ring’s posts once used to be inserted into the wooden floor.
In 1931, St John’s took the initiative in starting an inter-schools hockey league in Johannesburg. However, this was a fleeting venture. For many years, hockey remained a relatively minor school sport. By the late 1930s, the College typically fielded only one hockey team. Even in the early 1940s, matches against other schools were infrequent occurrences. Regular opponents were Normal College, Old Johannians, Wanderers Nomads and No. 23 RAF Air School. In 1941, Geoffrey Bold (Alston, 1941) became the first recipient of colours for hockey. In 1945, a match was played against another school – Highlands North. In 1946, matches against Parktown and Jeppe followed. Another regular fixture was against Johannesburg Hospital Housemen. Under the tutelage of long-time master-in-charge, Mr AL MacPhail, a tour was undertaken to Grahamstown in 1948, and matches were played against St Aidan’s and St Andrew’s. Having hitherto played on gravel ‘hard grounds’, this was the first time St John’s boys experienced hockey on grass. In 1952, a second team was introduced, and unofficial inter-house matches were played. By 1956, four College teams were in action, and the 1st XI played against St Andrew’s School and Grey College, Bloemfontein. In 1958, the first match against KES was played (as was a game against Michaelhouse Old Boys).
Meanwhile, hockey had rapidly grown in popularity among OJs. In 1956, the Old Johannians fielded six teams. Jackie James (Thomson, 1943) was the Springbok hockey captain in 1957. Soon more Springboks followed, of note being Russell Endean (Alston, 1941), who became a double Springbok in cricket and hockey.
In 1980, a College under 15 team was introduced for the first time. In 1981, Michael Rindel (Clarke, 1981) was selected for the SA Schools hockey team (and he went on to play cricket for the Proteas in the 1990s).
By 1986, St John’s fielded eleven hockey teams, and the first team achieved fourth place in the Aitken Cup competition. Gregory Darke (Clarke, 1989) was selected for the SA Schools B team in 1989. The College’s status as a leading hockey school was confirmed in 1993, when the first team were runners-up in the Aitken Cup and the under 15 team won the Boden Trophy. In 1994 the first team, led by Neil Morris (Hill, 1994), won the Aitken Cup for the first time, losing only one match in the entire season. St John’s then went on to win the Aitken Cup again in 1995. Paul Spencer (Alston, 1992) was selected to the SA under 21 team the same year. Brett Tucker (Clayton, 1997) was selected for the SA under 18 team in 1997, the SA under 21 team in 2001, and the SA men’s World Cup team in 2006. Rick Gay (Alston, 2001) was selected to the SA Schools under 18A team in 2001, the SA under 21 team in 2003-‘04, the SA men’s team in 2005, and went on to represent Wales in the Commonwealth Games between 2008 and 2014.
One of the very first ‘astroturf’ facilities was built at St John’s on the old Rugby B field in 2001. From then onwards, St John’s hockey improved steadily. We regularly stood among the top four schools in Gauteng and played in the Aitken final on numerous occasions, winning in 2002 and 2013. The winning team of 2013 had also won the Boden tournament in 2010. A number of boys have been selected for various provincial age group teams. Recent individual achievements include the following: Rory Brinkmann (Hodgson, 2004): SA Schools under 18A, 2004; Oliver Whitely (Clarke, 2005): SA under 21, 2008 and SA men’s senior team, 2012; Dimitri Ratnayake (Hodgson, 2008): SA Schools under 18A, 2008; Thato Legodi (Nash, 2008): SA Schools under 18A, 2008; Kyle Lion-Cachet (Fleming, 2013): SA Schools under 18A, 2013, and SA under 21, 2016; Moabi Malebye (Nash, 1997): performance analyst for the SA men’s teams for several international tournaments, 2009-2016, including the London Olympic Games, 2012; consulting performance analyst to the Canadian men’s team at the Rio Olympic Games, 2016, and to the Japan women’s team for the 2017 World League; Matthew Becker (Hodgson, 2010): SA men’s indoor team, 2015-2017; Walter Pfaff (Alston, 2014): SA under 21 at the World Cup in India, 2016; and Tumelo Ramphele (Hodgson, 2018): SA under 21, 2019.
Nowadays, the College fields twenty teams. In 2013, the original green astroturf surface was replaced with a blue one – it was the first blue hockey surface in the Southern Hemisphere. Several top coaches have contributed to the growth of hockey at the College. They include Sean Wilson, Robin van Ginkel, Adrian Carolan and Patrick Tshutshani. Garreth Ewing (the SA senior men’s coach) is the current St John’s head coach, and Anthony Woodhouse has recently been appointed master-in-charge. They have taken over from Alan Lion-Cachet, who was master-in-charge for eighteen years. St John’s participates in all the top national hockey festivals, such as the annual Aitken & Boden tournament. This tournament is regarded as the largest schoolboy tournament in South Africa, with 48 schools in each of the open Aitken section and under 15 Boden section. St John’s has consistently finished in the top four in both divisions over the last ten years.
Tennis enjoyed little organised prominence in the early decades of the College’s existence, although Guy Nicolson (Thomson, 1910) won the Transvaal junior lawn tennis championship in 1909. In the same year, Charles Winslow OJ won the Transvaal senior lawn tennis championship, and he went on to win gold medals in the singles and doubles events at the Olympic Games in Stockholm in 1912. Eric Israel (Nash, 1911) won the Transvaal junior championship in 1911.
By 1920, St John’s had two lawn tennis courts. Soon inter-house games and competitions with other schools in the Southern Transvaal second league commenced. In 1921 Council provided funds for the courts to be relaid, and a formal tennis club was started, although tennis was not allowed to become a ‘rival’ to team games. In 1924, the St John’s tennis team (of which the cricketer Bruce Mitchell was a member) won the Sir Lionel Phillips trophy for Transvaal schools, which had been won by KES for the preceding four consecutive years. Cyril Haldane Robbs (who was a member of the victorious 1924 St John’s team) won the Transvaal junior title in his LV year, and in 1927 he was the runner-up in the SA men’s open singles championships. In 1936, he and his partner, Nancy Lyle of Great Britain, reached the semi-finals of the mixed doubles at the SA open championships.
Meanwhile, though, the status of tennis in the College had declined. By the late 1930s, there was no College tennis team. It was lamented that ‘boys who have an aptitude for tennis are usually required for other games, such as rugger’. In the 1940s, a tennis ladder was introduced, and inter-house matches were played. From 1949, a College team played regular matches against Parktown, Jeppe and Helpmekaar; in 1951, matches against Old Johannians and Witwatersrand University followed. In 1952, a tennis wall was built. Despite that, interest in tennis waned in subsequent years. Inter-house competitions continued to be played but, until 1958 (when St John’s played against Parktown and KES), no matches were played against other schools.
Although tennis remained a minor sport at St John’s, the school produced several notable players: Charles Honey (Alston), who in 1977 at the age of 15 was selected for the Transvaal under 18 team and reached the final of the SA under 18 singles championship; Roger Ferrandi (Clarke, 1979), who was in the top 15 under 18 players in the country in 1979 and won a tennis scholarship to the University of California; and Jason Roussos (Clayton 1981), who was selected for the SA Schools team in 1981. In 1991, the College A team was promoted to the First League. In 2008, Kayla Sher (Runge, 2009) represented South Africa in the Junior Federation Cup in Mexico. Michael Copeland (Hodgson, 2016) won the SA under 18 title in 2015, and was ranked fifteenth in the national senior rankings in 2016. Hugh Morgan (Fleming, 2017) was selected for the SA Schools under 19 team in 2016. Bradley Milton (Hodgson, 2019) was selected for the Gauteng under 19A team in 2018. Charl Morgan (Fleming, 2019) has won a tennis scholarship to Pennsylvania State University.
Squash made its debut at St John’s in the early 1930s but was hampered by financial constraints during the Great Depression. Initially the Prep ‘fives’ court (seldom used for its intended purpose, due to the prohibitive price of balls, which cost 18p each) served as an ersatz squash court. This was hardly ideal, as the court did not have the regulation dimensions required for competitive games. Three squash courts were built in 1937, and inter-house matches were introduced although squash remained very much a ‘minor’ game. In 1941, squash was incorporated in the rugby 1st XV’s training regimen, resulting in squash becoming increasingly popular. On 12 August 1941, the first match against another school – a drawn fixture against St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown – was played. However, during World War II squash balls became virtually unobtainable, resulting in a slump in the game at St John’s. In 1948, the inter-house competition was revived. In 1951, matches were played against Old Johannians and Witwatersrand University.
In the 1950s, when Roger Jarvis (Alston, 1947) became the first OJ to be the South African national squash champion, a number of OJs donated funds to provide electric lighting for the school’s courts. This was followed in the 1960s by new wooden floors and a splendid gallery. Mr Jarvis (who also won a Cambridge Blue in squash) imparted his expertise to the boys, and the standard of College squash improved significantly. Matches were played internally, and against OJs and College masters. In August 1956, the College played its first inter-school match for many years, against Jeppe. That same year, Hugh Lewin (Nash, 1957) won the College open championship. In July 1957, the College squash team played an away fixture against Michaelhouse. A return fixture was played at the OJ Club in Linksfield at Easter, 1958. In 1959, the first match against KES was played, and this was followed by a tour to Michaelhouse and Hilton College. In 1961, seven College boys participated in the SA junior championships.
In 1967, two OJs became squash Springboks – the brothers David Barrow (Thomson, 1958) and Douglas Barrow (Thomson, 1960), the latter becoming the national captain.
In 1973, the St John’s first team won all but one of its inter-school matches, and Martin Brossy (Clayton, 1973) was selected to play for Transvaal schools. In 1976, the first team beat Michaelhouse 5-0. The 1978 St John’s team won the Transvaal schools premier league, and four St John’s boys were awarded Transvaal colours: Walter Ray, Mark Ray, Jonathan Hill and Ian Sheppey. In 1981, Mark Jarvis (Alston, 1981) was selected for Transvaal schools, a feat that was emulated by Andrew Combrink (Clarke, 1983) in 1983.
New squash courts were inaugurated in 1986. Two years later, Michael Wade (Nash, 1988) achieved Transvaal selection and was ranked no. 10 in the country at under 19 level. By the late 1990s, the school’s squash had gone downhill and it was commented that ‘the days of St John’s as one of the premier squash schools in the country are but a distant memory.’ Since then, thanks to the efforts of masters such as Mark Johnston and coach Mr Brian Dial, there has been a significant upswing in the College’s squash fortunes. In 2010, the first team won the Gauteng Top Schools Tournament, defeating KES 6-0 in the final. Paul Creswell (Clayton, 2010) was ranked no. 8 in the country. In 2013, the first team won both the Gauteng Top Schools Tournament and the Inter-Schools League. The school’s squash courts were also substantially upgraded in 2015. James Barrow (Nash, 2018) was ranked in the top ten in the country.
The genesis of the St John’s rowing club can be traced back to the 1960s. There is a succinct report on the club’s activities in The Johannian of November 1961, and a photograph in the May 1962 edition. On Sunday afternoons, excursions were made to the Witwatersrand University Boat Club at the Rand Leases Mine dam. ‘A certain degree of competence [was] achieved; although we cannot yet produce an eight, the four has done some good work.’ Benjamin Knott was ‘an admirable cox’. But the club’s initial incarnation was an ephemeral and ambiguous affair: rather than being regarded as a sport club, it was listed in The Johannian alongside the photographic, film, play-reading and debating societies and the printing and pioneer clubs.
The College rowing club was resuscitated in 2001. Initially, the club used donated and borrowed boats. For years, St John’s oarsmen acquired their basic skills – and much character – in a heavy old wooden boat named ‘Hagar’. The first coach was Roger Barrow, later the SA national coach. In 2010, Grant Dodds became the head coach. Rod MacDonald and Barry McNeice also played a leading role in developing the club.
St John’s boys won our first gold medal at the SA Championships in 2003 in a borrowed double. In 2006, St John’s achieved second place in the boys 1st VIII at the SA Schools Rowing Championship Regatta. Connor Mace (Nash, 2007) and Alain Fowler (Clarke, 2007), were selected for the SA junior men’s pair in 2007. At the 2010 SA Schools Championship Regatta, the 1st VIII narrowly lost to St Benedict’s due to a technical crew naming error. But in 2011 the club won the Gauteng Championships Overall Points Trophy.
The 1st VIII event at the SA Schools Championship Regatta is the pinnacle of schoolboy rowing races. St John’s first won this event in 2012 and then won it again in 2013 and 2015. St John’s also won the SA Schools Boat Race Event for the first time in 2014. In 2015, St John’s won the School Team of the Year at the SA Sports Awards. In 2018, the St John’s rowing club was named club of the year at the Rowing South African Awards.
St John’s has produced numerous junior national oarsmen and David Hunt (Nash, 2009) is part of the national rowing team based in Pretoria. Three OJs have represented South Africa at Olympic level. Jarred Clark (Alston, 2009) participated in the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, David Hunt participated in the 2016 Rio Olympics and Willie Morgan (Hodgson, 2011) participated in the 2016 Rio Paralympics. Jamie Odgers (Fleming, 2012) represented South Africa in the 2013 World Rowing Championships. James Mitchell (Clayton, 2015) was a member of the SA under 23 rowing pair that won the World Championship in Poland in 2018. Andrew Morgan (Clayton, 2013) was the captain of the Princeton University heavyweight rowing crew in 2019.
Basketball was played at St John’s on an informal basis from the late 1980s. In 1995, the arrival at St John’s of Mr Alan Laing (a national player) provided impetus for the development of the sport. A new basketball court was built and a team was entered in the schools league. The team was so successful that it promptly gained promotion to the first division of the league in 1996. Tontela Siwale (Nash, 1997) and Vuyo Nogantshi (Clayton, 1997) were the first recipients of honours for basketball. In the school’s centenary year, 1998, a successful basketball festival was held at St John’s. Since then, basketball has become a very popular sport at St John’s, with more than 250 boys playing, supervised by professional coaches. Monsieur Jean Bwasa and Mr Enoch Kamangira are to be commended on having guided the school’s basketball endeavours through much of this growth period. More recently, Ms Ngoza Phiri-Mazarura and Mr Tafadzwa Tswatswa have provided admirable leadership to the College basketball community.
The school has enjoyed an enviable basketball record in recent years, with the A teams winning a number of tournaments. The 2012 first team, captained by Niels Kühnemann (Hodgson, 2012), won 25 of its 29 matches and won the St Peter’s International Festival. The 2016 first team, captained by Quintus Kilbourne (Nash, 2016) and coached by Mr T Banda, won sixteen of its nineteen games and, in the process, won both the Kearsney tournament and the American International School tournament. Jonathan van der Bijl (Hodgson, 2010) and Angelo Quinn (Thomson, 2014) have been selected for the SA under 18 team.
The annual St John’s College basketball tournament is a great highlight on the schools basketball calendar. The tournament now hosts 52 teams, with nine countries represented from as far afield as India, at under 13, under 15 and under 19 level.
A report on golf at St John’s first appeared in the 2003 edition of The Johannian. Without any fanfare, it stated that St John’s had come fourth out of twelve schools participating in the inter-school league. A tour was arranged to the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast and the team participated in the Dainfern tournament, ending fifth among the 26 entrant teams. This was an auspicious start for golf at St John’s, and it was stated that ‘to make the team of six next year, it will be necessary to have a handicap of five or less.’ In 2004, the College won the inter-school league, winning eight of the nine fixtures. St John’s also hosted the first international schools golf tournament, with participants from the UK, Zimbabwe and South Africa. St John’s came third.
Tyrone Mordt (Alston, 2001) played golf for South Africa. Graham van der Merwe (Thomson, 2009) was selected to play in the SA amateur golf team. Kian Rose (Alston) was selected for the SA under 19 Challenge Cup team in 2018, and has been included in the Golf RSA national squad for 2019/’20.
The College chess club is of quasi-ancient provenance, although it is difficult to say with certainty when it was inaugurated. Initially, it operated in a decidedly unobtrusive fashion. ‘We have continued our usual custom’, we read in The Johannian of 1938, ‘and have had only two general meetings. The usual “ladder” and private games have continued and are played in members’ spare time. … Members prefer to sit in our President’s room and drink coffee.’ In 1939 (by which time the club boasted a record membership of 22 boys), a five board match was played against Athlone. ‘We unexpectedly won the match easily.’ The fixture against Athlone (which was lost as often as it was won) was the only inter-school fixture for some time.
In 1941, membership dwindled to sixteen; perhaps that was because each member was required to pay a subscription of one shilling per term ‘if needed’. That same year, a match was played against Parktown. In 1942, membership grew to thirty. ‘This increase is due largely to the sudden, and we hope not spasmodic, interest of the lower forms.’ Only one match (against Parktown) was played that year. In 1943, the club stagnated: ‘the enthusiasm for chess has evidently died down’, and the match against Parktown ended in defeat. By 1945, membership had declined to seventeen, ‘partly because the “passengers” have left.’
In the Lent Term of 1946, the club ‘closed down, as members were too hot to be interested.’ And so the heat of February led to the demise of the club, which remained dormant, if not moribund, until 1952, when a grant from the Council facilitated the purchase of new chess sets. Meetings of the club were held on Saturday evenings. But in 1953 the Pirates of Penzance (or at least rehearsals for the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta) interfered with the club’s activities. In 1954, a match was played against KES ‘but we were not up to their standard.’ Nevertheless, we were ‘very grateful to KES for inviting us and providing refreshment.’ In 1955, when Mr Peel-Pearce temporarily assumed the presidency of the club while the long-serving Mr Ferrandi was away on sabbatical, ladder competitions were keenly contested. Alas: ‘The majority of members tend to play too fast, so that a well-constructed attack is often thrown away through one ill-considered move.’
After this, the club seems to have gone into terminal decline, or went undercover, not to re-emerge for many a year – so much so that it barely warranted a mention in Venture of Faith (1968) or Forward in Faith (1998).
In 1991, St John’s entered the CNA Private Schools League and came second out of ten schools. All the team members were invited to participate in the Southern Transvaal chess championships but unfortunately these took place during the holidays, so it was decided not to participate. In the early years of the 21st century, St John’s became a force to be reckoned with, and was ranked the top team in South Gauteng in 2006. Adam Earle (Hodgson, 2008) gained SA colours. In the 2009 SA national junior chess championships, Jashil Modi (Hill, 2013) and Sachin Modi (Hill, 2017) both won the titles in their respective age groups and represented SA in the World Youth Chess Championships, receiving Junior Protea colours. Jashil again represented SA in the World Youth Championships in 2010. In 2012, St John’s won the Gauteng South five-a-side tournament. In 2013, St John’s again won the same tournament, as well as the Gauteng High Schools eight-a-side tournament. Sachin Modi was ranked first in the country at under 14 level, and represented SA at under 16 level. In 2014, he represented SA in the World Youth Chess Championship. In 2015, he played in the Commonwealth Chess Championship. Mrs Marilyn Jardine and Mr Martin Huysamer are commended for having overseen the St John’s chess club’s rise from eccentric anonymity to polished eminence.
The influx of girls in Form VI over the last few decades has from time to time – although not on a consistent annual basis – created the opportunity to field netball teams in friendly fixtures and in local leagues.
Many other Johannians who have made their mark in the sporting world, in endeavours that range from the sublime to the esoteric. To name but a few:
- Ian Player (Thomson, 1943) won the Dusi Canoe Marathon in 1952, 1953 and 1954.
- In 1968, Bruce Dalling (Nash, 1956) won the solo trans-Atlantic yacht race from Plymouth in England to Rhode Island in the USA on handicap.
- Graham Monteith won the Breede River Canoe Marathon in 1984, 1988, 1990, 1995 and 1997, the Fish River Canoe Marathon in 1988, and the Berg River Canoe Marathon in 1989.
- Gavin Grobbelaar (Nash, 2001) was a member of the SA long-distance duathlon team which participated in the ITU World Championships in the USA in 2007.
- Robin Saggers (Alston, 2003) represented SA in the Lifesaving World Games.
- Morné van den Berg (Hill, 2003) received Proteas colours in bodybuilding and represented SA in the World Championships in Spain in 2015.
- Stefan Pfeffer (Hill, 2006) represented SA in the World Judo Competition in 2005, winning a gold medal.
- Johan van Zyl (Hill, 2006) was selected for the SA shooting team, winning a gold medal in the Pan-Africa Championships.
- Chris Froome (Nash, 2003) is not only a quadruple Tour de France champion but has also won the Vuelta a España (twice) and the Giro d’Italia, and won bronze medals at the Olympic Games in 2012 and 2016.
- In 2012 the Ontong brothers, Sydney (LV) and Paul (UV) both won gold medals at the SA championships in martial arts. Both were selected to represent SA at the World Wushu Games.
- Bhavik Ganda (Clarke, 2004) and Janesh Ganda (Clarke, 2006) represented SA in the ITU World Duathlon Championships in Canada in 2013. In 2018, Janesh was appointed sports physician to the SA women’s rugby team.
- Connor Wilson (Hill, 2015) represented SA in Alpine ski racing at the Winter Olympics in Korea in 2018. He also represented SA in show-jumping in the 2017 All-Africa Friendship Cup.
- Joshua Buchel (Clayton, 2014) was selected to the SA National Junior Cycle Track Team to compete in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2013.
- Matthew Robinson (Fleming, 2017) represented SA at the IFSC World Youth Sport Climbing Championships in Canada, 2013.
- Henry Daniels (Runge, 2015) represented SA in the British National Sailing Championships, 2011, and in the international invitational sailing regatta in Barcelona, 2012, and participated in the 29th World Championship Sailing Regatta in Aarhus, Denmark, in 2013.
- Gareth Booker (Alston, 2015), 2013 junior African champion for sporting (shooting), competed in the Pan-Africa Sporting and Compak competitions, being placed second and third overall respectively.
- Tiaan Giliomee (Hodgson, 2018) represented SA in the international judo competition in Belgium in 2014.
- Christopher Ching (Thomson, 2017) was selected to the SA Karate team which participated in the KWF Karate World Championships in Copenhagen in 2015.
- Jason Batzofin (Clayton, 2016) was crowned the junior world champion for the Ancients period at the 18th IWF World Individual Mind Sports Championships held in Swaziland in 2015.
- Brandon Wijtenburg (Fleming, 2017) represented SA in the Hobie 16 Youth Worlds Spinnaker regatta in 2015 (10th place), in the Hobie Tiger Worlds open in Italy in 2015 (8th place) and in the ISAF Youth World Championships in Malaysia in 2015.
- Jenna Bohling (Runge, 2019) was a member of the SA National Motocross Team which participated in the FIM Africa continental championships in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 2019.
Sport at St John’s College would not have reached the heights that it has without the immense contributions of masters such as Alan Wilcox (hockey and cricket), Lindsay Owen (rugby and water polo), Maxie Burger (rugby), Chris Hummel (cricket and rugby), Cliff Midgley (swimming, water polo and rugby), Mick Badham (rugby), Terry O’Mahoney (athletics, rugby and cricket), Willie Young (squash), Mike Lomas (athletics), Alan Laing (basketball), Peter Habberton (cricket), Norman McFarland (rugby), Steven McFarland (rugby), Wynand Pretorius (rugby and athletics), Kevin Hawksworth (golf), Ian Rickelton (Director of Sport; rugby), Roger Barrow (rowing), Vlad Trninic (water polo), Alan Lion-Cachet (Director of Sport; athletics, cricket and hockey), Adi Norris (cricket, rugby and football), Mark Johnston (cricket, hockey and squash), Bruce Tobias (hockey), Richard Venter (cricket), Greg Hingle (hockey), Lewis Manthata (cricket), Sean Wilson (hockey and cricket), and their long line of predecessors. Nor should we ever forget that none of this would have been possible without the dedicated ground staff who maintain our facilities; the medical staff; the entertainment committee, and the kitchen staff. We owe all of them a great debt of gratitude.
This précis of sport at St John’s College over the last 122 years inevitably only scratches the surface of a vast quantity of material and activity. Inevitably, there will be omissions. These are entirely inadvertent. We would be grateful to be alerted to omissions and inaccuracies, which we will gladly rectify.