SA Rugby to compile 'Encyclopedia of Black Rugby'

The ambitious project to collate the often "hidden" history of black rugby in South Africa until the sport’s unification in 1992 will culminate on Heritage Day.

FILE: Jurie Roux, CEO of the South African Rugby Union (Saru) speaks during the unveiling of the new Springbok Jersey at a function in Cape Town, South Africa 24 April 2014. Picture: EPA/Kim Ludbrook.

JOHANNESBURG - SA Rugby is compiling the definitive Encyclopedia of Black Rugby with the help of funding from the National Lotteries Commission.

The ambitious project to collate the often "hidden" history of black rugby in South Africa until the sport’s unification in 1992 will culminate on Heritage Day with the planned opening of a new installation at The Springbok Experience Rugby Museum at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.

The objective of the work is to capture the A to Z of black rugby prior to unity. The biographies of all 409 players to have appeared for the pre-unity black, coloured and non-racial rugby boards will be featured, as well the stories of clubs, trophies, administrators, federations and other personalities or events that may have shaped the development of black rugby.

The work will fill an important vacuum in the story of black rugby, said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby.

“The story of black rugby has increasingly been brought out of the shadows by the work we have done at The Springbok Experience and in the heritage field over recent years, but there is still not a single point of reference where anyone can go and discover the hidden story,” said Roux.

“We want to create a ‘one-stop-shop’ where it is possible to access the stories and records of all the significant people and institutions that went into creating the vibrant story of black rugby in South Africa in the pre-democracy era.

“The resource we will have at the end of the process we plan to make available in a number of ways with a permanent installation at the museum.”

Dr Hendrik Snyders, SA Rugby’s heritage manager, is leading the project and he appealed for the help of the public in the process.

“We have mapped out a draft list of around 1,000 entries that we believe [have] merit inclusion, and I am sure that list will grow,” said Snyders.

“We are appealing for the support of the public in making that history as deep and as rich as possible by sending us information on their rugby history in the pre-unity era.

“We are very keen on photographs, newspaper cuttings, programmes, old playing jerseys form their club, provincial or national career and any brochures or other mementoes that may help us tell the story. We are starting with national players, clubs and both provincial and national boards but the nature of the digital installation we have in mind means we will be able to continuously update the display.”

Roux thanked the National Lotteries Commission for the financial support, which had made possible the development of the project.

“It has been our desire to develop this concept for a number of years but it had been placed on hold until we received this funding.”