The NWU’s one-test lock wonders

There are two flights of stairs leading to the first floor of the North-West University’s High Performance Institute. Traversing these stairs you will find, on the one side, photographs of the sports managers who have led the NWU to the top echelons of varsity glory. Helené Botha guided the NWU netball squad to Varsity Cup glory, as did Conrad de Swardt with cricket, Mervyn Taylor and Ronel Emms with rugby, Terseus Liebenberg with athletics. On the same floor there are photographs of phenomenal coaches like Michael Seleka (football) and Hannes Esterhuizen (rugby). The latter two have more accolades than the words that can be fitted on this page.

On the other side there are the offices of Sheldon Rostron, Manager: Sport, Corene Middleton and Lydia Stroebel, lieutenants like no others.

But, there is also something else. Something forgotten. A bit of history.

At the back of this floor, behind forgotten chairs and tables, are two wooden plaques mounted next to each other. From bygone years up to 2007 they list all the Springboks that the NWU has produced. This includes all sports codes, the so-called minor and major ones.

What catches the eye is the last inscription for a Springbok rugby player. Now, the NWU has delivered many Springboks to the South African rugby fraternity, but the name of Schutte Bekker has stood out.

Bekker was a hard-as-nails loose forward who gave little and took more than the tax collector. He was an uncompromising beast of a player. Born in Nelspruit, the 193 cm tall star played 59 games for the old Western Transvaal and 60 games for Northern Transvaal. He never scored a try for them. He also represented the Bulls in 27 Super rugby matches, and for them he dotted down three times.

His only test appearance was in 1997, as a replacement in the last game of the much-maligned captaincy of Carel du Plessis, on August 23, 1997 in Pretoria. The Bok side boasted such luminaries as André Joubert, James Small, Percy Montgomery, Joost van der Westhuizen, Os du Randt, Gary Teichmann and one Johan Erasmus in its starting line-up. The latter is nowadays better known as World Cup-winning coach Rassie Erasmus.

Jannie de Beer was instrumental in the home side’s victory. He slotted six conversions and three penalties and scored a try.

It must be said that it was a monster of an Aussie team. Burke, Tune, Little, Roff and Gregan all featured.

This was not the only time an NWU player played in only one test. Franco van der Merwe, the behemoth of Hartswater High School, was an NWU and Leopards stalwart. The blonde-haired brute made his test debut at the age of 30 against the All Blacks in 2013 under coach Heyneke Meyer. He took the field as a substitute in the 61st minute in Bloemfontein in the last round of the Rugby Championship. Despite two tries by Bryan Habana, the home side lost 27–38.

 However, a few decades before, another NWU lock, Johan Claassen, fared a bit better ….


Submitted by BELINDA BANTHAM on Fri, 05/07/2021 - 08:00