Saturday opened the 2012 Six Nations. In the six teams there were seven whose schooling was in South Africa. Three played for England, three for Italy and one for Scotland.
Bradley Barritt, Mouritz Botha and Matt Stevens played for England, Corniel van Zyl, Quinton Geldenhuys and Tobie Botes for Italy and David Denton for Scotland. Three of them are locks. Barritt, Botes and Denton made their international debuts.
Mouritz Botha, who turned 30 at the end of last month, is the interesting one. He had played no representative rugby when he left South Africa for Bedford eight years ago. He was born in Vryheid but went to Hoërskool Calvinia at the foot of the Hantam Mountains where sheep are farmed, a dry area. Botha's father Herman is still on the staff of Laerskool Calvinia. The stars in the night skies are bright and clear but it is not the best place for a rugby star to shine. Oh, there have been Springboks born there - Percy Allport, George Daneel, Sakkie de Klerk, Gert Brynard and Attie Strauss. Of them De Klerk also attended Hoërskool Calvinia. The school is proud to have a framed England jersey which Botha had signed.
Botha took himself to the Tygerberg College (now Northern Northlink College) and played for Parow NTK with hopes of making the Western Province Vodacom side. He did not manage that but sent his CV to Bedford in England and got a playing job with lowly Bedford Athletic and worked till Bedford took him in for four =seasons. Since 2009 he has played for Saracen and in 2011 made his debut for England.
Corniel van Zyl, 33 at the end of last month, was born in Nelspruit and went to school at Hoërskool Ficksburg in the Eastern Free State. He played lock for the Pumas and then the Cheetahs and then went over to Italy to Benetton Treviso whose coach is the Springbok Franco Smith.
Quintin Geldenhuys is Van Zyl's lock partner in the Italian scrum. He was born in Klerksdorp on 19 June 1981 and went to school at Monnas. In 1999 he went to Craven Week and later played for SA Under-21 and Natal, before he headed for Northern Italy and the small town of Viadana where rugby rules. He first played for Italy in 2009.
The third Italian is new boy Tobie Botes, a 27-year-old scrumhalf who made his debut as a replacement flyhalf against France in Paris and kicked a lengthy penalty goal. He had played for Boland and was playing for Griquas when he went to Benetton Treviso. Like his club-mate Willem de Waal, Botes is a past pupil of Boland Landbou near Paarl.
Another debutant was David Denton, a loose forward from Kingswood in Grahamstown who had an outstanding match as an eighthman for Scotland and was named the official RBS Man of the Match, even though his side lost to England. Denton, who turned 22 the day after his debut, went to Kingswood from Zimbabwe and his parents flew from Zimbabwe to see him play. What good timing! Whereas those we have mentioned have qualified by residence, Denton qualifies through his mother who was born in Glasgow.
The other debutant this weekend was centre Brad Barritt of Saracens, formerly of Natal/Sharks. He had played for SA Under-21 and for the Emerging Springboks before heading for England, qualified top play for England. Barritt comes from a remarkable rugby family - the fourth generation to play representative rugby. His father Bruce was a lock for Zimbabwe in the early 1980s, his grandfather lock for Rhodesia from 1947 to 1956 and his great grandfather Joe, whose nickname was Ox, was a prop in 1922. Bradley was born in Durban on 7 August 1986 and went to school at Kearsney College.
The other Kearsney old boy is Matt Stevens who was born in Durban in 1982 and in 2002 moved from the University of Cape Town to Bath. The strong prop now had 40 caps for England.
Both Barritt and Stevens represented KwaZulu Natal at Craven Week.
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