Home Sport Unies still going and growing after 135 years

Unies still going and growing after 135 years

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Universal RFC was established in Kimberley in 1886 when the city was little more than a sprawling mining settlement.

UNIVERSAL Rugby Football Club, one of the oldest clubs in South Africa in celebrating the club’s 135th anniversary have extended a special invitation to former Griquas scrumhalf and one time South African national team coach Peter De Villiers to honour the occasion with his attendance.

Club chairman Romeo Syfers said De Villiers has provisionally been booked to provide coaching clinics over two days to youngsters on September 2-3 at the AR Abass Stadium in Kimberley.

This is the second attempt at inviting the former Springboks mentor to coach clinics in the Diamond City. Two previous attempts to get De Villiers to Kimberley fell flat because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But this time around, things have fallen into place.

The club itself, Universal RFC was established in Kimberley in 1886 when the city was little more than a sprawling mining settlement where canvas tents, corrugated iron structures and a few brick and mortar buildings dominated the dry, sparse, thorny bushveld.

The ubiquitous ugly, grey, dusty mine dumps that now form an indelible part of the City’s landscape were still largely underground during this time.

It was not an easy environment. Men worked hard, and the rewards of their labour were often unscrupulously exploited. The robust game of Rugby provided a wholesome alternative to the hedonistic pleasures obtained from rowdy bars, saloons, gambling dens and dance halls.

Rugby gave welcome respite from the hardships of regular life for the burgeoning disenfranchised community who provided artisanal and menial labour. Soon impromptu games were structured into competitive leagues with formally constituted clubs and administration.

Universal RFC has a rich history of community-focused sport and boasts a proud legacy of participation in the struggle for a just, equal and non-racial society. The club has survived two World Wars, the Great Depression, the Siege of Kimberley during the Anglo-Boer War and of course, the iniquity of grand and petty Apartheid.

The team from the mid-80s in their centenary strip. Picture: Universal RFC

In 1992 the fragmentation of the racially constituted bodies administering the game in the country was resolved through unification. Ironically, it is this post-unification era that has been most unkind, providing the death knell to the majority of clubs in the city from the non-racial fold.

Picture courtesy Universal RFC

Today Universal RFC is the sole survivor of a once thriving Union which served a historically disadvantaged constituency.

Syfers told the DFA that the club will host Bloemfontein Crusaders Rugby Club over the first weekend of September to celebrate its milestone of 135 years of dogged, determined and mostly difficult survival.

The club’s chairman added that Unies, as the club is affectionately known, has resolved to regain those glory years where the AR Abass Stadium was the hub of social activity in the community.

Even in the current difficult climate where so few opportunities exist in community sport, fresh, exciting, young talent is still recruited from townships where economic and social opportunities are unfavourable.

Universal RFC is the last bastion of an extended and distinct period in the chequered history of the game in South Africa. It is a history where adversity, subjugation and discrimination for the Universal club was overcome through an indomitable collective spirit of resilience and fortitude.

So at 135 years, the club may be old but the years instead of weakening its resolved has given it the wisdom, resilience and belief that there are still many more years in those old legs.

Here’s to another 100+ years. Happy anniversary, Unies!

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