Big place in his­tory for the fa­mous Lithua­nian émi­grés

The Rugby Paper - - News -

LOUIS Washkan­sky and Ce­cil Moss shared some­thing in com­mon be­fore their paths crossed al­most ex­actly 50 years ago in a way nei­ther could have imag­ined. Their fam­i­lies hav­ing ar­rived in South Africa from Lithua­nia, the for­mer earn­ing his liv­ing in Cape Town as a green­gro­cer, the lat­ter made a name for him­self as a Spring­bok.

They met at the Groote Schuur Hos­pi­tal be­fore a six-hour op­er­a­tion which turned Dr Chris­ti­aan Barnard into a global celebrity. ‘Doc’ Moss was there in his pro­fes­sional ca­pac­ity as an anaes­thetist, part of a 30-strong team which made Washkan­sky a house­hold name as the first man to re­ceive a heart trans­plant.

Some twelve years later, in 1979, Moss was in­volved in an­other high­pro­file piece of surgery which proved to be pos­i­tively mun­dane by com­par­i­son. Nel­son Man­dela, then in­car­cer­ated on Robben Is­land, had his soli­tude in­ter­rupted long enough for a bone to be re­moved from his heel.

The fol­low­ing year Moss wit­nessed tragedy on the rugby field dur­ing his 20 years as coach and man­ager of Western Prov­ince whose full-back Chris Burger broke his neck dur­ing a Cur­rie Cup match in Bloem­fontein.

“I was al­lowed to stay with him (in hos­pi­tal) and I sat next to the bed hold­ing his hand,” Moss re­called. “He faced death with great courage and dig­nity. He said to me: ‘I know my God. I am ready to go.’ ”

Moss’ own play­ing ca­reer had been unique from the very start. In­tro­duced on the wing for the four-match home se­ries against New Zealand in 1949, he fin­ished on the win­ning side in all four, serv­ing later as coach, man­ager and chair­man of se­lec­tors.

Un­til his death late last month at the age of 92, he had been the old­est liv­ing Spring­bok.

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