BID­DING FAREWELL TO SOUTH AFRICAN RUGBY LE­GEND

Cape Times - - METRO - Brian Isaacs | Former prin­ci­pal of SPHS

YOUR ar­ti­cle “Rugby great mourned” in THE PAST 24 HOURS, on page 2, Wed­nes­day, Oc­to­ber 10 refers.

Given that The­u­nis Bri­ers was my un­cle and my child­hood hero, it was dis­ap­point­ing to not see any ref­er­ence in the Cape Times, prior to to­day, re­lat­ing to his pass­ing away on Sun­day morn­ing. I was re­lieved to see the trib­ute in Wed­nes­day’s news­pa­per, but un­for­tu­nately the brief re­port does not do jus­tice to one of our great­est Spring­bok wings of all time – only men­tion­ing that he was a Spring­bok in the 1955 Bri­tish Lions tour and then the 1956 New Zealand tour.

More sig­nif­i­cant on the 1955 tour was that he scored a (then) record five tries against the Lions (most by any Spring­bok in any Test se­ries) and that this record stood till well into the 1970s. Of in­ter­est is that one of the Lions’ wings was a new young Ir­ish wing – Tony O’Reilly (pre­vi­ous owner of In­de­pen­dent Me­dia) and that Bri­ers broke O’Reilly’s col­lar bone dur­ing the se­ries when he tack­led him in cover de­fence.

This was also the se­ries which had the fa­mous missed kick when, af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle, Jack van der Schyff missed the con­ver­sion to take the score from a 22-23 loss to a 24-23 win for the Spring­boks – this was the con­ver­sion of one of Bri­ers’s five tries in the se­ries.

The ar­ti­cle says that Bri­ers en­joyed his lat­ter years as a farmer – which is not cor­rect. He was a farmer from the start and, in fact, had not made him­self avail­able for the 1956 Spring­bok tour to New Zealand be­cause of his farm­ing com­mit­ments and later agreed to fly over as a re­place­ment be­cause of in­juries sus­tained there.

This was the fa­mous tour when the All Blacks went phys­i­cal and played a New Zealand ama­teur heavy­weight box­ing cham­pion (Kevin Skin­ner) as prop to brawl with the two Spring­bok props – swop­ping sides at half time (in those days there were no re­place­ments and vir­tu­ally no con­trols over what hap­pened phys­i­cally). Iron­i­cally, in this se­ries, Bri­ers once again broke the col­lar bone of one of the All Black play­ers.

He was an im­mensely strong and fast winger, weigh­ing well over 90kg and my child­hood mem­o­ries of him were those of a su­per hero, who also had a won­der­ful na­ture and sense of hu­mour. In the early 1970s, I used to work for Bri­ers on his farm dur­ing wine har­vest­ing sea­son and, be­sides be­ing a heroic un­cle, he also be­came a very close friend of mine. I am im­mensely grate­ful for his in­flu­ence in my life – may he rest in peace.

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