Friday, 18 May 2012

Ronald Andy Macdonald

 The honour of playing rugby for the Springboks was bestowed on relatively few Rhodesians andm fewer still in the tight forward role.

The ninth of May 1965, will always be a special day for Bulawayo fanner Andy Macdonald, for it was on that date that his name was announced in the Springbok team to tour Australia and New Zealand. For the twenty-nine-year-old front row forward it was a fitting reward for a long, dedicated and successful career.

Macdonald was unquestionably one of the most powerful forwards ever to play in the green and gold jersey of South Africa. With a superb physique and weighing in at a little over 107 kg, Macdonald was immensely strong and was feared as a scrummager by the best front row forwards in the South African provinces.

Born at Springs in the Transvaal, Macdonald was educated at Bulawayo atMilton School. Resident in Rhodesia from his early childhood he never considered himself a South African, making his debut for Rhodesia in 1957.

By the early'60s, Macdonald was an integral part of of the Rhodesian side and a powerful front row which included another man destined for Springbok colours, hooker Ronnie Hill. Among the other prop forwards that combined withMacdonald to give Hill superb support were Eden Holton, Bo Jutronich and Willie van der Merwe.

In 1962 Macdonald had the honour of playing in the Rhodesian side that beat the touring British Combined Services side 28-16 and later lost to Arthur Smith's British Lions 38-9. The following year Macdonald played against John Thornett's Wallabies and by giving his opposite number, Les Austin, a torrid time, helped Ronnie Hill to take the tighthead count comfortably although Rhodesia lost the match 11-22.

After the two Currie Cup matches in 1964, both of which Rhodesia lost, Macdonald was honoured with the captaincy for a long tour of South Africa which counted towards the Board Trophy competition.

Rhodesia lost to South West Africa but beat North Eastern and South Western Districts in Board Trophy fixtures before also going down to Border in a friendly. In these games the Rhodesian front row of Macdonald, Hill and Van der Merwe was highly impressive. Hill raking back 51 tightheads with only one against.

Macdonald by now had a reputation as the most feared prop forward in South African rugby, and when the mighty Transvaal team had visited Rhodesia earlier in the season the first question they had asked was as to whether Macdonald was playing.

Both Macdonald and Hill were rewarded for their efforts during the season by being invited to play in the Rugby Writers' XV against a Pirates Invitation side as part of the 76th anniversary celebrations of the Pirates Club.

The year also saw the visit of Michel Crauste's French team which proved too strong for Rhodesia by winning 34-11. Once again the Rhodesian front row of Macdonald, Hill and Van der Merwe proved their worth. Hill raking back 10tightheads without reply.

Political changes at this time saw the breakup of the Federation, and Northern Rhodesia became the independent state of Zambia. For Macdonald, these changes meant the end of his playing for Rhodesia.

Since the end of his school-days at Bulawayo, Macdonald had lived in the then Northern Rhodesia, leasing a farm from the Government. Macdonald's farm was about 90 km from Livingstone and his dedication to rugby was such that he would travel the 550 km every week to turn out for his Bulawayo Club, Old Miltonians.

In 1965 Macdonald was still able to play for Old Miltonians and he turned out for Rhodesia, who had a good season during which they beat the touring Pumas from Argentina, drew with the Northern Transvaal Platteland and then caused a sensation by accounting for the powerful Western Province team.

A Rhodesian Invitation XV played another three matches, two against a strong South African Invitation team. The first match was drawn 22-22 but the visitors won the second 30-14, despite the Rhodesians acquitting themselves very well.

It was surprising that Macdonald was the only Rhodesian to be given a Springbok trial but those who knew their rugby felt that the big prop's selection to tour New Zealand would be a formality.

Macdonald was duly selected but had his elation somewhat dampened by the attitude of the new Zambian Government who announced that he would face 'certain consequences' if he went ahead with the tour. Still working his government-leased farm, he was worried by the Zambian Government statement But not wishing to give up the ambition of a lifetime and urged to go by his wife, the Livingstone farmer eventually motored down to Johannesburg where he linked up with the remainder of the Springbok team.

It was a rewarding tour for Macdonald, although the Springboks lost both Tests against Australia and were beaten 3-1 in New Zealand. He played in five of the six internationals, missing only the second Test against Australia, when he was replaced by Hannes Marais.

The All Blacks were certainly impressed by the strength of Macdonald. who played at tighthead prop in the four Tests and the great New Zealand lock forward. Colin 'Pine Trees' Meads, was much impressed by his play.

Macdonald was mentioned in a book by Meads, entitled Colin Meads, All Black, in a chapter dealing with the greatest players the New Zealander had played with or against

Meads described Macdonald thus: "The Springbok, Andy Macdonald, was probably the most imposing physical specimen we have lined up against, a very good player and one of the great gentlemen of rugby"

Macdonald's Test rugby career came to an end after he returned to his Zambian farm. In a letter to his friends in New Zealand he explained that he had signed a statement that he would confine his future rugby to Zambia. In terms of this statement Macdonald would never play rugby for South Africa or Rhodesia again.

So this great player was confined to turning out for a club in Livingstone, admitting that it was not much fun because the standard was not very high.

Ten days before Christmas in 1966, Macdonald was attacked and severely mauled by a lion which had been taking livestock. After it had been wounded by his first shot, the lion leapt on Macdonald, who managed to kill it with a second shot, but not before it had landed on top of him, biting and clawing in its death throes.

Macdonald was taken to Livingstone hospital where he received more than 400 stitches and had a finger amputated from his right hand. He was able to leave the hospital on Christmas morning.

Meads also remarked in his book: "Andy was badly mauled by a lion when he went home after the 1965 tour — it would be a toss-up as to whose side I'd rather have been on."

A fitting tribute to the strength and courage of one of Rhodesia's finest rugby players, a fine sportsman on and off the field.



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Thursday, 10 May 2012

William J. R. Jackson

RHODESIA has bred many outstanding men's bowlers, including a Commonwealth Games Gold Medal singles winner in Ralph Hodges, but none has been as charismatic controversial and consistently classy as Bill Jackson.

Born at Cape Town on 19 October 1915, William J. R. Jackson attended Wynberg School and began rolling woods while in his teens. But he only took to the sport seriously in 1936 when a severe rugby injury ruled him out of contact sports.

And that's when his winning streak began, for he won the Plumstead Club singles title in his first year as a bowler. When he moved to Johannesburg, he won the All Transvaal singles in 1948, was Johannesburg champion in 1953 and runner-up in the South African fours in 1950.

Jackson came to Salisbury from Johannesburg on transfer in 1954, and when he departed in August 1979 to retire to the Cape with his wife, Elizabeth, he had built up a proud record that will be difficult to emulate on Rhodesian greens.

He first joined Alexandra Club and took the singles title in his only year there (1955) before he moved to Avondale — a club he was to serve with distinction until he returned to the place of his birth at the age of sixty-three.

He became Avondale singles champion in 1956, when he also won his first national title as third in the Avondale rinks team, while also being a semifinalist in the singles. One of his most notable years was 1957 when he pocketed six titles — the Salisbury Bowling Association champion of singles champion, the Mitchell fours as skip, the Avondale pairs, fours and singles and, most importantly, the inaugural South African Inter-Districts fours championship. This was at Bloemfontein where Jackson skipped the team of A. D. Bradley, E. B. Roberts and J. J. Susman.

This prestigious event was won again by Rhodesia in 1960 at Kimberley (A. D. Bradley, J. P. Margach, E. L. Davey, M. M. J. Bibb) and in 1966 at Maritzburg (P. Siebert J. Elliott, W. J. Howe, R. Nesbit).

Jackson played in two Empire Games for the country — 1958 at Cardiff in Wales, and 1962 at Perth, Australia, distinguishing himself on both occasions.

In the 1954 Games at Vancouver, Canada. Ralph Hodges had become Rhodesia's only Games Gold Medallist for bowls when he won the singles with a record of eight wins and one loss. In the next Games four years later, it was up to the silver-haired Jackson to attempt to emulate that brilliant feat... and he came agonisingly close.

At Cardiff, Jackson was representing the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland and he was in superb form, only a surprising defeat 21-18 by last placed Jersey {their only win in eleven games) and a photo-finish 21-20 loss to South Africa preventing him from striking Gold.

The Rhodesian had to settle for the Bronze Medal, losing only to South Africa. Jersey and Australia (14-21). It was the Springbok A. P. Danilowitz who won the Gold, with England taking the Silver after a 21 -18 play-off victory against Jackson, who had beaten their player by the same margin earlier in the event.

Four years later, Jackson was back at the Empire Games, this time as skip with Stewart Bradley of Bulawayo in the pairs team at Perth. Again Rhodesia won the Bronze Medal, beating England 23-14 in a play-off for third and fourth places. New Zealand won the Gold, and Scotland the Silver, though Rhodesia had the satisfaction of beating the Scots 25-14 in general play.

In home Tests against Australia (1964), New Zealand (1968) and America (1977) Jackson was unbeaten in five singles matches. He skipped the pairs, playing with Geoff Knott {they finished fifth) at the first world bowling championships at Sydney, other members of that history-making team being Ronnie Turner, Edgar Morris and Chappie Royston. Among their best pairs victories was the 18- 14 victory over South Africans Tommy Press and 'Snowy* Walker. In the world singles, Jackson finished seventh, though he again had some good wins, notably 21-14 over Geoff Kelly of Australia.

In South Africa, Jackson represented Rhodesia at three consecutive Masters singles tournaments (1969-71), winning the Bronze Medal in 1970 at Johannesburg where he won five and lost two of his games. In 1969 he had become Rhodesia's first participant in this prestigious invitation tournament.

At the 1973 South African Games at Pretoria he won the Silver Medal in the pairs and the Bronze for singles. And even in the year he left Rhodesia (1979) he was a champion, winning the Salisbury Bowling Association singles championship and the pairs with Avondale club-mate Hugh Morton for the second year in succession.

At national level, Jackson was three times Rhodesian singles champion (1964, 1966, 1976) and four times rinks champion (1956, 1958, 1972 and 1978). He holds the unique distinction of reaching the national singles final in four successive years, losing the first three and eventually taking the crown for the first time by beating Robbie Roberts at Bulawayo. Jackson appeared in eight national singles finals — an unmatched record.

Super-concentration, world-class ability and technique, and a relentless fighting spirit were the hallmarks of Bill Jackson. Although a straight-talker who had clashes with officialdom, his sportsmanship and popularity were unquestioned during his twenty-five years as a Rhodesian.

His biggest disappointment must have been his omission from the national World Bowls team that played at Zoo Lake. Johannesburg in 1976 — an unacceptable selection blunder to many aficionados of the game. Despite his bitter disappointment Jackson would never publicly complain at this injustice.

Jackson was a beloved figure at his Avondale Club and at his farewell function, champion woman bowler Anna Bates summed it all up perfectly with the sad reflection: "Imagine coming to Avondale ... and no Bill Jackson."


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Saturday, 5 May 2012

Ronald Andrew Hill

EVEN AFTER his debut season for Rhodesia in 1956; at the age of twenty one. Bulawayo's Ronnie Hill was being singled out as a future Springbok rugby hooker When Attie Botha's Rhodesian team arrived back from its Currie Cup tour to South Africa that year, manager Fred Jamieson was particularly full of praise for three forwards — Ed Brophy, Des van Jaarsveldt and Hill, of whom he said "Springbok selector Jan Lotz was most impressed and said he had quite a future He will be keeping his eye on Hill."
Four seasons later, in 1960, the shrewd Lotz had cause to remember his words of wisdom as he and fellow Springbok selector Maurice Zimmerman watched Hill — in his first international for Rhodesia — play two brilliant games at Kitwe and Salisbury against Wilson Whineray's All Blacks.

Rhodesia lost 9-13 and 14-29 but after the Salisbury match, A C. Parker, the doyen of South African rugby writers, wrote: "What they saw of Ronnie Hill's hooking should have convinced the two national selectors in the record crowd of 23 000 that the Bulawayo man should be a certainty for the 1960-61 tour to Britain."

Giving a New Zealand viewpoint, Terry McLean wrote: "Thanks very largely to Ronnie Hill's brilliant hooking and the excellent lineout play of De Klerk, Roebert and Macdonald the All Blacks found the glories of Glamis Stadium to be like Mark Twain's death — grossly exaggerated for most of the first half. Had not the Rhodesian physical condition quite suddenly given out, the All Blacks might, in fact, have left the field both sadder and wiser men. What a devil of a time the Rhodesians gave the All Blacks until the crisis had been reached. Hill is an uncannily brilliant hooker . .."

Rhodesia had not been able to emulate those wonderful matches of 1949 when John Morkels team beat the All Blacks 10-8 at Bulawayo and then drew 3-3 at Salisbury, but the 1960 men did, through their adventurous style, have the satisfaction of crossing the New Zealanders' line twice.

At the conclusion of their long tour, the All Blacks rated Hill as the best hooker they had met and the Rhodesian was duly selected to accompany Avril Malan's Springboks on their tour of the British Isles and France during the off-season (1960-61). Hill was chosen as understudy to Abe Malan, but played with telling effect in two internationals when Malan was sidelined with a knee injury.

The Springboks on tour were: Lionel Wilson, Gideon Wentzel, Michael Anteime. Hennie van Zyl, Jannie Engelbrecht, Francois Roux, Ian Kirkpatrick,John Gainsford. Ben van Niekerk. David Stewart, Keith Oxlee, Charlie Nimb, Dick Lockyear, Piet Uys, Piet du Toit. Fanie Kuhnf Doug Holton. Mof Myburgh, Abe Malan, Ronnie Hill, Johann Claassen, Avril Malan (capt), Hendrik van der Merwe, Piet van Zyl, Hugo van Zyl, Martin Pelser, Frik du Preez, Johannes Botha, Doug Hopwood and Adriaan Baard. Hooker Bobby Johns was a tour addition when Malan was injured.

Beaten only once — 6-0 by the Barbarians — in thirty-four arduous matches, this was among the most formidable Springbok teams of all time, despite having to contend with atrocious weather conditions in most centres. It was the worst winter in British rugby history, but despite this and an insidious Press campaign against them, the Springbok morale was never broken.

Hill wore the Springbok green and gold for the first time in the opening fixture of the tour against Southern Counties, which was won 29-9. It was shortly before the first international against Wales at the famous Cardiff Arms Park that Abe Malan injured his knee, though Springbok worries were allayed when Hill turned in a rattling good game against North Western Counties, both in and out of the scrum. He was up to score a try and handed on to Hopwood for another. The tourists won 11-0 and such was the superiority of their pack and the quality of Hill's hooking that they took the tighthead count by more than a dozen.

Thus Ronnie Hill was chosen to make his Springbok Test debut on 3 December 1960 against Wales when he was to oppose the Newport hooker Bryn Meredith, the formidable 1959 British Lion who was making his twenty-seventh appearance for Wales. But the joy of playing an international at Cardiff Arms Park was dampened by the weather. Maxwell Price reporting: "The match was played in terrible conditions with the famous field waterlogged and a sixty-mile-an-hour gale roaring downfield from the Bristol Channel... Cardiff Arms Park was unfit for habitation by man or beast"

South Africa eked out a 3-0 victory through a Keith Oxlee penalty and were deserving winners to retain an unblemished record against Wales in matches stretching back to 1906.

Maxwell Price, in his book Springboks in the Lion's Den wrote: "Ronnie Hill, hooking in his first international, was in great form. He took more tightheads than Meredith (7-3) and was a great held (hero) in mauls and loose play."

With Malan still not fit. Hill was again called to duty for the second international against Ireland at Landsdowne Road on 17 December — a match so memorable for the stirring battle of the Irish forwards. For the first time, the Springboks really encountered tough opposition in the pack, and a crowd of more than 35 000 watched the match in ideal Dublin conditions.

The Springboks lagged 3-0 at half-time through a penalty, but came back to 3-3 with a desperate try by Gainsford, only managing an 8-3 victory with a pushover try in injury time. Said E. W. Swanton of the Doily Telegraph: "No side that leads for a bare ninety seconds of a game and wins can be other than lucky in the result. Providence was with them."

Hill was replaced by Malan for the final three internationals against England. Scotland and France and did not play in the only tour loss to the Barbarians. Thus in sixteen games for the Springboks on tour, the Rhodesian was never on the losing side. He excelled in both the set and loose scrums and also went on an
unusual try-scoring spree. Having surprisingly scored only once for Rhodesia in a long career spanning nine seasons Hill ended up with six tries for the Springboks — then a record for the most points by a Springbok hooker on an overseas tour.

With Hill's selection for that tour there was a touch of melancholy. Earlier in the season Rhodesian captain Des van Jaarsveldt had led the Springboks in the solitary home Test against Scotland and the selection of two Rhodesians for Springbok sides in one season had been a repeat of 1949 when Salty du Rand and Ryk van Schoor played together, though they were not Rhodesian-bred like Hill and van Jaarsveldt.

But for van Jaarsveldt that one Test was to be his lot and, typical of his unselfishness, Hill's first comment on hearing of his own selection to tour Britain was: "I'm so sorry Des didn't make it. He is a great player to have alongside you on the field "

Hill went on to play five more Tests for South Africa for a final tally of seven internationals. As the quickest striker in Southern Africa in 1961 he became the Springboks' number one choice for the home internationals against Ireland and Australia. Against Ireland the NewlandsTest was won handsomely 24-8. while the Wallabies were beaten 28-3 at Ellis Park and 23-11 at the Boet Erasmus Stadium at Port Elizabeth.

The Rhodesian lost his place the following year, but was recalled for the fourth and final Test against the 1962 British Lions under the captaincy of Arthur Smith. That Test at Bloemfontein was won 34-14 and it was only when again recalled for the first Test against John Thornett's 1963 Wallabies at Ellis Park that Hill played in a losing Springbok team for the first and only time, the match being lost 9-11.

Ronald Andrew Hill was born at Johannesburg on 20 December 1934 and went to Bulawayo with his parents at the age of three, attending Milton Junior and the Technical High School. It was as a flank that he played for Matabeleland under 19s in 1950 and Rhodesian Schools in 1950-51 before Bulawayo coach 'Bucky' Buchanan persuaded him to switch to hooker. He made his debut for Old Miltonians in 1952 and remained loyal to his club throughout his career.

It was in 1956 that Hill made his debut for the Rhodesian senior side, going with Attie Botha's team on a four-match tour of South Africa. The Currie Cup match against Transvaal was lost 3-18 but in the following friendly against the same province, Rhodesia won 25-11 at Krugersdorp, when Hill scored the only try of his career for the country. Eastern Transvaal were beaten 21-6, but Rhodesia went down 0-11 to Northern Transvaal on a tour that was the swan song for big lock forward John 'Ox' Barritt, who had earned his first cap in 1947.

In 1957 Hill was propped in the scrum on tour in South Africa by the powerful Andy Macdonald and Reg Stewart with Piet de Klerk and Graham Roebert. two outstanding locks and line-out jumpers. It was the year that Rhodesia had a gilt edged wing in Springbok Tom van Vollenhoven and they convincingly beat both Griquas (15-5) and North Eastern Districts (17-3) before losing 11-16 to Transvaal with a disputed try.

Although he missed the 1958 international for Rhodesia against France, Hill continued to emphasise his immense talent as a hooker, seizing his chance to impress the Springbok selectors in the two matches for Rhodesia against the All Blacks in 1960, the visitors including such famed names as Don Clarke and Colin

In 1961 Rhodesia shaped up to Ronnie Dawson's Irish tourists at Glamis. They outclassed the home team 24-0 though Ronnie Hill and Macdonald played creditably. Hill was injured just before Rhodesia's 1962 match against the British Lions and was replaced by Noel Dollar of Midlands in his only national appearance.

Hill captained Rhodesia against the 1963 Wallabies in the opening encounter at Kitwe and his team were well motivated, storming to an 11-6 lead. But the Wallabies hauled back to 11 -all at half-time and went on to win 22-11, though Hill took the tighthead count 10-7. However, the classy hooker injured a calf muscle
during the game and was out of the return match against the Aussies at Salisbury, being replaced by Charlie de Kock in a match lost 5-12 by Rhodesia.

The 1964 tour to South Africa, when Andy Macdonald was entrusted with the captaincy, again saw some incredible performances by Hill, who received magnificent support from Macdonald and Willie van der Merwe. Hill won the tighthead count 19-1 against Border and in the other three games raked back 32 balls against the head without reply — an incredible tour tally of 51 -1. It was also in 1964 that Michel Crauste's Frenchmen proved too potent for Rhodesia, winning 34-11, though again Hill was brilliant in taking 10 tighthead heels without reply, while flanker Piet Greyling — later to become Springbok captain when living in South Africa — was also outstanding.

Greyling left for South Africa before the start of the 1965 season, while Hill retired at the same time after a cartilage operation on his left knee. He was thirty and happily took his family away on holiday for the first time in nine years. He had played rugby to the exclusion of all else — "I even cut short my honeymoon to play rugby," he recalled.

He had played seven internationals for the Springboks, five for Rhodesia and had also been honoured with games for the South African Barbarians, Quaggas and Rugby Writers' XV. Indeed, it was a proud career that enriched Rhodesian rugby greatly.

Completing the story of the sporting Hill family, Ronnie's wife Joan, gained her national swimmijig colours in 1950. Jo-Anne their eldest daughter swam backstroke for Rhodesia for three years, Debbie their second daughter became national diving champion, won a sports scholarship to an American university and
represented Zimbabwe in the 1980 Olympic Games, while Sarah-Jane their third child represented Rhodesia at synchronised swimming for four years and is, as far as is known, the youngest individual to have represented this country in a sport.


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