Great Boy Louw stories, Part Two
When he had finished playing Boy Louw became a referee. As a player he went about with a Rugby Law Book in his pocket, believing that you played better if you knew the laws better. And straight after he had stopped playing, he joined the Western Province Referees; Society.
In the picture we have of Boy Louw here, he is wearing a Western Province rugby blazer and a Western Province referees’ tie. Pretty well to the end of his life, he would attend meetings and when he asked a question, he would stand up politely to ask it, even though it was hard for the heavy old man to get to his feet.
He was certainly fast-tracked in terms of today’s referees. He stopped playing in 1938 and in 1939 he refereed the Currie Cup final at Newlands.
That does not mean that he always dealt gently with referees.
The last Test, his 18th, that Boy Louw played for South Africa was against the B&I Lions at Newlands. The 1930s were a golden decade for the Springboks. In it they beat England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Australia, New Zealand and the Lions. It was a three-Test series in 1938, and the Springboks had won the first two. Series won, the third Test was at Newlands. The Lions led 21-16 when DO Williams got a pass from Johnny Bester on the Lions 25. Away he raced and round he went to the posts, when the referee blew his whistle – for a forward pass to Williams well over 30 metres earlier in days when touch judges had no say and there were no TMOs. With that Whistle the referee blew the final whistle. The Lions won 21-16.
The referee for that match was Nic Pretorius, who had played in the Springbok pack in 1928. After this Test, he put his head around the door of the Springbok unchanging room to thank the players for the game, Boy Louw threw his boot at the referee’s head. The boot missed.
Once a referee denied Oom Boy a try because he, according to the referee, had not grounded the ball. Oom Boy was indignant. “Grounded the ball! Must I buries the bloody thing.”
Mind you, later when he was a referee and had awarded a try, a player was indignant and said: “That wasn’t a try.” Boy came back at him: “Oh so. Reads about it in the Argus.”
During World War II, Oom Boy joined up and Bombardier Boy Louw went up north and then on up through Italy. There was rugby up north and through Italy, and Bombardier Louw coached the 6th Division side, including in matches against New Zealand teams.
Dr Cecil Moss was in the medical corps in Italy when an ambulance arrived to fetch him. It was not a medical emergency – Oom Boy had sent it to get him to practice.
In 1949, the first Test against the All Blacks was at Newlands. Before the Test, Oom Boy had words for the Springboks: “When South Africa plays New Zealand, consider your country at war.”
Oom Boy was the assistant manager (aka coach) of the 1960-61 Springboks on their 34-match tour of the UK, Ireland and France. On a bitterly cold day up at Leicester they drew 3-all with Leicester and East Midlands with Les Boundy, an international referee of the London Society to referee the match. After the match a bright reporter from a London newspaper, came up to Oom Boy and said: “Do you have any comment on the referee, Mr Louw.”
“Sommer kak,” Oom Boy said angrily. Fortunately, the reporter did not understand. Mind you in those more careful days he would probably not have published Oom Boy’s reply as “Up to shit.”
The Springboks were criticised for their dour rugby on a tour when they were too successful for local liking – 31 wins, two draws and one defeat in 34 matches. The Springboks had intended playing running rugby but they encountered one of the worst of winters and were forced into an attractive style of rugby.
There is a story of a miserable, raining, cold midweek afternoon when coach Boy Louw expected them to practise. He changed with them and the players used his presence to exaggerate shivers as they “discussed” the dangers of practising in such weather. Oom Boy did not react and when they peered through the window, there was Oom Boy standing on the half-way line, wearing only a jersey and shorts, a whistle in one hand and the ball tucked under the other arm. Shamefaced, they left the changeroom to join their stoic coach.
When Boy Louw was the manger of the Western Province side, the team sued the B Field for practices. (The B Field was behind the South Stand, now occupied by the Sports Science Institute. It was a rainy night but Jan Pickard, the president was there, and Augie Cohen, the team doctor and manager Boy Louw.
There was scaffolding to house a camera and the watchers huddled under the rough roof to get out of the rain. But water leaked in.
The following conversation is in Afrikaans. The important words are dak – roof, in Afrikaans pronounced duck), lek – leak, weer – weather and lekker – nice.
Doc Cohen said: “Oom Boy, die dak lek.”
Immediately Oom Boy replied: “Ja, dis lekker weer vir daks.” (Almost – It’s nice weather for ducks.)
Oom Boy was no softy on the field, not at all.
When the Springboks played the 1933 Wallabies, there was lots of what the Australians call stoush. It was a tour of 23 matches, including five Tests. The Springboks won the series 3-2, which means that the Wallabies were competitive. They also had Awesome Aub Hodgson and Wild Bill Cerutti in their side. And the Springboks did not have shrinking violets either, not with the Paarl Boys’ High Old Boys Manie Geere and the brothers Louw in their side.
These were days before citings and things, but on the Friday before the second Test, in an effort to improve on-field attitudes, the two teams had dinner together, the backs at one hotel, the forwards at another. It did not help. As they walked out, Boy Louw said: “That will only make things worse.” And Cerutti replied: “That suits us.”
The next day the fighting broke out at the kick-off as the forwards ignored the ball and got stuck into each other. That seemed to have a cathartic effect, and after that the match was tough but clean.,
In the second half of the fifth Test, Fanie Louw was knocked out. Boy helped to carry his unconscious brother from the field. He threw water into Fanie’s face. Fanie came to life and Boy asked: “Fanie, was’ sy nommer? (was’ ‘is number?) Spluttering, Fanie said: “Dertien.(13).
A while later, there was a thud and Boy said to referee Boet Neser: “Mr Ref, you can maar blows your whistle. Number 13 is off.”
13 was Cerutti’s number!
These were days before replacements for injury and Oom Boy once berated one of his teams which had finished a match with 14 men because of injury: “Rugby is for fifteen versus fifteen. The same numbers play. If you loses a man, they loses a man, too.”
Victory and defeat were at the opposite ends of Oom Boy’s emotions. Angry in defeat he loved victory and there is a lovely mental picture of him on the 1961 tour, sitting with the gentry in camel-hair coats, gloves and bowler hats and bursting into song when the Springboks scored a try: “Ons scores agter die pale, ons scores agter die pale.”
One of his gimmicks was to use different first names for the players he coached. On the 1961 tour, Frik du Preez was Flippie, Keith Oxlee was Kirk, Ian Kirkpatrick was Keith and Dave Stewart was Peter. He would start his team talk with something like: “Peter, you’re the pivot.” To great player mirth. It broke the ice. Many years later Stewart would phone him and say: “Oom Boy, it’s Dave.” And Oom Boy would say: “Hello, Peter.”
He also had fun with malapropisms. When he put sugar into the team he had ordered for Lionel Wilson, Wilson said: “Hang on, Oom Boy, I don’t take sugar.”
Oom Boy replied: “Ag, come on, man, Lionel. Don’t be so perpendicular.”
When the Springboks were in Ireland in 1961, they played Munster in Cork and while there visited Blarney Castle where Oom Boy kissed the Blarney Stone. He explained: “It makes you more elegant.”
He may not have been elegant, but he certainly was generous.
Asked to coach the University of Cape Town, Oom Boy felt most honoured, because he had not been to university himself. He would catch a train in Paarl to Salt River, change trains at Salt River and then catch a train to Rosebank. There he would walk up the hill to the windy university fields. And after practice, he would do the reverse journey.
And he did it for no remuneration at all – not even his train fare.
Matthys Michael Louw (the baptismal register gives his names at Matthijs Michiel)
birth: place: Wellington District
date: 21 February 1906
parents: father: Johannes Guilliame Louw
mother: Engela Christina Louw, née Kirsten
wife: Christina Maria Magdalena Louw, née Crump
children: Johannes Michael Louw
Hester Christine Visagie, née Louw
international career: 1928-1938: 18 tests
province: Western Province
clubs: Caledon, Paarl, Gardens
Later he was a coach and a selector, both to national teams.
school: Paarl BHS
occupation: Standard Bank
death: place: Stikland Hospital (He was living at the Chris Heunis Old Age Home in Somerset West at the time.)
date: 3 May 1988
cause: bronco pneumonia