Former great Philip Nel honoured by Maritzburg College
Maritzburg College recently honoured former Springbok great Philip Nel by naming the new First Aid facility on Goldstones as the “Philip Nel Pavilion”.
This paid tribute to College’s head prefect and captain of the First XV in 1921, and later captain of the 1937 “Greatest Springbok” team.
A large number of the extended Nel family and friends gathered at the pavilion above Goldstones for the unveiling by Piet Nel, son of Philip Nel and College’s headmaster, Chris Luman.
In the words of Matthew Marwick, College senior deputy headmaster and chairman of the Archives Committee;
“Philip Nel, the immortal captain of inspiration and resolve, who led his team from 1-0 down in the test series, in the most trying of circumstances, to a test series triumph that today, 85 years on, remains unequalled. Philip Nel, the courageous yet modest player, whose undying loyalty to his club, Collegians, here in Maritzburg, led him to make monumental travelling sacrifices throughout his playing career. Philip Nel, the man of calm amidst the storm, and of decency and humility, who throughout his life was a much admired member of the Umvoti community – and far, far beyond.
Nel enjoyed the rare distinction of earning a Natal (open) rugby cap while still at school. He made his debut for the Springboks against the 1928 All Blacks, and captained the side in 1933 (against the Wallabies) and on the all-conquering tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1937. Known affectionately as “The Greatest Springboks”, Nel’s 1937 team remains the only Springbok team ever to have won a test series in New Zealand.
Nel saw action in World War II, serving as a major in the Umvoti Mounted Rifles.
Married to Jose Havemann, they produced a family of 4 children. Affectionately known as “oom Flip”, he farmed at ‘Vetspruit’ and died at his home in Greytown on 11 February 1984, after a long illness.