POTCHEFSTROOM BOYS' HIGH
We profile 99-year-old Potchefstroom Boys’ High, a great school of the old Transvaal.
Potchefstroom on the Mooi River, an attractive town, is one of the oldest towns in the old Transvaal and was once the capital of the Boer republic. It was founded in 1838, its name a bit of a mystery. The commonest belief is that it is called after potsherds (potscherf) found near the river – stroom.
Since the 1930s it has been a centre of the gold industry, agriculture and education – lots of education.
On 31 January 1905, accompanied by the band of the Border Regiment, Sir Richard Solomon, Lt-Governor of Transvaal opened Potchefstroom College. On instructions from the education department the name was soon changed to Potchefstroom High School for Boys but it is still referred to as College by its boys and Old Boys, who are called Old Moois.
The site for the school had been an infamous concentration camp during the 2nd South African War. The first school on the land was for the children interned in the camp.
In 1903 the Potchefstroom Central School was opened in the town. Then the townsfolk urged Lt Governor Sir Arthur Lawley to establish a school in the oldest town in the Transvaal. The town council offered the 40-acre site.
The Director of Education asked the Jeppe headmaster, CD Hope to submit his name for the post of headmaster, which he did. Before Jeppe he had been headmaster of Pretoria Boys’ High. He stayed longer in Potchefstroom!
During the 1905 hunting season, just before the first Springboks went on their rugby tour, the headmaster CD Hope was given the horns of a springbok by his brother-in-law. These horns, mounted, are in the school’s museum and a springbok head is part of the school’s badge.
The present headmaster is the seventh in 99 years.
The school, an English-medium school, is mainly a boarding school.
Name: Potchefstroom High School for Boys
Motto of school: Iustorum semita lux splendens (The path of good men is a bright light)
Date of foundation: 1905
Number of boys: 550
Number of boarders: 400
Number of rugby teams: 16
Rugby was first played in the old Transvaal in Potchefstroom. The town club, Potchefstroom Dorp, was founded in 1885. Potchefstroom Boys’ High changed from soccer to rugby in 1913 and for 16 seasons played on a hard, grassless field. The school also played in the men’s leagues till the end of 1923. The first fifteen field is called Gevers after T Gevers who coached the 1st XV from 1921 to 1944. In 1970 the rugby field’s pavilion was built.
Famous rugby players
Two old boys have played for South Africa – Wilf Rosenberg and Jeremy Nel, both wandering men. Rosenberg wandered to many schools as his father, a rabbi, was posted to various places. Jeremy Nel ended his career having played for more provinces than any other South African. He and Ashton Townsend were chosen for Western Transvaal when still at school. The headmaster would not let them play.
Boet Neser was an old Mooi. He became a judge but before then he captained South Africa at cricket and was the outstanding rugby referee of his era. He refereed eight tests, including all four – at the All Blacks’ choice – in 1928. He held the record for the number of tests refereed by a South African till surpassed by Freek Burger.
Outside of the local schools Potchefstroom BHS also plays Pretoria Boys’ High, KES, Jeppe, Parktown and St Stithians each year.