ST ALBAN'S COLLEGE
St Alban’s College came into existence on 1 February 1963 with 37 boys and three masters. The founding headmaster, Anton Murray, was a South African cricketer who left the comforts of Grahamstown to set up a school in the then remote eastern suburbs of Pretoria. As a young school it prides itself as an innovator and not a preserver, and during the leadership of its second headmaster, Paul Marsh, St Albans opened its doors to boys of colour before it was legal to do so. Tom Hamilton is the current headmaster, leading the 510 boys and 43 teachers and support staff.
Name: St Albans College
Motto: Custos Veritatis (Custodians of the truth)
Rugby jersey: Blue and grey horizontal stripes, white shorts
Murray was a pioneer and a visionary. He was also a traditionalist, and made it compulsory for all boys to play the three conventional sports of cricket, rugby and hockey. The debut rugby matches saw school participation on a grand scale: two teams of 30 boys and two linesmen. Only seven boys watched from the sidelines, having been given off sport due to injury.
The College’s first ever First XV fixture was played against St John’s College Fifth XV. St Alban’s lost 0-22 but was not to be deterred. Only two years later, in 1965, the college zealously began to take on the first sides of other schools. Perseverance produces momentum, and in 1967 St Alban’s began to gain some ground in the local and regional rugby fraternities. A brand new field was laid and the First XV took on the Pretoria Boy’s High First XV. St Alban’s lost 11-21, which can hardly be termed a thrashing, and went on to beat St Stithian’s College 9-3. Both of these fixtures were destined to become fierce annual clashes, so much so that the College’s Old Boys Day would always be planned around one of the two fixtures. The appointments of First Team coaches Harry Birell in 1968, and Peter Eedes in 1972 influenced the growth of rugby at the school and ingrained it into College life and culture.
The 1980’s are wistfully remembered as the golden years of St Alban’s rugby. The College had bolstered its ranks, and there were now enough boys for some to choose rugby as their only winter sport. This luxury coincided with the appointment of Paul Davies as First XV coach. A talented sportsman of international standing, Davies joined the staff in 1976. He had played rugby for both London Welsh and Neath, where he was an understudy to the legendary JPR Williams. It is safe to say that Davies revolutionised St Alban’s College rugby. He brought structure to the fraternity, and the reward of his unrelenting discipline was robust, resilient players. In 1980 two of the College’s First XV players, Richard van Druten and James Bland, were invited to Craven Week trials. For a couple of English boys from a small private school to be invited to trials in the heartland of Northern Transvaal rugby was an honour almost unheard of at the time, and this achievement became a proudly signposted landmark in the College’s history.
Growing passion for rugby created the necessary impetus for another double victory over the College’s most traditional rivals, St John’s and St Stithians, in 1985. In fact, St Albans achieved the double from 1985 through to 1988. The records of the First XV side from 1986 to 1988 are remarkable. In 1986 the First team played 18 matches, winning thirteen of them and scoring 56 tries. Sabastian “Bastie” Schoeman scored 13 tries at centre and Trevor Lekota scored 14 from wing. All in all, Schoeman scored an outstanding 29 in 28 games for the First XV. In terms of games won and tries scored, the 1987 and 1988 sides were the best First Teams in history, and thus presented a most fitting occasion for Paul Davies to bow out of his First XV coaching career. Charles Anderson, who had been the College’s Second XV coach, took over the helm and began to encourage all the College teams to play “more direct”, as Ian McIntosh was asking the Natal team to do at the time. “Attack the advantage line” was his mantra, and he had a flyhalf in Dan Van Zyl who could do just that. Van Zyl went on to play first-class rugby for the Pumas, the Blue Bulls, Western Province and the Stormers. He even represented the Springboks on two end-of-year tours European tours in 1996 and 2000.
New coach Tom Hamilton began his tenure by accompanying the 1993 side on the College’s debut overseas tour of England and Wales. The tour abroad marked the offset of what was to be an awe-inspiring, record-breaking season. The First XV scored 372 points playing thrilling, expansive rugby. The fixture list was constantly expanding to include, in addition to the traditional rivals of St Stithian’s and St John’s, schools such as Helpmekaar, Parktown Boys and Westville. The First XV broke the points record again in 1996, scoring a superlative 591 points and touching down 83 times. The side’s outstanding success aptly culminated in a second tour overseas, this time to South America. They won eight out of 11 matches, including the International Festival in Santiago.
Another record from this era worth bringing to light is that of David Mukhari, who played 89 matches fro the First XV, missing only two matches in three seasons. He is currently a member of the St Alban’s staff and is exceptionally committed to coaching College as well as Blue Bulls players.
The new millennium ushered in Fanie Nortje as Master in charge of rugby and his first triumph was to foster a mutually beneficial relationship between the College and the Blue Bulls Rugby Union. St Alban’s entered into the Bulls High School league while maintaining traditional fixtures. This certainly shifted the College into the Union’s spotlight. Talented players moved into the selectors’ line of vision. More College boys got the exposure they craved and many were beginning to represent the Bulls at Under-16, Under-18 and Under-19 levels.
The FNB Classic Clah between St Alban’s and neighbouring Hoërskool Menlopark has become a much anticipated annual fixture in the Pretoria community and has seen fiercely contested games. St Alban’s remains focused on its unique style of open, attractive, ball-in-hand rugby and looks forward with optimisim and excitement to the years ahead.