Most of the South Africans at Montpellier Hérault Rugby (MHR) descended from the same establishment in Bloemfontein
Grey College, creator of talent
Six of the players in the squad grew up on the benches of this school
Bloemfontein, judicial capital of South Africa. The main town of the Free State Province and the base camp of the Cheetahs rugby team, but also the host town of a reputable scholarly institution, Grey College. A boys only school founded in the time of the Boers in the year 1855, Grey College has a reputation for being a factory of Springboks. “It is the school that has produced the most Springbok internationals since the Springbok rugby team returned to the international scene,” confirmed Mark Keohane, South African rugby journalist. “In the team of 2009, of the 30 players, 9 came from Grey College.
But that was an exceptional generation. Morné du Plessis, the legendary captain in the 70s, also came from this establishment.”
Amongst the ex Grey College students, six form part of the current squad at MHR. The brothers Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis, Ruan Pienaar and Frans Steyn were world champions together in 2007.
Jan Serfontein and Henry Immelman also wore out their boots on the fiery fields of this South African establishment. Robert Ebersohn of Castres also attended this school, and he too could be playing in the Top 14 final in a memorable evening for these Grey College Old Boys.
“It is regarded as one of the biggest sporting hotbeds in the country, but also on a cultural level. Many top cricket players as well as Olympian athletes come from there. It is not a private school, it is a state institution,” continues Mark Keohane.
Johan Goosen keeps himself in shape here
During his (short) retirement, it is here that Johan Goosen, the future Montpellier player, stays in shape.
Along with cricket, rugby has the status of being one of the jewels of the school. “Their team is generally ranked first or second in the country,” adds Keohane.
Grey College has pupils from 6 to 18 years of age, the equivalent of the French primary school up until the end of ‘lycée’ (French high school). The pupils wear navy blazers with white and yellow stripes. The Afrikaans author Etienne Leroux and Bram Fischer (the attorney of anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela) also form part of the list of prestigious ex pupils.
“They are able to identify pupils from a very young age,” continues Mark Keohane. “They also offer good scholarships and are generally very strong at finding talent, not just when it comes to rugby but in all sports.”
This Free State establishment is a well rounded institution, but is also a machine for the production of sportsmen. No surprise that MHR has built a partnership with the school to formalise these close ties.
And regardless of which way the trophy goes on Saturday evening, it is certain that there will be an ex pupil to show it off at Grey College.
Partnership with MHR
MHR and Grey College have concluded a partnership, the Badawi Legacy Scholarship, via an
anonymous businessman. Apart from being taught French for five years, 50 pupils will be financially
supported and MHR will also provide resources to the school. An agreement which has not been met
with unanimous approval in South Africa, some believe it to be pillaging young talent.