Dougie Dyers dies at 85

Rugby giant also left his mark in Walvis Bay
Hailed a 'true pioneer' of the sport, the former Springbok rugby selector died last Tuesday.
Andrew Poolman
A man of absolute “character, courage and vision”.

This is how former Springbok and ex Western Province coach Dawie Snyman paid tribute to the late Dougie Dyers last week.

Dyers, a former Springbok rugby selector who left a legacy in WP and South African rugby before and after unification in 1992, died last Tuesday at the age of 85.

Dyers was also a founding member of Kudus Rugby Club in 1961, the Walvis Bay-based club said in a tribute posted on its website following his death.

To this day, Kudus remains a strong competitor in the Namibia Rugby Union premier league and a regular contributor of talent to national teams.

"Our thoughts are with his family, friends and loved ones in this very difficult time. May you find solace in the memories of ‘Oom’ Dougie and the knowledge that he was a true pioneer in South Africa. We as Kudus Rugby Club Salute you.”

Ahead of his time

Snyman told Netwerk24: “Dougie was simply a giant. He was very far ahead of his time, a telling example of a prophet who was not honoured in his own country. It’s a great pity that after unification he was no longer proactively used in rugby”.

Dyers, Snyman and the late Dr Danie Craven made the decision together in 1980 that players of colour should participate in the annual Craven Week tournament in Stellenbosch.

“This was 10 years before Nelson Mandela was released. We did not have the approval of the university, the WP Rugby Union or the South African Rugby Board. We nevertheless proceeded and after that, it was never the same,” Snyman said.

Before unification, Dyers was connected to the SA Rugby Federation, a coloured governing body which in the apartheid years worked together with the SA Rugby Council, under the leadership of Craven, to pursue non-racialism in the game.

Paved the way

As a pioneer across racial boundaries, Dyers was appointed in 1971 as the first captain of a national team of colour to leave South Africa’s national borders when he led the Proteas on their European tour in 1971.

The following year, he was also the captain of the Proteas in a match against England – the first international match on South African soil where coloured and white players played against each other. In 1974, he was also the Proteas’ captain in a match against the British and Irish Lions.

Administrators and players who were connected to the federation were sharply criticised from the ranks of the then non-racial South African Rugby Union for their cooperation with the “white” governing body.

“He had a different political vision, not necessarily a different goal, about the path he had to walk to get to the destination. He, like John the Baptist, paved the way for South Africa to be able to undergo the transformation we have had since,” Snyman put it into perspective.

“It was a choice of two political paths. One was a revolutionary path and the other one of cooperation. Dougie walked the path of cooperation.

“Dougie and Dr Craven are the two people who were the core in terms of the practical implementation of white, brown and black people being able to play rugby together.”

– Adapted from Netwerk24