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The toughest club of them all

  • By ClintonV
  • September 8, 2017
  • Comments Off on The toughest club of them all

VVictor Matfield, Gavin Varejes and John Smit.

Thhe first time Victor Matfield understood the essence of being a Springbok came in a bus ride from the team’s Umhlanga hotel to King’s Park in 2004.

As they were approaching the venue, he looked out to see a black man wearing a Springbok jersey, wildly waving a Springbok flag. He was in a wheelchair, hollering for all his worth.

The moment instantly crystalised the meaning of the Bok jersey to Matfield, who freely admits that he had craved the cash and the fame that came his way as a Springbok. Until that day. It was a sight that humbled him, and changed him.

Matfield tells the story to illustrate the impact the Springboks have on so many South Africans. “Every time you play, you make a difference.”

He represented his country a record 127 times, a minor miracle given the game’s brutal rate of attrition, not to mention the ever-present politicking.

The great lock forward is one of just 53 people in world rugby to have represented his country more than 100 times. There are just four other South Africans who have done so.

It’s a rare feat indeed: only three of every 1000 Test players go on to crack a century.

Beast Mtawarira plays his 92nd tomorrow; he’s getting closer.

The 100 club is the most exclusive of unions, a gathering of greats that will be certified with the official launch of “Rugby Centurions” in London in November. Jason Leonard, the gnarled prop, will be the only “home” member from England. Others, too, will gather, from an array of places, including Romania, Portugal and Australia.

Neither Bill Gates nor Johann Rupert can crack it: entry is available only to those who have worn their national jersey 100 times

But it’s much less a club than a mission. Quite apart from celebrating these heroes, women players among them, the grouping intends to help fund a foundation dedicated to player welfare, rugby development projects and supporting players and families who have fallen on hard times.

Max Brito, who suffered a catastrophic neck injury during the 1995 Rugby World Cup that left him paralysed, will be among the first beneficiaries.

Unsurprisingly, business titan Gavin Varejes is among the chief architects of the vision. “Anything that puts a light on this great game is worth pursuing,” says the man behind the SA Rugby Legends, and so much else.

John Smit, capped 111 times, proudly says it’s the toughest membership to acquire in the world. He’s had the job of travelling the world and finding the 52 other centurions to share the club’s raison d’etre. “It’s been easier to get my four-year-old to eat breakfast without messing,” he quipped. “Rugby Centurions will give us two things: a platform and an opportunity to give back.”

The response has been warm and enthusiastic, not least from Brett Gosper, the boss man at World Rugby.

The club will be dynamic, shifting and shaping according to requirements. There are plans to host an annual gala dinner where new members will be inducted.  The foundation’s work will be showcased, and the members honoured. There’s a book in the works, too, and a documentary; even a clothing line.

It will be a source of ideas and influence, steered by six magnificent custodians in Philippe Sella, George Gregan, Richie McCaw, Smit, Leonard and Brian O’Driscoll.

The royal stamp of approval will be issued by Prince Albert II, the club’s patron, ensuring the foundation has gravitas and influence beyond the usual margins.

Giants among men (and women) indeed.

In order of Caps received Player Country Date Capped Caps
1 Philippe Sella France 26/6/1994 111
2 David Campese Australia 23/10/1996 101
3 Jason Leonard England 15/2/2003 119
4 George Gregan Australia 31/7/2004 139
5 Fabien Pelous France 12/3/2005 118
6 Donna Kennedy Scotland 18/3/2007 115
7 Stephen Larkham Australia 7/7/2007 102
8 Alessandro Troncon Italy 19/9/2007 101
9 Gareth Thomas Wales 29/9/2007 103
10 Louise Rickard Wales 15/3/2008 112
11 Percy Montgomery South Africa 16/8/2008 102
12 George Smith Australia 18/7/2009 111
13 John Hayes Ireland 27/2/2010 107
14 Brian O’Driscoll Ireland 13/3/2010 141
15 Chris Paterson Scotland 13/3/2010 109
16 John Smit South Africa 21/8/2010 111
17 Victor Matfield South Africa 28/8/2010 127
18 Ronan O’Gara Ireland 6/11/2010 130
19 Stephen Jones Wales 4/6/2011 110
20 Amy Garnett England 13/8/2011 100
21 Richie McCaw New Zealand 24/9/2011 148
22 Mils Muliaina New Zealand 9/10/2011 100
23 Nathan Sharpe Australia 21/10/2011 116
24 Martyn Williams Wales 2/6/2012 104
25 Keven Mealamu New Zealand 20/10/2012 132
26 Andrea Lo Cicero Vaina Italy 9/2/2013 103
27 Tony Woodcock New Zealand 24/8/2013 118
28 Sergio Parisse Italy 16/10/2013 126
29 Martin Castrogiovanni Italy 16/10/2013 119
30 Gethin Jenkins Wales 16/11/2013 134
31 Dan Carter New Zealand 16/11/2013 112
32 Marco Bortolami Italy 1/2/2014 112
33 Adam Jones Wales 14/6/2014 100
34 Mauro Bergamasco Italy 21/6/2014 106
35 Bryan Habana South Africa 6/9/2014 124
36 Jean de Villiers South Africa 13/9/2014 109
37 Adam Ashley-Cooper Australia 18/10/2014 116
38 Paul O’Connell Ireland 14/3/2015 115
39 Rochelle Clark England 21/3/2015 122
40 Vasco Uva Portugal 30/5/2015 101
41 Ma’a Nonu New Zealand 9/10/2015 103
42 Sean Lamont Scotland 10/10/2015 105
43 Alun Wyn Jones Wales 17/10/2015 119
44 Matt Giteau Australia 18/10/2015 103
45 Stephen Moore Australia 18/10/2015 122
46 Ross Ford Scotland 12/11/2016 111
47 Rory Best Ireland 26/11/2016 104
48 Tamara Taylor England 11/2/2017 108
49 Merab Kvirikashvili Georgia 19/2/2017 106
50 Jamie Heaslip Ireland 10/3/2017 100
51 Florin Vlaicu Romania 11/3/2017 104
52 Davit Kacharava Georgia 10/6/2017 102
53 Kieran Read New Zealand 8/7/2017 102




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