Rugby in Botswana (70's and 80's)

by Paul Ward
(UK)

Botswana rugby flourished in the 1970s and 80s.

I came to Gaborone in 1975 to work in the Ministry of Finance. Being a keen and committed Rugby player (ex Wakefield RFC and Salisbury RFC, not to mention Broken Hill and Zambia) I soon found the Gabs Rugby scene.

In those days there was a strong expat flavour to the club but there were a lot of locally born players starting to take an interest. I played scrum half there with several people, some of whom are still there, such as Mike Small, Ray Helme, Neil Bolt (Surrey and England Trial), Dave Sanders, Bob Avenall, Dave Hiscock and the illustrious Trumble. Our President and Sponsor was Jimmy Haskins.

We played regularly against the Mafeking, Lobatse, Selebi-Pikwe and other local teams stretching as far across as Krugersdorp and Rustenburg and welcoming the South African teams back to Gabs (Gaborone). Broken Hill Mine RFC from Kabwe in Zambia made a visit, playing against Gabs, Lobatse and Selibe-Phikwe and there was even a full international away against Swaziland, (I missed this with a torn cartilage) but all had a good tour and some good rugby in the Kingdom. We also played the inaugural games away against Selebi Pikwe and Orapa and had a great time with the miners there.

One of the highlights of the season was a visit from the farmers who trailed there cattle down from Maun and then stopped of in the capital for a game of rugby and a few beers.

I left Botswana in 1977 and migrated further across to Mbabane, Swaziland where I stayed until 1982 and I had the good fortune to bring the Swaziland Team to Gaborone in 1981 as Player / Manager. We had a great tour and enjoyed fantastic hospitality from the Botswana players, even winning a couple of games.

One of the big highlights of my rugby career in Gabs was the grassing of the Gabs Club car park to form our first pitch, firstly ploughed up by the ubiquitous Dave Pratchett and the boys from Content Farm.

Great to hear that Rugby flourishes and a Hearty "PULA" to all my friends in Botswana.

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Any rugby players still there?
by: Anonymous

Is anyone still playing the game in Botswana these days. Since I came back to UK I have lost touch with all the friends I had in Gabs and on the mines and it would be nice to know that the Aardvarks are still getting out onto the pitch. Best wishes to all there.

Any rugby players still there?
by: Anonymous

Is anyone still playing the game in Botswana these days. Since I came back to UK I have lost touch with all the friends I had in Gabs and on the mines and it would be nice to know that the Aardvarks are still getting out onto the pitch. Best wishes to all there.

I was there too...
by: Lawrence McNamara

I was there at the start too and was instrumental in getting that car park grassed over being on the committee of the Gabs Club!! That was the time that I sent a spoof letter to Mike Small pretending to come from the MIn. of Ag and Forestry Depts. imposing heavy fines for cutting down the trees along the back edge of the pitch without permission, he was in a blind panic for a few days until I let on it was me. I didn't play any active games for the club but did train with them to keep fit and went to many of the away games. Also, we did arrange on a couple of occasions a wives/girlfriends/ladies tournament.

Wakefield RFC
by: Richard Lowther

Hi Paul, please get in touch about your time at Wakefield. I write a newsletter about the club and would love to hear from you and you may remember some of the names and games I cover. tackler7@yahoo.com or www.leaguerugby.co.uk

Thanks. Richard

Nice one there Paul
by: Tebogo

I play rugby too in Botswana, but not for a long time. I'm still in high school. There has not been a lot of information about when it started in Botswana, but thanks to you now I have the information!

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