Rugby in Botswana (70's and 80's)
by Paul Ward
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.