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Cecil Moss’ impact on SA rugby ‘broad and immense’

  • JackSportMoss
Anybody who watched the Currie Cup final between the Sharks and Western Province at King’s Park on Saturday, would have noticed that as the teams lined up, a minute silence was observed for Dr Cecil Moss, who passed away last Friday at the age of 92.
by JACK MILNER | Nov 02, 2017

Dr Moss was a member of what was called the “Jewish Minyan” - the 13 Jewish Springbok rugby players - and in 2015, at the age of 90, he became the oldest living Springbok when Piet Malan died.

Tributes have come from all over the world for a man who played four Tests for the Boks and in the 1980s became a Springbok coach. He had a major impact on the lives of many Jews connected with rugby, including referee Jonathan Kaplan and current Israel coach Kevin Musikanth.

“When All Black Colin Meads died in August, people compared his loss to a big tree having fallen,” said Kaplan on Tuesday from Canada. (Meads was known as Pinetree.) “I feel the same way about Doc Moss, not because of stature, but because of what he achieved in three different fields of rugby - player, coach and selector.

“While there are others who have done the same, it is a rare achievement and should be celebrated by not only the Jewish community, but the entire South African rugby community,” says Kaplan.

Musikanth, who is currently with the Israel XV, was very close to Moss. “He was a great mentor to me as a previous coach of UCT and always had time for me when I needed advice during my campaign, coaching UCT for the Varsity Cup in 2014 and 2015.

“His razor-sharp rugby know-how and gentle care for all, made him a perfect coaching role-model. I will never forget my afternoon teas with Doc Moss during the high-pressure moments as UCT coach, and also his continuous belief in me as their coach.

“His memory and inspiration will live on.”

Former SA cricket captain Ali Bacher, called Moss “the most illustrious Jewish Springbok”.

He said: “His achievements were phenomenal. He played in four tests, coached the national team and was a national selector. He was also an anaesthetist and a member of the Chris Barnard team that performed the first heart transplants.”

Even at the age of 90 his mind was as sharp as a proverbial razor blade. In 2012 he released a book called “Doc Moss, My Life In Rugby!”.

He ended his Springbok career with an unblemished record of four wins although, with his customary humility, he said: “All of our games were at home and we had a very good team. The scores were very close and there were no easy wins.”

He played those tests under two captains who are legends in Springbok history, Basil Kenyon and Felix du Plessis, father of another Bok captain, Morné.

Dr Danie Craven - who was close to Moss - always used to say all successful Springbok teams needed a Jewish player. If that was the case, it was clear why the 1949 team was so successful - they had two!

“Okey Geffen was also in that team, but of course he was a top forward from Transvaal and I was a Western Province wing, so we had a great rivalry,” said Moss. “Later I got to know him better and of course, he was a very nice man.”

Moss explained that his interest in rugby started when he was “a little Jewish boy in Muizenberg. We used to run a lot on the beach and I attended SACS, so I played at school level. At university I continued to play and when I was in the army I played for 6th Division in Italy.

“When I came back I finished my medical degree and then went to (then) Natal to complete my internship. It was then I was called up to the Springbok team.”

Not only was he on Barnard’s team that performed the first heart transplant, but in 1979 he was the anaesthetist at Woodstock Hospital for a medical procedure on a prisoner from Robben Island - Nelson Mandela.

He coached UCT from 1966 to 1976, Western Province in 1972 and 1973 and the Springboks from 1982 to 1989 and was a Springbok selector for those years.

Kevin’s campaign with Israel’s Rugby XV hits a snag

Israel’s campaign to move up into the higher rugby echelons took a dip at the weekend when they went down 17-32 to Croatia in their second match of the Rugby Europe International Championship qualifying games.

A week earlier they beat Andorra 27-22 after leading 7-5 at half-time. Both were away games for the Israelis.

However, according to their South African coach, Kevin Musikanth, all is not lost. “A lot depends on how the other teams do, but we do have to win our next two matches against Bosnia and Malta.”

At least the final two matches will be played in Israel but, as Musikanth points out, Malta has a very good team.

Musikanth coached the South African team at the Maccabi Games in July. The Israelis liked the idea of having a top rugby coach who is also Jewish, and they offered him the opportunity to coach their 15-man team for this campaign.

Currently Israel plays in the South Division of the FIRA Championship Division Two and if they are to progress to the next level, they will have to win the whole division.

That means they need to finish top of the South Section which includes Andorra, Croatia, Bosnia and Malta. If they achieve that, they then have to play off against the winner of the North Section, which comprises Latvia, Sweden, Hungary, Lithuania and Ukraine.

Musikanth joined the team on October 10 and says he has little to complain about after the first match.

“I’m very happy with the way in which they played in the match against Andorra,” he said. “They had a new coach and then five players who are overseas met up with us in Andorra. They then produced a solid defensive game which shows they are buying in and are committed to the programme.

“We are now working on finishing as we dominated possession and territory, but just didn’t seem able to finish. We also need consistency at the line-outs, but overall there were many more positives than negatives.”

Musikanth received his cap at an official capping ceremony, but typical of Israel, the “cap” turned out to be a kova tembel.

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