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Who are the members of the Springbok minyan?

  • Ockey Geffin 49
There have been 10 Jewish rugby players who have represented South Africa in rugby Tests. ​
by JACK MILNER | Nov 30, 2017

Morris Zimmerman was the first. He attended Jansenville High School in the Eastern Cape which was an Afrikaans medium school and made his debut on December 5, 1931. He played in four Tests and the team won all four. He later became a Springbok selector.

Fred Smollan was No 2. He was born in Uitenhage and attended Grey High School, making his debut on August 12, 1933. He was selected for three Tests in the 1933 home series against Australia. They won two and lost the Test in Bloemfontein. Smollan went on to found the Smollan Group of companies, still operating today.

Louis Babrow was No 3 and Zimmerman's cousin. He made his debut on June 26 1937. He was born in Smithfield in the Free State and attended Grey College. He played five Tests, winning four of them. with the only loss coming against the All Blacks at Athletic Park in Wellington. But they did win the 1937 series in New Zealand.

Babrow was chosen for the final, series-deciding Test of the 1937 Springbok tour of New Zealand. The Test fell on Yom Kippur but Babrow decided to play, arguing that with the time difference, he would have played the game before the start of the holiday in South Africa.

Dr Cecil Moss was next. The Springbok vice-captain in 1949 when the Springboks beat the All Blacks 4-0 in a series (the only four he played in), he went on to later become Springbok coach. He loved his rugby and was closely involved with UCT rugby. He was born in Riversdale and educated at SACS and passed away in October this year.

Okey Geffin was born in Johannesburg and schooled at the Harris School. He represented South Africa seven times, winning all seven Tests, including four consecutive Tests against the All Blacks, where he played alongside Cecil Moss. The family name was originally Galombik, but when his father arrived by ship in Cape Town from Poneves in Russia, there was a wanted sign for a horse thief called Galombik. Okey's father gave his second name, Gavin, and stopped there. From his pronunciation he was then registered  as Geffin.

The name, according to his father, originated when the clerk registering the birth asked him for his son's "Christian name". His father explained that he did not have a Christian name as he was a Jewish "okey". That is what the clerk wrote down.

Joseph “Joe” Kaminer was born in Warmbaths (now Bela Bela) and schooled in Pietersburg (now Polokwane). He played a single Test for the Boks, making his debut on August 16 1958, with the Boks losing against France at Ellis Park. Kaminer played for Wits and Transvaal.

Professor Alan Menter was born in Doncaster and his medical achievements were many. He represented the Springboks in 1968 while studying at Wits University medical school. He completed his dermatology residency at Pretoria General Hospital at the University of Pretoria. Menter made his debut on the successful Springbok tour of France, both matches being won by the Boks. He played his provincial rugby for the Blue Bulls.

Then there was Syd Nomis, the most capped Jewish player with 25 Tests. He was the favourite of Afrikaans commentator Gerhard Viviers, whose calls of "Sydie, Sydie, Sydie" every time Nomis darted down the wing to score, were legendary. Nomis was born in Johannesburg and schooled at Damelin College. He made his Springbok debut on August 12 1967 against France at Newlands. Of his 25 Tests, he won 16 and played in a remarkable five drawn matches. Three of his four losses were in one-off matches and he was on the winning side in every series he played.

Dr Wilf Rosenberg may very well be the most controversial of our Jewish Boks. Born in Cape Town and schooled at Jeppe, he made his debut on August 20, 1955, all in all, playing five Tests for South Africa, winning two, drawing one and losing two. The controversy surrounding him came about through his decision to go to the UK to play rugby league, a heresy at the time, that caused severe ructions in those amateur days.

The 10th man is Joel Stransky who booted himself into history, and legendary status, from a single inspired action that took no longer than a heartbeat. The Springbok flyhalf locked on to a pass from Joost van der Westhuizen in the dying minutes of extra time to decisively take the drop kick that won South Africa the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

Stransky was born in Johannesburg and schooled in Pietermaritzburg. He played 22 Tests, winning 16.

All in all, Jewish players have played 78 Tests for South Africa, winning 57, drawing six and losing 15.

 

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