South Africa has come a long way in unifying our sport but we sometimes forget about the people that fought for our sport to be able to compete on the world stage.
Avril Fillies rugby coach and writer tells us more about Yusuf (Jowa) Abrahams.
He is an executive member of the Chris Burger/Petro Jackson Fund the past 26 years, and also played rugby and cricket in the apartheid era with Rushdi and Saait Magiet as well as the late Salie Fredericks.
When rugby was unified in 1992 the South African Rugby Union (Saru) appointed Yusuf (Jowa) Abrahams, Peter Jooste and Dr Ismail Jakoet to serve on the Chris Burger/Petro Jackson Fund.
The two Funds merged to form one under the auspices of Morne du Plessis, a team mate of Chris Burger, and Jowa still serves as a trustee and on the Executive Committee.
“As a past player it is an honour and great pleasure to serve on the Fund as it sees to the welfare of players who were seriously injured in a rugby match. The Fund and all the trustees under the leadership of Morne do tremendous work in the rehabilitation of seriously injured players and caring for them,” Jowa said.
Jowa is a teacher at heart and while he was still playing rugby and cricket for the club Primrose he was always involved in the administration of the game at club and school level.
He learned from the best at Primrose, the late Nazeem Kariel, one of the best club administrators and at City and Suburban Rugby Unionr from JB Page, Ben Groepes, Cecil Lategan and Herman Abrahams.
“I matriculated in 1960 at Livingstone High in Claremont, Cape Town, and obtained my Teachers Certificate at Hewat Training College in Athlone.
Only in 1970 I completed my Higher Education Diploma in physical education and sports management, also at Hewat, m BA in 1980 at UWC and my B Ed in 1987 at UCT.
I started teaching in 1963 at Oaklands High in Lansdowne as a teacher and rugby coach. Other schools that I taught at Mimosa Primary in Bonteheuwel, Athlone High and I was the principal at Lavender Hill High,” he said.
Through the years he advised rugby and cricket players to get an education while they are playing as there are no certainties in life and injuries may affect their future plans.
“I strongly believe that you need to have a skill/education after rugby.
There are many walking around who cannot find gainful employment. We are all aware of the gangsterism in Lavender Hill and I am still involved with my ex-school and serve on the Friends of Lavender Hill High Development Fund.
My dream is to assist students at Lavender Hill High in furthering their careers. I am always filled with pride when I see so many of them succeeding in life,” he said.
He was born and bred in Claremont and started playing rugby at school level. He joined Violets Rugby Club in 1961 and then Primrose in 1963, when Violets disbanded until 1988.
“All sportspeople played rugby in the winter and cricket in the summer and I played both for Primrose as the flank and number eight and City and Suburban until the late 1970’s.
I also represented the former Saru as the number 8 in 1968. Cities toughest opponents in the SA Cup Competition was Western Province, based at ehe Green Point Track, but we beat them in 1967 in the Rhodes final.
Fatty Bohardien of WP was one of the best No. 8’s and was much older than I.
He was a good tackler and ball handler. Vincent Petersen was another good player. Salie Fredericks was the player everyone talked about as Saru and WP captain.
He was always the most decent player like on the field while instructing the others to ‘take on the opposition’. All great players from that era,” Jowa said.
When he retired he still played Veterans rugby but soon stopped because of injuries.
“My wife Cass bought me a fishing rod and I was all excited for a few months but with a few small fish caught, I did not take to it. She eventually gave my rod away.
I tried my hand at golf, another birthday present from the wife but after two knee replacements and a spine fusion, I did not continue. She is more famous than me and I am used to being introduced as Cass’s husband,” he chuckled.
Many of the goals discussed at the unification talks in 1992 in Kimberley have been achieved but according to Jowa the process is still ongoing and regrettably there is not buy-in and participation from many of the former rugby stalwarts.
“The current crop of rugby players are not aware of the blood, sweat and tears we spilled for them to enjoy the benefits today. Sadly there is still a big chasm in the different communities about the roles of players of he past.
Many are not aware of the roles of those who sacrificed so much as they were not marketed by the media and even today are still “our forgotten heroes”.
Those players of colour at the top of the ladder should never forget where they come from as there are not many role models in these communities. Most have move to the more affluent areas and forgot the roots.”
More should be done about womens rugby, although there are only a few clubs in the different provinces where women’s rugby is played.
Transformation (a radical change in what was to the ideal with equal opportunities for all) in SA sport is a serious issue as we
try to address the inequalities of the past. Sadly the process is taking very long although much progress has been made. There are still a large segment in our rugby community who feel that they have been marginalised,” Jowa said.
On a question which rugby rule he would change if he was afforded the opportunity he said he would change the scrum rules.
“World Rugby is doing everything possible to make rugby a safer game but perhaps the scrum rules need to be looked at as many players still get seriously injured at many levels.
Most of my memorable moments were certainly at City Park. I played with great rugby players at City Park like the Magiet brothers, Rashied Conrad, Joey George, Keith Lentor, Maurice Heemro, Donkey Ford, Godfrey Darries, Omar Cassiem and Eric van Vuuren, Gerard Peters ,Les Twigg amongst others. Rushdi and Saait played with me for Primrose cricket club, as well as Dicky Conrad, and we played at Rosmead and Wynberg.
“I have no regrets about my life thus far. I have lived a fulfilling life in the education and sports arena, both at school and senior level and am grateful to the Almighty that I have been able to make contributions to the community at different levels.
Another highlight in my personal life was organizing and bringing players together shortly after unity and a milestone and then ensuring South Africa participate at the annual Rugby World Classic in Bermuda and later organising the tour to Japan. The Bermuda tour is still ongoing after the groundwork others and I laid,” Jowa said.
He has three children – two daughters and a son, and two grandsons.
His son is a chef in Germany, one daughter is involved with food like her mother and the eldest one is in the theatre and acting field.