You need to upgrade your Flash Player
Choose your Blue Bulls Edition
My Profile  |  Logout
Neil Steyn

The sports journalist, Neil Steyn, who has been writing about the Blue Bulls for 50 years set aside a few minutes to speak to the Bulls' website.

How did you get involved with sport journalism?

I enrolled at Tukkies in 1956 to study Agriculture and after playing for the under 19s for two years I started training with the senior teams in 1958. Fritz Ferreira was coaching the Fezelas and he was a sports writer for the Transvaler. I was selected at loosehead prop for the Fezelas and later on Fritz asked me to help him with a few stories.

Throughout me student days I worked with Fritz and I was also writing for Tuks' newspaper 'Die Perdeby".

Did you ever pursue a career in Agriculture?

No, although I obtained my agriculture degree in 1960.

The world renowned stock breeder Jan Bontsma, who was one of my lecturers called me in and told me that the Johannesburg newspaper "Die Vaderland" called him and asked about me.

He told me in no uncertain terms that I am a useless scientist, his exact words were "jy is nie 'n wetenskaplike se gat nie" and he told me I mustn't follow a career where I am going to be in a lab all the time.

Did you then start working for the Vaderland?

Yes but not for long.

I hiked to Johannesburg where I teamed up with the former Transvaal captain John du Toit who was also working for the Vaderland.

I started playing for Diggers but after a short time I was back in Pretoria were I continued to work as a sports writer as well as a crime scene reporter for the Transvaler.

When did you become a full time sports writer?

I got a permanent position with the 'Die Transvaler' in 1963 and I work for them until 1993 when the paper closed down.

I mostly worked on rugby, cricket and boxing but I did some athletics as well, although I never really liked athletics.

I loved club rugby and I remember the days when matches between Pretoria Police and Tukkies drew 10'000 – 15'000 spectators.

Did you ever play club rugby in Pretoria?

Oh yes.

After my student days I played for Oostelikes where we had a wonderful team. I was loosehead and Louis Luyt was my lock with Louis Strydom packing down behind me at flank.

Cor Dirksen was our wing and I remember playing alongside men such as Loffie Fourie, Andre van Tonder, Pikkie Fourie, Mac van Vuuren, Ben Hattingh and Johan Strydom.

We won the Carlton in 1963 and 1964.

Was Louis Luyt any good?

Louis was a brilliant lock.

He was very tough and I remember to this day the match in 1960 when he was playing for the Free State against the All Blacks. He was ruthless that day and played a magnificent match.

Who were some of the characters in club rugby that you got to know over the years?

Oelof de Meyer, who is a famous advocate, was a great character off the field. He played fullback for Tuks and Quins and is still the same today as he was in his younger days.

Other guys that stood out were Len Gerber, who played flyhalf for Police, Butch van Wyk, Lucas Strachan and Mof Myburgh.

Butch played scrumhalf for Tuks and Quins and I believed to this day he was good enough to play for the Springboks.

Mof on the other hand was a real classic on and off the field. He was at his best when he recited poetry while watching over the see after a few drinks. He was a real treat and most of the time he was reciting the poems he had just made up.

What about Frik du Preez?

Frik was most probably the biggest character of them all.

He was an absolute magnificent rugby player but he never cared too much when there was nothing in a game. He wanted to play when there was something to play for and I remember that he didn't like it at all to humiliate a team with 50 or 60 points. A 20 point win was good enough for him because he did not get any joy from disgracing an opponent.

Another thing I remember was his great speed. One time he was anchoring a relay team and he received the button at the same time as the SA 110m hurdles champion. We all thought that the athlete (it was a black man, but I can't remember his name) was going to show him a clean pair of heals, but to our astonishment Frik managed to out-sprint him.

What about the other tough men?

Two stand out. One is Moaner van Heerden and the other is Piet Kruger.

Moaner was a real toughie and Piet was known as "Die sterk man van Brits."

Who of the coaches impressed you?

Ernst Dinkelmann coached me a Tuks and he was just brilliant and I think he was far ahead of his time. His coaching methods were extraordinary and he also coached me at Oostelikes.

Buurman van Zyl was a great friend and he knew how to treat people and how to get the best out of his players.

He was a very devoted Christian and I remember we once had a spat about a player but soon after that he came to make peach. We were in the same church and he said it is not right that we fight over a player and then celebrate Holy Communion (nagmaal) a few days later. I loved him and I was one of the guys who carried his coffin on his funeral.

If you could select a Blue Bulls team from the best players over the last 50 years, how will it look?

It is a difficult question because rugby has changed so much during the course of the years, but people ask me that question quite often and I will gladly answer it

15 Johan Heunis – but I was also a great fan of Pierre Edwards
14 Ray Mordt
13 Mannetjies Roux
12 Graham Thorne
11 Bryan Habana
10 Naas Botha
9 Joost van der Westhuizen
8 Wynand Claassen – he will be my captain
7 Theuns Stofberg
6 Burger Geldenhuys
5 Victor Matfield
4 Frik du Preez
3 Mof Myburg
2 Uli Schmidt
1 Jaap Bekker

What was the biggest change when the game turned professional in 1995?

In the old days all the players had to work and they could only train once a day. Nowadays the guys train two to three times per day and the results is that they are much stronger and fitter.

Things from a media perspective were also way different. We were very close to the team and we use to go the change rooms after the games to celebrate a victory with the team. We were friends with the players and coaches but that is not the case anymore. There is a work relationship between the team and the media, but nothing more.

How do you keep yourself busy nowadays?

I enjoy my life with my wife Jeanne in Waterkloof and I love to watch sport on TV. I follow all the rugby action and enjoy cricket and boxing too.

I still do a bit of work for a few newspapers and on the sideline I have a garden service business.

Recent Columns

  • Werner Kruger
  • Prof Fritz Eloff
  • Daan Swiegers
  • Neil Steyn
  • Brian Jones
  • Dr Org Strauss
  • John Mametsa
  • Denzil Frans
  • Cornell Hess
  • Pieter Rossouw
  • Wynie Strydom
  • Wilhelm Steenkamp
  • Bryan Habana
  • Tim Dlulane
  • The president of the Blue Bulls, Boet Fick
  • Print