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Rugby Club


The old University of Port Elizabeth Rugby Club was established in 1965. Mr.G.J. van Vollenhoven (Oom Vollie) was elected as the first president of the Club. Only 18 playing members registered.

During the first year of existence only friendly fixtures were played. The first ever rugby game was played against a team from SA Police at the Police grounds. UPE won 14 – 8 and P. Owen scored the first ever try for UPE in an official rugby game. Springbok Popey Strydom was the first official First Team coach.

Not having own facilities the club mainly played away fixtures and made use of the facilities of Technical High School, Westview and the Olympics B field.

In 1966 the Club official entered two teams in the league. The First XV entered in the Three B-league and the Under 20 team in the U 20 A-league. The First XV also became the first ever cup winners by winning the 3-B-league (Second Round).

September 16, 1967 was another historical first when UPE played Rhodes in an “intervarsity” match at the famous St. Georges Cricket Grounds also famous for hosting the first ever rugby test in South Africa. The UPE First XV played the Rhodes second team and comfortably won 18-11 and the U 20 team won by 22-6. The first official Intervarsity took place on 18 May 1968 at Rhodes in Grahamstown and Rhodes won by 30 – 3. UPE again lost in 1969 but then dominated Intervarsity and has only lost four times in the last 35 clashes between these two universities. The record score set by UPE was the 58-8 win at the turn of the last century in 2000.

The First ever rugby tour undertaken by the Club was during the Easter Holidays in 1968. Two teams toured to Somerset East(won 44-3) ,Cradock(won6-3) and Graaff-Reinette(lost6-9). The second team won all their games

The first players to represent the Eastern Province Senior Provincial team were Hannes Marais, Eben Olivier and Tertius Delport. Kokkie Rall, B. Penn and JC DE Villiers were the first EP U 20 representatives.

In 1970 the Club gained full senior status and surprised friend and foe by coming second in the League. On June 9, 1970 the Club also played the first ever game in the inter-universities competition for the Ted Sceales Trophy and beat Wits by 18-6.

This was also the year the Club had the first Springbok when Hannes Marais represented the Boks against the All Blacks. Hannes also captained the Springboks to Australia in 1971 when the side known as “The Invincibles” were unbeaten on that Tour.

The Club also moved to the new Summerstrand campus in 1971 and construction of the Grand Stand on the A field was started.

In 1972 the Under 20 teams won the U20 A and B sections of the league for the first time and became the dominant force in these leagues in the domestic competition.

The Club won the Super League Grand Challenge in 1981 for the first time and again in 1982 and.

At administrative level the Club also excelled. Hannes Jacobs who served the Club for ten years as coach and president was the first member to be elected as Senior Provincial selector in 1971. Professor Koos Vermaak was also selected as member of the executive of the South African Universities Rugby Union.

Hannes Jacobs also became the first member of the Club to serve on the SARFU Executive in 1974. Professor Koos Vermaak became the first member to serve as president of the EPRFU in 1990. He was followed by Trevor Jennings who served as President of the Union in 1992.

In 2005 the University of Port Elizabeth, Port Elizabeth Technikon and Vista University merged to form the new Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and is now Nelson Mandela University.  The club changed its name to the Nelson Mandela University Rugby Club and the head quarters remained at the old UPE Rugby Stadium now known as the Madibaz Stadium, Nelson Mandela University South Campus. The first ever Xhosa president Mr Odwa Mtati, who was also Chairman of the SA Students Rugby Executive at the time was elected as President of the new Club. From the start the Club dominated the EPRU Super League and won all the trophies in the competitions entered in all divisions and age group categories in 2005 and 2006. The Club also represented the EPRU in the National Club Championships winning the Plate Competition in 2006. In 2006 the Club qualified for the SA Universities Top 8 Championships and came second losing to PUKKE in the finals at Potchefstroom.

This season the Club will field three senior teams and one under 21 team in the Super League competitions of the EPRU. The Club has an Inter- Residence competition of 6 teams playing in two competitions, the Binky Du Preez Cup and the Presidents Cup. The Club annually participate in the USSA National Rugby Tournament and the FNB Varsity Cup.