Louis Babrow came from a small place in the Free State called Smithfield, later attended Grey College and UCT, but he never forgot his rural background.
Early on in his career he had trouble with his hands, strange as it may seem for a centre of his calibre. But on board ship in 1937, Gerry Brand and I took him in hand and told him how to catch and pass the ball.
I can still see him strolling around the deck practising what we had preached and, by gad, on that tour he never dropped a pass.
During a hectic tour such as that of 1937, when heaven and hell alternated almost on a daily basis, Springboks are moulded into a family. Yet each player retained his individuality. Before the last and deciding test against New Zealand that year, Louis came to me in a worried state. It was so unlike him for he was always cheerful and up to something. My immediate thought was that he had received bad news from home; something one always dreaded on tour. Instead he told me that the test was being played on a very important Jewish sacred day and that his father in particular, and the Jews in general would never forgive him if he played. What to do? I knew that we could not do without him, for he was unstoppable. We could find no substitute and no solution. Before the test he came to me in an exuberant state, however, and couldn't wait to tell me that he had found the answer.
"I'm a South African Jew, not a New Zealand Jew and New Zealand time is eight hours before South Africa in time" he blurted out. "When we are playing, our holy day will not yet have dawned in South Africa." So he played, as well as only he could.
After the match my opponent at scrumhalf went up to Louis and said: "I believe you're Jewish. So am I. Shake."
Unfortunately South Africa never saw Babrow at his best, for shortly after the tour, he left to continue his medical studies at Guy's Hospital in London, later captaining their rugby side and the Barbarians.
When he returned from Guy's during the early war years he joined the Medical Corps and was originally posted to Voortrekkerhoogte. We were not slow in selecting him for Northern Transvaal.
Louis was a bit rusty but he improved as the game progressed. Behind me sat one or two infernal racists who let Louis have it, notwithstanding my objections. "They should never have selected that bloody Babrow. He's useless and he probably got all the publicity because he's Jewish and so are the sports-writers".
But as Louis improved and struck his brilliant New Zealand form, actually seeing to it that Northern Transvaal won, they changed their tune. "Hell, he is good, Jewish or not."
Louis was a truly great Springbok, playing in five tests and scoring three tries. His personal courage also earned him great distinction during World War II.