Happy birthday George Daneel!
George Daneel was born in Calvinia on 29 August 1904, the son of Dominee Marthinus Daneel.
George played for South Africa in 1928 and on the tour to the UK and Ireland in 1931-21, then he abruptly stopped playing for religious reasons.
In 1929 he had met Dr Frank Buchanan, the American theologian who had started Moral Rearmament through which spiritual upliftment would be a bigger weapon than the destructive weaponry of World War I.
On the 1931-32 tour he was able to meet others of Moral Rearmament, especially the Oxford Group, and from then on his life changed.
"Till then rugby had ruled my life," George said, "but after listening to Dr Buchanan I realised that it was more important to try and help others.
Moral Rearmament helped me apply the moral standards of Christianity in my own life. It is based on four essential standards - honesty, purity, unselfishness and love, which form the basic moral standards."
Not only did he stop playing rugby when he was at the top of his considerable prowess but he spent the rest of his days working as a minister of religion, his life based on strict principles.
It has been a healthy life. He has never had a day’s illness, though his knees started to give him trouble a couple of years ago, which meant that "I can't jog any more or play tennis".
George Daneel's days as a Springbok were part of the Golden Age of Springbok rugby, and he as very much a first-choice Springbok, never dropped from the team after he was chosen for the first Test against the 1928 All Blacks.
He was a big, fast loose forward. He played in all four tests in 1928 and then went on the Springbok tour to the UK and Ireland in 1931-32. Again he played in all four tests, South Africa second grand-slam tour (of four in succession) to the Four Home Unions.
In 1928 the Springbok shared the series with New Zealand. In 1931 the Springboks lost just one match – to Midland Counties.
Daneel scored a try in the Welsh test in 1931. He remembers it as a tough match.
"The All Blacks were not as tough as the Welsh miners," he said.
The try was spectacular.
Daneel remembers that it was a week of grand weather down at Porthcawl before the test as the Springboks rested and played golf. Then on the match day the heavens opened. It was day for dribbling the slithery wet leather ball, a day when Gerrie Brand at fullback nearly froze and a day when Osler's boot kept the Welsh pinned in their half during the second half.
"They did not get into our half."
The Springboks were down 3-0 when wing Jack Morley tried to clear for touch. He did not find touch. Daneel picked the ball out of the mud and kicked ahead. The ball bounced high. The match reports says: "George Daneel appeared from nowhere, catching the ball in mid air and scoring a magnificent try near the goal-posts, which Brand failed to convert."
In his version Daneel "dribbled the ball over the line and fell on it".
"After the Wales Test there was a huge bath. We all got into it to get warm."
There is a true story of Daneel in the heat of a battle in Wales. He called to the Springboks in Afrikaans: "Fellows, hit and kick if you must but in heaven's name stop the blasphemy."
Daneel came of a religious family. Apart from his father the dominee, Daneel was related through his mother to the Murrays, the Kerk Murrays as they are known in the Karroo. The Murray in his name is from the famous Murray family, revered amongst Dutch Reformed people to this day. His mother. Charlotte Daneel, was the niece of Dr Andrew Murray. He was one of seven children.
Apart from religion there was also rugby in the family. His father had played for Stellenbosch against the 1891 tourists, nearly scoring a try in his side's 2-0 victory but the tourists' captain WEG Maclagan beat him in a "maul in goal", thus preventing the try.
Henry Daneel, who played for South Africa on the 1906-07 tour was his uncle and Louis Louw of the 1912-13 tour his cousin.
When his father was at Victoria West, also in the Karoo, he went to the local school but in his final year he was forced to go elsewhere as he was the only pupil left in matric and the "standard was poor". His father sent him off to Robertson "because the boarding there was cheapest".
He played halfback in the successful school side - scrum-half on the left-hand side of the field, fly-half on the right.
From Robertson his father, an ex-Matie, sent George to the University of Cape Town where his studious brother Alec was. George intended to study theology but spent the two years there (1922 and 1923) playing sport and failed. "I plugged all my exams."
He played scrum-half for UCT "but I realised I had no future as a scrum-half and moved to eighthman".
Off he went to Stellenbosch where he completed his final year of theology in 1929 but "sport was my life".
Then he became an assistant minister ("hulpprediker") in Calvinia, his father's first congregation.
After the 1931-32 he gave up rugby, though from time to time he coached and played tennis well into his Nineties.
He travelled much and was the chief chaplain to the South African Forces in World War II. He played a match then.
There was a big army base in Potchefstroom at the time, and all but three or four of the Western Transvaal team were soldiers. Daneel coached them.
They were to play Transvaal when Nic Bierman became ill and Daneel was persuaded to captain and play for Western Transvaal. "We nearly beat them." he said. "We would have, if it hadn't been for Floors Duvenhage."
After World War II he and his wife Joey were in Pretoria for 30 years and then in South West Africa, as Namibia then was, for seven years, doing MRA work.
He still has contact with people in Namibia, many of them community leaders, such as Peter Kalangula and Dirk Mudge.
Much of his work in Moral Rearmament brought him into conflict with the government of the day and he suffered the sharp edge of the tongue of Prime Minister John Vorster in 1978.
His wife Joey died in May 1998 after 57 years of marriage.
George Daneel is still clear of mind, still the good-looking man he always was, eyes still bright blue, skin still clear and hardly lined, slightly stooped, using a hearing air, slightly hoarse but absolutely clear and a man of great courtesy.
Here are some of his memories:
1928 and the All Blacks
"When I was first at Stellenbosch we packed 3-2-3. We changed to 3-4-1 around 1924 or 1925. When I played for Western Province in 1925 we packed 3-4-1."
"The last Test in 1928 was very wet and muddy. The All Blacks used to pack with seven forwards, 2-2-3. But they realised seven could not match eight. They would go down with seven and wait and see which side the scrumhalf was going to put the ball in. Then the other forward would run round and pack on the loosehead side, and so they won practically every scrum."
"In the third Test they still packed with seven. We had a scrum five yards from their line. Phil Mostert said: 'Now's our chance. Shove, chaps, shove.' We kept the ball in the scrum and pushed them over the line. I put my hand on it but the referee, Knoppies Neser, did not award the try. So I picked the ball up and put it down again. Then he awarded the try."
"Against the All Blacks in the second Test in 1928 they had a scrum half way between the 25 and the goal-line. As soon as the ball was out I stood up to decide whether to defend or attack. They went blind to Grenside, their fast, strong wing. I tackled him into the crowd five yards from our line.
"I learnt to tackle at UCT. We got little possession and so our game was defensive all the time."
"We had no vice-captain in 1928. Phil Mostert led the forwards. He was regarded as too old but he was a marvellous forward."
"We had a great pack in those days. Phil Mostert and Boy Louw were the props. Bert Kipling just had to put his foot forward to hook. Flip Nel and Ferdie Bergh were the locks.
"Our backs were not so good. Bennie kicked too much in 1931 and JC was not the player he had been in 1928.
"The only outstanding centre we had was Geoff Gray but Morris Zimerman was phenomenal on the wing.
"Bennie couldn't communicate."
"Stanley Osler was different from Bennie. He was a brilliant player and an outstanding man. He was crocked in 1928."
"On the Wednesday before the second Test in 1928 we went out onto Ellis Park to train. We trotted for half the field and then sprinted the second half till we were exhausted. It was a cold day and we ran before we were warm. Jack Slater and Stanley Osler tore muscles and missed the Test.
"We got replacements - Neville Tod up from Natal and Jack Dobie but they didn't come up to scratch.
Gerrie Brand played on the wing. He kicked a cross kick which landed just this side of the goal-line. Nick Pretorius and I were there. He went for the ball and knocked on.
"Oubaas Markötter always taught us to go beyond the ball and turn."
The way they played
"In those days there was no gap in the line-outs and no lifting. You stood shoulder to shoulder and it was every man for himself.
"The scrumhalf threw the ball into the line-out. He had to run to the side of the line-out in case the ball came out."
"Then you were not allowed to fumble, the hooker was not allowed to be foot up and the scrumhalf had to put the ball in straight.
"Off-side was always a difficulty. If you dribbled you had to be careful not to get in front of the ball. If you did you had to come right round from the back.
"We went by ship in 1931. We were given cabins. I was to share a cabin with Phil Mostert. He went to Theo Pienaar and said: 'What have you got against me? Why have you put me in with the predikant?
"In fact we got on well."
On the 1931-32 tour there were five loose forwards. Daneel and André MacDonald played in all four Tests.
"In the first Test we played Nic Bierman. He was no good. In the second Test Alvi van der Merwe played. He was no good. In the third Test Lucas Strachan came in. He was brilliant with his speed and his strength."
"Western Province beat the All Blacks in 1928. It was a wonderful game, the best of the tour. Even the All Blacks agreed."
"When we played Swansea, we led 10-0 at half-time. In the second half we played the man instead of the ball. There was lots of fighting. That's when I cried out to our people in Afrikaans: 'In heaven's name stop swearing so much.'"
Danie Craven told the story slightly differently - that Daneel told them to hit if they had to but stop the cursing.
"Nobody coached the Springboks or Western Province in my day. The only coaches in South Africa were in the clubs. On the 1931 tour Theo Pienaar was our manager. The only other non-player was the baggage master."
The big characters of his playing days were Phil Mostert, Boy Louw, Bennie Osler, Gerry Brand and Danie Craven. Morris Zimerman was a loner but brilliant. Flip Nel was a fine fellow - a man of influence."
In his tribute to the Legends of Springbok Rugby, written in 1989, Danie Craven, team-mate and university friend, said this:
"George Daneel and I stayed in the same hostel when we were students at Stellenbosch. A particular affinity developed between the staff and the students of Wilgenhof and we never lost that camaraderie.
"I always admired George and it was perhaps indirectly though him that I was spotted by Oubaas Markötter.
"During my first year I was selected to play in the second team against the first team as the first team scrumhalf hadn't pitched up and it was George who reminded Mr Markötter how well I had played in the Under-19 trials.
"During the practice game George broke through and I tackled him hard. He looked at me and said: 'Well done.'
"When we got back to the hostel my fellow students chaffed me and said: 'We believe you had the temerity to tackle a Springbok.'”Fact File:
Name: George Murray Daneel
Birth: Calvinia, 29 August 1904
Parents: Ds Marthinus Smuts Daneel who died in 1937 and Charlotte Louise Daneel, née Murray who died in 1916.
Wife: Johanna Daneel, née Stolp
Children: Johanna Charlotte Philips, née Daneel, Marie Louise Syene, née Daneel, Suzan Marguerite Burrell, née Daneel
International career: 1928-32: 8 tests
Provinces: Western Province, Transvaal, Western Transvaal
Clubs: UCT, Stellenbosch, Garrison
Occupation: Minister of religion
School: Robertson Boys' High School
University: UCT, Stellenbosch