Mickey Gerber, the former Springbok fullback and Transvaal captain, died on Friday.
Gerber, who was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer 18 months ago, died five days short of his 70th birthday. Although born and bred in the Eastern Cape — he went to school at Grey High in Port Elizabeth, and played provincial rugby for Eastern Province — Gerber made his mark for Transvaal after moving to Johannesburg in the 1950s.
He played in three Tests, two against the touring French in 1958 and against Scotland in 1960.
Gerber went on to coach Transvaal to the drawn Currie Cup final against Northern Transvaal in 1971, and masterminded their winning of the trophy outright in 1972 by beating Eastern Transvaal in Springs.
He was a Transvaal selector and later deputy president to Louis Luyt. He was also convener of selectors while Nick Mallett was Bok coach. At the time of his death, he was a Lions board member, a member of the board of trustees, and a life member of the union.
SuperSport TV commentator Hugh Bladen said: “I’ve lost a friend of 40 years today, but it was a happy release for him.”
Luyt said he had been preparing to attend Gerber’s 70th bash on Saturday when he heard the news. “It was a great shock, he was a loyal friend. We became friends when playing against each other in the 1950s.”
Bladen said Gerber’s favourite story was from a French tour, when the Boks peppered the slight French fullback with up and unders. Eyeing the advancing Springbok forwards, he at one stage headed the ball into touch.
Bladen remembered his debut for Wanderers Rugby Club, whom Gerber captained.
“I was 19 and he told me to play my normal game. I found that a bit difficult to do when 20 minutes into the second half we were down to 11 men due to injuries.”
Gerber is survived by his wife and four children.