Tjol Lategan
Full names: Marthinus Theunis
Date of birth: 29 Sep 1925
Place of birth: Stellenbosch
School: Paul Roos Gymnasium
Springbok no: 266
Debut test province: Western Province
Physical: 1.77m, 74.88kg
Date of death: 8 Mar 2015 (Age 89)

Test summary: Tests: 11 Tries: 3
First Test: 16 Jul 1949 Age:23 Inside Centre against New Zealand at Newlands, Cape Town
Last Test: 5 Sep 1953 Age:27 Inside Centre against Australia at Newlands, Cape Town
Test history:
16 Jul 194923Inside CentreNew ZealandWin: 15-11 Newlands, Cape TownWP
13 Aug 194923Inside CentreNew ZealandWin: 12-61 tryEllispark, JohannesburgWP
03 Sep 194923Inside CentreNew ZealandWin: 9-3 Kingsmead, DurbanWP
17 Sep 194923Inside CentreNew ZealandWin: 11-8 Crusaders (St George's Park), Port ElizabethWP
24 Nov 195126Inside CentreScotlandWin: 44-01 tryMurrayfield, EdinburghWP
08 Dec 195126Inside CentreIrelandWin: 17-5 Aviva Stadium (Lansdowne Road), DublinWP
22 Dec 195126Inside CentreWalesWin: 6-3 Millenium Stadium (Cardiff Arms Park), CardiffWP
05 Jan 195226Inside CentreEnglandWin: 8-3 Twickenham, LondonWP
16 Feb 195226Inside CentreFranceWin: 25-3 Stade Olympique, Colombes, ParisWP
22 Aug 195327Inside CentreAustraliaWin: 25-31 tryEllispark, JohannesburgBoland
05 Sep 195327Inside CentreAustraliaLose: 14-18 Newlands, Cape TownBoland

Tjol Lategan : Doc Craven

Tjol and his partner Ryk van Schoor both had a wonderful sense of humour. When he and Ryk played against those two famous Welsh centres, Williams and Thomas, they argued as to who should oppose whom on the field.

Tjol said: "Ryk, you have your choice."

Ryk replied: "Why should I always take the best? You take the best this time."

Tjol's career could well have ended in disaster. As a youngster he played for Van der Stel, and when he came to Stellenbosch I sensed that he had the ability to become a Springbok.

But during a match he hurt his knee so badly, I was told he would probably never play rugby again.

Fortunately I had on my staff someone who had made a study of sports injuries in the Netherlands. He and I went to Tjol's home where he was almost in tears, as he believed it was the end of his rugby career.

"Don't concern yourself about that now. Let us just examine your knee" I told him. But in all truth I'd never seen an injury quite like it.

The compensatory effect which the muscles just above his knee had played in protecting his damaged knee, caused them to bunch up and form knots just above his kneecap.

I said: "Tjol, you should never have played with a knee like that. It would have had to go sooner or later. Now we must build up your entire leg, especially the upper leg."

We designed a special set of exercises for him and I told him that if he carried out those exercises faithfully, he would be able to play again in three weeks, the time it usually takes for muscles to heal.

That happened and he made his mark in the first team and ultimately played for South Africa.

While he was playing for Western Province, I was still not satisfied that he was of Springbok calibre because to me a Springbok must have grit and staying power. As a result he was dropped from the Stellenbosch first team.

I came in for much criticism from his professors and even the "Mielie Blaar Klub" from Bloemfontein, a popular radio show at the time.

The same afternoon after he'd been dropped I said to him: "Tjol, I believe you've been dropped."

To which he replied: "Yes Doc, they dropped me."

I said: "No Tjol, I dropped you. And I did it because you can become a Springbok, but I want to see you display the determination and the fighting spirit essential to a Bok, and I'm not so sure that you have it. So tomorrow you'll play second team and hopefully you'll show me that you've got that grit and determination." I added: "Tjol, if you don't, you'll go down to third team and fourth team, and then you'll have no chance of playing against the All Blacks."

Anyway, he played a few matches in the second team. In the meantime, Western Province had played against the 1949 All Blacks and he was not selected for the provincial side.

But as the first test neared he was back in-the Stellenbosch first team and had convinced me that he had gained, or regained that vital spark necessary to be a Springbok.

On reflection, I was perhaps a fool not to have thought of the risk I had posed to his career, and of the injury he had sustained. His comeback from that dreadful injury should have shown me he had the necessary fighting spirit.

When we, the selectors, chose the test team for the first test he was the only player I proposed. Whenever a Stellenbosch player was mentioned I would normally recuse myself.

The chairman of the selectors was most upset: "If that man plays, I will resign as chairman of the selection committee," he said. "He has no defence."

He was right, because Tjol had none. I knew that when he used to tackle a man he would invariably be bumped off. But while he'd been building up his knee muscles, we had also concentrated on the strength in his arms.

So I asked our chairman: "When last did you see him play?" And he admitted that it had been quite a long time ago. So I told him: "Please withdraw your remark. I can tell you I've worked on his defence and now he can tackle."

The vote was 3-2 in favour and he became a Bok, and never let South Africa down. An exciting centre whose partnership with Ryk van Schoor is the stuff of legends.