Henry William Honiball was born on 1 December 1965 in the Natal Midlands town of Estcourt. Henry started his playing career at the tender age of seven while attending Bergville Primary School. He went on to finish his senior schooling at Estcourt High, matriculating in 1983 and representing Natal Midlands.
He did his national service in 1984 - 85 before studying for his BSc Agriculture at U.O.F.S. He represented Free State on 38 occasions.
Henry played his first game for Natal in 1992. Natal lost in the semi-final to his old province OFS 16-26. He was part of the 1993 record-breaking side, and was also selected for the tour of Australia. It was on this tour that he played his 1st test for South Africa coming off the reserve bench in the third test. Henry did not play in the 1993 Currie Cup final but was picked for the end of the year tour to Argentina. It was on this tour that he was first selected in the starting lineup as fly half.
Henry was back in favour with Natal in 1999. He was in the team that lost to Queensland in the Super 10 final at Kings Park on 14 May - the final score being 21- 10. He was also in the history making team that beat Will Carling’s England team and became the first Natal side to beat a team from the British Isles in 103 years. The final score was 21-6. This was even more of an achievement given the fact that England went on to beat the Springboks 32-15 in the first test at Loftus Versveld.
Henry played no part in the nine tests played in 1994. He was only picked as a reserve. In the two tests played against Samoa as a warm up for the world cup in 1995. Henry played no part in the 1995 world cup. He did however play at centre in the Currie Cup winning side. Thierry Lacrois was preferred at fly half for his kicking ability. This was proven to be the best decision as Thierry kicked six penalties and a conversion in Natal’s 25-17 win over Western Province at Kings Park on 14 October. Henry scored a South African record for the most points in a match (38 against Boland) and equaled the record of four tries in a match. He scored this record with Hannes Viljoen, Malcolm Swanby, Keith Thorresson and James Small. The side also set numerous Natal and South African records. Henry also played in eight of South Africa’s thirteen tests played in 1996.
1997 was not a great year for either South Africa or Natal. Henry played in twelve of the thirteen tests played in 1997. Three of the twelve Henry came on as reserve.
1998 was a better season both for Natal and South Africa. Henry played no small part in both sides success. Natal made it to the semi final of the Super twelve, losing out by just four points to the eventual winners Canterbury.
The Sharks gave the Auckland Blues a hiding of 24-8 at Kings Park. Henry totally dominated his All Black counterpart Carlos Spencer. Henry’s tackling and his tactical kicking were of the highest caliber, so with a try, three conversions and a penalty goal he was named Man of the Match. Natal then accounted for The Stormers and the ACT Brumbies. Henry was then rested for the Otago match and three soft tries were scored straight through the middle and Natal lost 41-35. Next on the list were the Hurricanes and with their talented backline being knocked backward by Henry and Pieter Muller, Natal won 39-23.
South Africa had three warm up tests against Ireland, Wales and England before the start of the Tri-Nations. South Africa won all three, then went on to beat both Australia and New Zealand away, then home to face New Zealand at Kings Park, South Africa were trailing 23-5 with just fifteen minutes remaining on the clock, somehow they managed to score three tries in those final 15 minutes and won 27-23. One of these tries was set up by Henry who gave Bobby Skinstad an inside pass to put him through the gap to score the second of the three tries. With this win also came the Tri-Nations.
The Boks, with Henry went on to beat the Aussies, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. This equaled the seventeen test victories held by the 1969 All Blacks. They lost that final hurdle against England that would have made the springbok team the most successful side of all time. Henry Honiball was definitely one of the key players in this side.
1999 would be Henry’s last season in South Africa, with both injury problems and the treatment of his friend Gary Teichman, Henry played two more tests before leaving for greener pastures.
Henry’s last game for Natal was against Western Province at Kings Park. Nobody in the crowd could know that this was Henry’s last game in the colours of the Natal Sharks. Henry had signed an eighteen-month contract with Bristol in the UK, but what a game it was to be for Henry.
Natal demolished Western Province 65-29. He had a 1 00% goal kicking record of eight conversions and three penalties combined with a try he had a personal tally of thirty points. He was duly named man of the match. The final words on Henry come from Ian McIntosh: ‘The mountain of a man Henry was when off the field, however, is much more important to me than the man mountain he was on it. He must rate as the greatest gentleman to have played sport and is certainly the most modest player I have coached. He never expected anything, never complained and never ever said anything bad about anyone. He was always the perfect sportsman, both in victory and defeat. In terms of playing ability, there’s not much more to be said, other than that as a fly half he was underrated by all in the past. Henry was ideally suited to the modern game.’