Phil was a great forward who could play in the lock position as well as in the front row. Like Boy Louw he could even do hooking duty.
In 1928 I was listening to the only wireless (as the radio was called then) in Lindley's town hall. The All Blacks were beating us in the second test in Johannesburg. That day Phil kicked a huge drop-goal from the halfway line after a mark and South Africa's defeat was certainly not his fault.
I had always admired him and never dreamt that I would one day be privileged to play with him and other heroes of mine. Besides his great playing ability, Phil had a wonderful sense of humour.
I remember a particularly dirty match on the 1931/32 tour when suddenly here was Phil crawling around on his hands and knees, scratching in the long grass. The referee stopped the game, thinking Phil was concussed. When we asked him what was wrong however, he turned to us with that delightful little smile of his and said: "Mr Ref. someone hit me so hard that I lost a gold filling. I must find it. I want to take it back as a souvenir of the hardest punch I've ever taken."
Another example of his wry sense of humour came when we were on board ship in 1931 going through the tropics on our way to England. Pierre de Villiers was standing at the rail staring over the ocean. Phil asked what he was looking at and De Villiers replied that he was looking at the miracle of the flying fish and the calmness of the sea.
Phil pondered, then replied: "Yes, God only made one mistake when he made this part of the world; he should have planted some trees!"
On another occasion Pierre and Phil were playing in a club match against each other - these two great friends. Pierre, who was half Phil's size, took Phil by the collar when he broke through a line-out and flung him to the ground. Phil got up slowly, turned to Pierre and said: "Hell Pierre, I see you're still playing as dirty as ever."
That was Phil - a man with an infectious sense of humour. I once asked him: "Phil - they hit you from left and right, why don't you ever retaliate?" He said: "You know, Danie, it is usually my opponent in the scrum who hits me. I don't have to hit him back. I'll get him in the scrum; that's where I grind them."
Phil developed his enormous strength as a youngster. I remember him telling me once that his mother had a very heavy iron bedstead. Phil would hunch down on his hands and knees and lift this bed up with his neck and when he had mastered that, he would ask his mother to lie on the bed to make the task more difficult. Thus he developed his muscles, particularly the neck muscles. I never saw anyone master Phil when it came to scrummaging.