Former Western Province captain and Springbok loose-head prop, Jacobus Burger Neethling died at his home in Paarl on Sunday from a heart ailment. Born at Rawsonville, Western Cape on July 6th, 1939, he was 69 at the time of his death.
He was educated at Goudini High School and after leaving school was employed with the Rembrandt Tobacco group.
A mobile front-row forward, Neethling represented Western Province from 1961 to 1971 in a total of 81 matches, a record at the time for the province.
He was selected for the test match against Wales in 1964 as a replacement for the injured Mof Myburgh, but when he arrived for the match at the PAM Brink stadium in Springs he was told that Myburgh had recovered and would play.
He had to wait until the following year when he made his debut for South Africa in a match against Combined Universities on the ill-fated tour of Scotland and Ireland, one of six new caps.
He eventually made his test debut against France in all four tests in a series won by South Africa partnering his Western Province team-mate, Gert Kotze, and altogether Neethling put on the green jersey in eight tests and 23 games, mostly with Hannes Marais at tight-head.
He was selected for one test against the touring 1968 Lions, Myburgh was recalled in 1969, and Neethling then went on the 1969/70 tour of Great Britain where he played in only one test, the lost game against Scotland at Murrayfield. Two home tests in 1970 against the touring New Zealand team ended his career.
On the 1969/70 so-called “demo tour” the Springboks were unable to win any of the four tests played and although critics pointed to the demonstrations as being responsible for the Boks’ poor performances, Neethling warned those who would listen that the rugby of the four Home Unions had increased in strength and they would become more formidable foes in future. But Springbok supporters were sceptical and a year later the Lions went on to win the series in New Zealand, followed by a 3-0 win against South Africa in 1974 on an unbeaten tour.
Former Western Province and Springbok centre John Gainsford recalls his playing days with Neethling.
“He was a man. To me he was a giant,” Gainsford, also a resident of Paarl, said after hearing of the death of his friend.
Gainsford recalls that although he was a big, strong front-rower - 1.86m tall, 101kg – he was very athletic. He was always a calm and patient player.
He said that Neethling has been very active in the Paarl community’s rugby and golf clubs and was president of SAGES, the society for senior golfers in South Africa.
After his playing days ended Neethling became a popular after-dinner speaker and auctioneer.
He is survived by his wife Marina, daughter Marian, Stephan and Jean and four grand-children - Reyan, Anke, André-Louis and Jacques.
- Peter Martin