Barend Stephanus (Fiks) van der Merwe who died in July aged 88 became one of the first heroes of Northern Transvaal rugby. He played for them between 1946 and 1952 and won his one Springbok cap against the All Blacks in the first post-war test of 1949. Fiks was his nickname, meaning Fit, and a fit and energetic man he was during his long life, always cheerful and courteous.
He was born in the Cradock District and first played for Cradock Rovers in 1935, at the age of 16. ln 1938 he became a policeman and was stationed in Maritzburg for whom he played club rugby and provincial rugby for Natal as a scrumhalf.
He joined up during World War II, a hard decision for many Afrikaans-speaking people as it earned them ostracism amongst those with sharp memories of the South African War and British atrocities during that war. He went up north with the Police Brigade and was captured by the Germans in the Desert. In the prisoner-of-war camp he captained a team of Springboks who manufactured Springbok jerseys from vests sent by the Red Cross and won a test series in the camp, Stalag 4B, at Muhlburg on Elbe, beating the Rest of the Empire to take the title.
Back in South Africa Fiks van der Merwe settled in Pretoria and stayed there. He played for Police and Northern Transvaal and after his playing days he coached the ISCOR club in Pretoria for he had left the police to become a part of ISCOR's security.