When diagnosed with cancer, one has a definitive change of perspective on life. Many changes take place physically and emotionally, but you have to cope. Today we pay tribute to a survivor in the true sense. The affable and lanky wing of Western Suburbs is one such a person. He knows about those days when the rugby field was a battleground, but takes away only good memories. Here we say “salute” to Pieter ‘Pat’ Esterhuizen (PE). He was previously involved in establishing the Western Suburbs Sport Club with codes like cycling, softball, table tennis, soccer, rugby, netball and squash.
Here is an excerpt of an interview with him by Robbie Thompson (RT)
RT: When and where were you born. Give us a glimpse of your early schooling and younger days.
PE: I was born on 6 September 1955 in Upington and attended Keidebees PS in the same town before relocating to Windhoek, where I completed my secondary stint at the revered Ella Du Plessis from 1973 to 1975. I was elected head boy. Those were very interesting times. A very enjoyable period and I could live out my energy on the rugby field. Ella, as the school was known, was the beacon of sporting excellence and brought forth a host of athletes that would grace our clubs and national teams in various codes.
RT: Your love for rugby when did you start playing and inspired you around the game.
PE: I started playing in primary school. Our dad used to play and we used to watch him. Coming from a sporting background, I learned discipline from him and to give your best at all times at a very age. That was to be my mantra throughout my rugby career and I always took pride in being one of the fittest players in any team I represented.
RT: You played for Western Suburbs in the apartheid years. What was it like with other teams in your domestic league at that stage?
PE: From 1976 onwards we had a very active and competitive league with clubs, such as Viscounts, Flying Eagles, Swans, Dobra, Augustineum High School and Black Diamonds campaigning in the Central Region. Kudus and Tigers were stationed in Walvis Bay with Youngsters and Ocean Swallows from Lüderitz. Back in the day, our clubs initiated the idea of rugby days and tourneys and I take pride in that we were the pacesetters. I am also a founding member of Western Suburbs Rugby Club and proud today to see how far we have come with this project.
RT: Were you ever selected for any representative teams in that era or after 1990 and when did you hang up your boots?
PE: I was selected for the SA Country 15 against the SA Barbarians in South Africa in 1977 and 1978. Further selections were for the Central team against the South during the inauguration of the Jan Ellis Stadium in Gobabis. I never got selected for the Suidwes team, although my brother-in-law, Sarel Losper, went on to play in an illustrious career.
RT: I remember Suburbs being invited to play in the Blakes RC Easter tourney and that a great honour for the club to be invited from outside SA.
PE: This was by invitation only and Suburbs was very fortunate to compete in the august tourney. Unfortunately we lost twice in the finals. At least we could measure ourselves against the best black and coloured players in South Africa and it was actually surprising to see that we were on par with the best!
RT: You played with the likes of Corrie Mensah, Nimrod Williams, Theo Hess, Bertus Damon to name a few. Can you elaborate on them and any other player in the club?
PE: Sjoe! There are so many, Hess was a monster in the front row; Mensah a highly talented and clever eight-man, while Sarel Losper was an outstanding lock with a mean dropkick! Duncan Oppel, slightly built, but a terrier flanker. Nimrod Williams my wing partner; played his own brand of rugby, very unorthodox and elusive. Pieter Boonzaaier had the best sidestep in the business and it is a pity he was never called up for higher honours. It was a real privilege to play for Suburbs. I am so delighted to see some of our players’ offspring now playing for the club, whilst few have taken up coaching. What a proud legacy!
RT: Your national 23 if you were the selector then and why.
PE: The whole Suburbs team!
RT: Your take on the current rugby situation now and how can it improve?
PE: We used to play for the love of the game. We stood up against injustices and discrimination and I’m on record when we negotiated for an inclusive rugby union at the time. I guess politics will follow rugby as well. Issues must be sorted out, as the game will ultimately suffer. I sincerely hope we can sort out our differences in Namibian rugby and build a solid foundation.
RT: On a personal note, how many kids do you and Kleintjie have and grandchildren, if any?
PE: We have two sons and two grandkids. I am proud of the eldest, who is also into coaching. I trust he will do well with the new challenges.
RT: I know you are very fond of fishing with Sarel and Gawan, to name a few. Do you still have time for your favourite sports. I also know you are a mean braaier when it comes to spit braai. Do you still find time?
PE: *Laughing* Yes we are very fond of fishing and make time once a year and I also like hunting when time permits. I actually did spit braai for leisure and as a hobby. Now it turned into a business and very rewarding as well!
RT: Any personal challenges you want to share and a message for others?
PE: With the support of family and friends, I can beat cancer. This week I will do my final session of chemotherapy. I’m not afraid of this challenge and I face it head on with a certain measure of positives. As it stands, I’m in the process of learning how to walk on water!
RT: Thank you Pat. God bless.
PE: Thank you for this opportunity and to all our readers a blessed Christmas and prosperous New Year.