NICK MAURER – 1STXV COACH 2017-2021 – A TRIBUTE
Nick Maurer started his coaching career at SACS back in 2010 as an assistant coach for the 2ndXV. Nick captained a successful SACS 1stXV, himself, in 1996, and went on to play and captain the UCT Under-20 and 1stXV. After varsity Nick played many seasons in the UK making him more than qualified to get involved at his alma mater. Nick is passionate about SACS and rugby and it was an easy choice to ask him to assist me when I took over the 1stXV in 2011.
We had four enjoyable years together with the 1stXV, which included many memorable matches, and tours. Nick was young and fresh, and brought some much needed steel and determination to SACS Rugby. In 2015 and 2016 Nick went on his own as head coach of the U15A and U16A teams bringing them through the system ready, like he was as a coach, to have a full crack at 1stXV Rugby.
Nick had a dream first year as 1stXV Coach in 2017 starting with an unbeaten tour to the St Stithians Easter Festival beating Michaelhouse and strong DHS and St Andrews teams. The team returned home and beat Boland Landbou, who in 2017 were victorious over the likes of Paarl Gim and Gauteng giants Monnas.
The 2017 team had a young pack made up mostly of grade 11 forwards and one of the best backlines seen at SACS in decades. The undoubted highlight of Nick’s coaching tenure and arguably of the last century of SACS Rugby came on 27th of May 2017, when the 1stXV beat Paarl Gim for the 1st time in 21 years. Burger, Kalipa, Barrett, O’Connor/Balchin, Minnaar, Bylin, Ikemefuna, Schuurmans, Dlepu, Hayes, Zeederberg, van der Loo, Hop, Mazullo, Abrahams – these are the names of the SACS 1stXV players whom Nick coached to create history!
Nick had played in, and captained, the team of 1996 who beat Paarl Gim. It was also Mr Ken Ball’s final season as SACS Headmaster and Paarl Gim was the only Boland schools scalp SACS had not beaten at 1stXV level during his tenure, so it was a special day in so many ways.
The dream run continued with an unbeaten Cape Schools Week beating Selborne and Grey High. A double over old foes Wynberg with a dominant performance on Supersport in the Classic Clash in June saw the team make more history by recording a No. 3 ranking in South Africa according to Rugby365 and SA Rugby Magazine.
The 2017 1st XV eclipsed the results of 2015 achieving a 75% win ratio, which had previously stood since Peter Kirsten’s team in 1973. The season was capped off when Nick was able to congratulate Sujai Ikemefuma, Anathi Kalipa (Academy) and Lucky Dlepu on their selection to the U18 Craven Week teams. Lucky Dlepu, who Nick continues to mentor, was appointed as the WP Craven Week Captain, which made him the second SACS player after Paul Delport to be awarded this honour.
With most of the pack back much was expected of the 2018 1stXV. Their season could not have had a better start winning all three games at the St Stithian’s Festival by convincingly beating Maritzburg College, Kingswood and Michaelhouse. The rest of the term was all about missed opportunities. The results just didn’t come until SACS toured Zimbabwe in the June/July holidays. The team played some superb attacking rugby in beating Prince Edward, Zimbabwe U18, St John’s and finally Peterhouse. The undoubted heroes from that team and from Nick’s first two years as 1stXV coach were Craig Bylin, Ben Mazzullo, Jean Minnaar, Ethan Burger and Josh Barrett.
On the last day of the 1st term in 2019 the 1stXV squad departed for Grahamstown to play a fixture against St Andrew’s College at the Graeme College Rugby Day. It was a great honour to be the only non-Eastern Cape school invited. A few weeks later the team travelled to Paul Roos to participate in the World Schools Festival, another huge honour. The beautiful setting and perfect weather encouraged positive rugby from all the teams involved and SACS scored some lovely tries en route to a comfortable 43 – 24 victory against The Zambezi Steelers.
The team then embarked on their third tour and SACS’s third consecutive St Stithians Easter Festival. First up was Kingswood College, celebrating their 125th year, and badly wanting a SACS scalp. Nick’s boys were immense in holding them out in the final minutes to record a memorable 20 – 10 victory. Unfortunately lightning resulted in the second game being called off but fortunately the team were able to take the field against Prince Edward from Zimbabwe on the Monday morning. They played some nice attractive rugby and won the game convincingly 34 – 14.
The final game of the term was the much anticipated derby against arch rivals Wynberg. The match was held on a beautiful winter’s morning in front of a large crowd and was broadcast live on Supersport. Nick pulled some strings and managed to get Siya Kolisi to hand out the jerseys. Siya’s presence inspired the team and they duly recorded a memorable 20 – 6 derby victory! Supersport showcased our school beautifully and it was a very special day for everyone who considers themselves a SACS supporter. Thanks to the many leadership and mentoring sessions organised by Nick, Jordan Thomas and Robin Aspeling led the 2019 team well. Enos Ndiao was selected for the WP Craven Week B team and Rihaz Fredericks and Duran Koevort for the Academy team. A fine achievement and testament to Nick’s dedicated coaching and mentoring.
Nick’s final two seasons as 1stXV Coach were blighted by the Covid-19 pandemic. What makes it worse for Nick and the boys is that Nick is so meticulous and dedicated to his preseason preparation. Nick is on the field and in the gym five afternoons a week from October, and on Sundays from mid-January, preparing the team for the upcoming season. His belief is that the 1stXV must hit the ground running and record as many victories as possible in the early part of the season. His superb record at Easter Festivals is testament to this. Having spent so much time and effort over the summer months preparing his 2020 and 2021 1stXV teams it was a bitter pill for Nick to swallow when the season was cancelled or curtailed.
The 2020 season was limited to two preseason friendly matches, while the 2021 season was also suspended after two league matches. When the season resumed in late August 2021 the mock matric exams were looming and many of the Matrics had lost interest in another “preseason”. The team played four more matches, the highlight being a convincing 29-12 win over a Rondebosch side.
Technically Nick is a brilliant coach and has added so much value to SACS Rugby and to boys’ lives during his time at SACS, and especially as 1stXV Coach. He remains at SACS as a teacher and U15A Coach for 2022 but with an expanded role as Head of Junior Rugby. I have no doubt that he will make a major success of that role as he has done over his five years as coach of the 1stXV!
By Graeme Wepener