The life and times of Selwyn Myers

Nineteen year old Selwyn wearing False Bay Rugby Club socks sitting at Casa Madre with his nephews Gerald (left), Doberman Pincher Prince, and Stanley (right).

By his nephew, Gerald Musikanth

Selwyn Myers was born on 11 March 1933.

He was the youngest of four brothers and two sisters. At the age of nine his eldest sister Hannah Musikanth (née Myers) gave birth to me, on 23 October 1942. Selwyn was so excited to be an uncle at the age of nine that he took the day off from going to school, as “uncles don’t go to school!”

For Selwyn, growing up in Muizenberg with his friends was like living in a mini paradise.

The Balmoral Beach and the Snake Pit were like home to him. Playing on the beach, swimming, ball games, beach bats and Bok-Bok were all that were needed to turn Muizenberg into heaven and integrating with the holiday makers in the season pushed his ‘home’ up a notch. Playing pranks on the locals in the neighbourhood was fun but never destructive.

Selwyn, with his permanent open ‘ipana’ smile and friendly persona always won them over. He got away with murder and was labelled a vielda and a zuliek (wild and naughty).

Left: Ten year old Selwyn holding me at age one. Right: Young Selwyn with elder brother Harry at the Balmoral Beach

Selwyn continued to develop a magnetic personality and always had a crowd of admirers around him. Playing rugby on the beach carried on for generations to this day.

This rugby on the beach turned out to be the precursor to the establishment of the Phillip Herbstein False Bay Rugby Club in Constantia (as it is still known today). Selwyn and others went on to play for False Bay while always retaining the camaraderie and friendships from the beach rugby which lasted for a lifetime.

Selwyn’s family bought a house named Casa-Madre in Thaxter Road, Lakeside. The older family members moved on and married, leaving his grandmother, his brother Rube and himself living in Casa-Madre. His brother Rube, an actor, tried to teach his ‘guttersnipe’ younger brother Selwyn, the Classics, while making plans to go to Hollywood. Selwyn on the other hand would have none of this. He advised his elder brother Rube to ditch the Shakespeare Classics. He told him that if he wanted to make it big in Hollywood, to just get himself a wide brimmed cowboy hat, sit on a horse and say “Yip” and he would be a star overnight! Brother Rube went to Hollywood, and needless to say did not take Selwyn’s advice.

As a 19-year-old, playing for False Bay, Selwyn’s exceptional talents were soon recognised. Sammy Bloch from the Northerns Rugby Club in Parow, lured him to play for Northerns in the Grand Challenge League. This League included teams such as Villagers, UCT, Hamiltons, Maties and others.

Under the tutorship of Hennie Muller (former Springbok Captain), Selwyn blossomed. He soon rose to Captain the team with great success. He became a crowd favourite when playing at Newlands in the main game, at 4pm. These matches attracted crowds of up to 25 000 spectators each week. Students, pupils and youngsters all sat in the enclosure on the grass on the field, while the selectors sat in the front row of the Grandstand, viewing the talent on the field for possible selection to play for Western Province.

Playing at Newlands, the successful Northerns team on a few occasions were on at 4pm for the main game. Once, when playing and captaining Northerns at Stellenbosch in a Grand Challenge Fixture, Selwyn kicked a drop goal and two penalties — beating the Maties 9-0. The great Danie Craven approached Selwyn asking him to come and play for Stellenbosch and he would make him a Springbok! Selwyn, however stayed loyal to Northerns.

It wasn’t long before Selwyn won his first Western Province cap. He went on to represent WP on a number of occasions, his proud white smile almost outshone the glitter of the large trophy on the team photo.

Selwyn’s mother requested to attend a match at Newlands to watch him play. So he took her to Newlands, and he let her sit in the front row next to the high ranking selectors viz. Boy Louw, Danie Craven and others. He told his mom to just watch the posts and watch him in his red rugby jersey sporting the number 10. He further explained that he took the kicks for the posts. He went on to explain that if the ball goes over the posts, his team would get the points. He told her to wait for him in the front row after the game while he had a quick shower and then he would take her home.

Three quarter way through the game, Selwyn doubled back to cover the full back who was waiting for an up and under. He took the high ball, went down with it, as the full pack of fowards hit him. They mauled and raked him as he clung to the ball.
There was no way he was going to let the ball go. Selwyn’s mother jumped up screaming in Yiddish that they were killing her boy. The selectors calmed her down. The ref eventually blew up the stalemate and Selwyn’s side won the set scrum that followed.

A few successful goal kicks later, and after a shower, as promised, Selwyn went to fetch his mother who was seething with anger waiting for him on the empty grandstand. In the car she told him that he was bashed to pieces, Selwyn explained that they were not chasing him but they just wanted the ball. His mother asked him why he didn’t just give them the ball? Selwyn never took his mother to Newlands again.

Selwyn’s Rugby persona grew from strength to strength. On and off the field Selwyn became a household name. Later on he got a call to be on standby as fullback for the Springboks to play against France. Sadly a few weeks later he broke his ankle and was hospitalised. (Lionel Wilson from Villagers then took up the role as the Bok fullback).

His permanent smile and his playful rapport with the nurses ensured that he always received extra attention. Thereafter Selwyn played a few club games for Union, but never really recovered from that broken ankle. His clients, friends and rugby players all still crowded around him wherever he went. He always had a story to tell, never losing that magical smile.

There is no doubt that Selwyn was the greatest all-round sportsman that Muizenberg ever produced. (His undeniable talents included athletics, tennis, cricket, and any ball game in which he always excelled). Naturally rugby took centre stage.

If Muizenberg had a hall of fame, Selwyn would be the only all-round sportsman ever to be inducted therein.

In his last few decades he battled gamely with devastating and painful illness. Confined to home he eventually succumbed and passed away on 8 December 2019.

His older brother Harry, who had just recently turned 100, arrived at the Muizenberg Cemetery with his supportive walker and carer on the 11 December 2019. Harry managed to take the spade and, with others, helped to bury his baby brother, near their mother’s tombstone.

I will always remember those special halcyon days and all those vibrant, spirited, uplifting times spent together with Selwyn.

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