In the 11th instalment of a series on black rugby legends, SA Rugby magazine looks back at the career of former Proteas No 8 Jack Juries.
Jack Juries’ reputation as a world-class No 8 preceded him throughout his rugby-playing career.
I first encountered him when I was only eight years old. As captain of the then Silver Cup champions, Good Hope of Groot Brak River (a town 15km north-east of Mossel Bay), he came to Caledon to play against the local club, Progress. That was back in 1971, when he was the incumbent Proteas No 8 – and had been since 1964.
Juries was born in Groot Brak River in 1943 to Jacoba Juries and Frederick Meyer.
He kept his mother’s surname because she didn’t marry his father. Meyer and Adam Volkwyn, Juries’ stepfather, were avid rugby players for Good Hope. He recalls his childhood years in Groot Brak River vividly.
‘I went to Groot Brak Primary School and started to play rugby from Standard 4 [Grade 6]. We couldn’t afford rugby balls so we would stuff plastic bags with newspapers and use those; it was great fun,’ he says with a laugh.
He had four brothers and four sisters. All his brothers played for Good Hope too, which made for ‘interesting discussions’ around the dinner table, he recalls.
While in primary school, Juries distinguished himself as one of the fastest sprinters, vying for the title with his main rivals, Pieter Piek and Brian Koert. When he finished primary school, at 15, he opted to look for work, as there was no high school near Groot Brak River, finding employment at the local shoe factory, the well-known Watson Shoes.
In 1959, Juries joined Good Hope as a 16-year-old and was selected to play on the wing. However, because of his muscular build he was moved to loosehead prop in the 2nd XV that same year. Later, he was selected for the club’s 1st XV against the South Cape Teachers College in Oudtshoorn.
‘My first match for the club’s 1st XV [as a 17-year-old] was a traumatic experience because the local spectators chased us off the field and pounded us with stones – we were literally run out of town.’
Juries’ representative rugby career began in 1960 when, as an 18-year-old, he was selected for South Western Districts in a match against Boland. It was his first interprovincial fixture as part of the league of the then South African Rugby Federation (Sarf). They beat Boland in Mossel Bay and it signalled the start of an illustrious provincial, national and international career that lasted 18 years.
Juries credits Willie Jefferies, the wily SWD coach and official, for his positional change to No 8. However, it is Clifford Jacobs, his primary-school teacher and later long-time coach of Good Hope, who stands out.
‘Mr Jacobs taught us the finer nuances of the game and emphasised the importance of mastering the basic skills of passing, catching and kicking. He had the ability to instil discipline within the team context and as a result, gained huge respect from his players.’
By 1964, Juries had proved himself as the top No 8 in the Sarf ranks and was selected for the Proteas for their fixture against Sara (South African Rugby Association) and a once-off match against a Saru (South African Rugby Union) invitation side. He held the position for 14 years, never once being challenged for it.
‘Yes, there were definitely other good eighthmen around, but they had to play on the flank because I was still there,’ says Juries with a smile.
He boasts an impressive record, having represented the Proteas against England (1971), Rhodesia, the Netherlands (in Amsterdam), Ponsonby of New Zealand (1973), France (1975), the All Blacks (1976), the British Lions (1974) and a touring side from Llanelli (Wales) in 1976. Juries played 27 ‘Tests’ against the Leopards (Sara) and donned the captain’s armband against, among others, England, France and the All Blacks (1976).
He played his last match for the Proteas in 1978, but continued to play for SWD and his beloved Good Hope for many years. In fact, his natural fitness led him to retire from club rugby only at the ripe old age of 47.
However, it did not end there, for Juries would from time to time still play for the club’s second-stringers, right up to the age of 60, when he finally gave his boots away.
‘The locals nicknamed me “Immergroen” [Evergreen], because I just couldn’t stop playing!’ he says.
LIFE AFTER RUGBY
Juries worked for the South African Police Service for seven years, but returned to work at Watson Shoes until his retirement at the age of 65. He continued to serve on the executive committee of Good Hope and had a stint as a selector for the SWD Eagles from 2004 to 2007.
However, Juries has another love: he is a choirmaster of quality. He experienced the joy of music under the tutelage of his rugby coach Jacobs.
‘I do not have any training or qualification in music, but learned from Mr Jacobs, who was the church choirmaster. When he passed away, I started to coach the local church choir. Two other local churches also approached me and that was the end of my direct involvement in rugby.’
He also leads and coaches an elderly-men’s choir that performs at local churches and events, and is an active member of the Order of the Free Gardeners, a Christian organisation for men.
Juries turns 75 this year. He is happily married to his second wife Colleen and enjoys spending time with his grandchildren. One of his sons (from his first marriage), Jacques, is a former SWD and Pumas provincial player and coaches the Griffons’ junior teams.
For many, Juries is just another player from a forgotten era of division and separation in South African rugby. But for those who know him well, the multi-talented individual is a servant-leader, a community man and an inspiration to the younger generation.
– This article first appeared in the January 2018 issue of SA Rugby magazine