In Annelee Murray’s book, ‘The First Lady of Springbok rugby’, South Africa’s most-capped player, Victor Matfield, explains how central the Boks’ matriarchal public relations manager was in keeping the team, sometimes quite literally, on the fairway.
“Who is Annelee Murray? The mother of the Boks, grandma to the Boks’ kids, friend to the Boks’ wives and, most important, the one who all of us could trust with the most important things in our lives.
“I remember starting at the Boks. Annelee was really like a mother to all of us. Everything was always sorted and in place. We didn’t have to worry about anything in our lives when we were in camp.
“Things were so easy in camp that, whenever we were home, our partners got upset because we were so used to Annelee doing everything for us!
“But, as we grew up and got married and then kids arrived, Annelee became more. She became a close friend to all of us and a friend and mother to our wives. It wouldn’t be strange to see Annelee at a hotel pushing a pram and having a baby on her hip. She did whatever was needed to make sure that everything was perfect and the players could just focus on the job at hand, and that was to focus on the game on Saturday.
“The friendships grew, especially with those of us who were with the Boks for a few years. There wouldn’t be a wedding that Annelee wasn’t invited to. I think about a trip to New York where Monja and myself met up with Annelee and, of course, because she is so well travelled, we met her at one of the best restaurants and had the best time, and we left there with places to go to because she knew all the best spots to visit in New York.
“Annelee was always there just to make sure we were happy. There were so many times that we, as players, didn’t always want to follow the rules of the coaches when they got nervous and maybe a little crazy, but Annelee was always there to help us organise a great day to go and relax and get our heads away from the game.
“On the Thursday before the 2007 World Cup final, we wanted to go play golf like we did every Thursday, but Jake said it was not allowed before a game. Of course, Annelee was the one to go organise the best course in Paris. She even organised for our security guards to drive us to the course and back!
“Annelee started off as our mother in the Bok camp but grew into a friend and someone we knew would always be there for us and our families.”