Former All Black reflects on ‘blood match’

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The 80th ‘blood match’ between Waitaki Boys’ High School and St Kevin’s College is one week away and will invoke as much passion as its 79 predecessors in a rivalry that is embedded in local folklore.

Former St Kevin’s College student and ex-All Black Bill McCaw remembers the encounters well after becoming a boarder in Oamaru from Invercargill in 1944.

McCaw went on to become an accomplished loose forward, sometimes deployed as a flanker but more often as a No 8 and relocated to SKC after missing too much school due to his daily train journeys from Edendale to the Marist Brothers’ School.

The 86-year-old said Pat McKone was the name on St Kevin’s students’ lips after kicking the goal to win the famous fixture for the first time in 1941.

“The rivalry was pretty intense,” he said.

“Before I came, St Kevin’s were revelling in their first win over Waitaki for many years. Pat McKone was the name ringing out. He got the goal that beat Waitaki 4-3.”

McCaw said the two schools played in the senior competition, while local club players fought overseas during World War 2, but the inter-school was eagerly anticipated throughout the year.

“During the war years the club rugby was decimated, so St Kevin’s and Waitaki played in the senior competition,” he said.

“I can remember they had a very good coach, Mr Hall, I don’t know his first name but there was a lot of excitement.”

The St Kevin’s team of 1944 also boasted future All Black Kevin Skinner, but McCaw said it was the Waitaki line-up that he remembers well.

“It’s always a big deal to play a game against Waitaki, I remember they had a really good back line with players that went on to play for Otago,” he said.

“I remember their first five, Sutherland, he went on to play for Otago and a full back called Purvis, he was a very good player and we lost 9-5. We were beaten by a speedster on their wing, we were disappointed.”

After leaving SKC McCaw trained as a schoolteacher in Dunedin before returning to Invercargill where he was selected to the representative side in 1949 as a 22-year-old and became a stalwart provincial player until 1955, making 50 appearances for his union.

McCaw was in a strong Southland side that downed he British Lions 11-0 in 1950 and became an All Black the following year, making 10 appearances as a flanker and played in the three test wins.

His 1952 season was disrupted by injuries, but returned for the 1953 campaign and was included in the touring side for Britain and France. McCaw had an impressive tour, competing for a place in the international lineup as No 8 with then captain and fellow former St Kevin’s student Bob Stuart.

McCaw played in 32 All Black matches, including five tests and remebers fondly his return to Oamaru with fellow All Blacks from both schools.

“We had a couple of reunions down there on the occasion of school games, one year they brought back all the old All Blacks from St Kevin’s and Waitaki,” he said.

McCaw said the players involved in the 2014 clash should savour the moment and give it their all in a clash that will prove the highlight of the school rugby careers.

“The school game was one of the main highlights, they need to enjoy it and give it all they’ve got,” he said.

“It is a special rivalry and a good rivalry, it was a rivalry that you gave everything on the rugby field but respected one another.

“I wish them well and hope they have a jolly good game, winning is very important, but not everything.”

By JAMES FORD

PHOTO: SUPPLIED – Former All Black Bill McCaw said he remembers the St Kevin’s and Waitaki Boys’ rivalry well.