Mixed messages

Fri, May 18, 2012, 01:00

Sir, – As a Dubliner living within earshot of Ravenhill, it would certainly be invigorating if “Stand up for the Ulstermen” were occasionally replaced by bursts of “Nkosi Sikel’ iAfrica”.

Though many column inches have discussed how the Irish provinces in the professional era have harnessed the sublime skills of South African players, there seems to be little mention of their forefathers who revived the amateur game in Leinster after the first World War.

About 20 Afrikaaner medical students (including Messrs Pienaar and Van der Merwe) played for Trinity during the four seasons from 1919 to 1923. Several were expected to be capped for Ireland in 1920. There was consternation in Leinster when the Irish selectors ruled the South African students ineligible. The most talented of them, Jack Van Druten, a Transvaal flanker, had to settle instead for playing in the Hospitals’ Cup at Lansdowne Road. Some solace came a few years later when the Springboks called him up and he helped to defeat touring sides from Britain and New Zealand.

It is a pity that present day provincial sensitivities regarding overseas players mirror the national begrudgeries of 90 years ago. – Yours, etc,

JANE LEONARD,

St Jude’s Avenue,

Ballynafeigh,

Belfast.

Sir, – In your Front page blurb (May 17th), the picture of the Northern Ireland flag contradicts the sentiments of the headline with it.

Ulster Rugby extends to nine counties and let’s hope Saturday’s game in London unites people from all sides and counties and that they can rally around the Ulster Flag – Red Cross and Red Hand in a yellow field. – Yours, etc,

DF DEIGHAN,

Sixmilebridge,

Co Clare.

Editor’s Note: The photograph used in the blurb was a library photo of a flag carried by Ulster rugby supporters.