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A heritage still close to the heart

Day to remember ... NSW's 1937 win is one of the proudest moments of the Waratahs franchise.

Day to remember ... NSW's 1937 win is one of the proudest moments of the Waratahs franchise. Photo: Fairfax Archive

THE Waratahs' South African, halfback, Sarel Pretorius, like most new fathers, is thinking a lot about his origins these days.

Tomorrow, on the same day his first child, Sarel Joshua, turns two weeks old, the 28-year-old will play a pivotal role in his side's must-win clash with South African conference leaders, the Bulls, in a game commemorating one of the Waratahs' proudest moments, their 1937 win over the undefeated Springboks.

That must be almost too much heritage for one proud young South African to bear. But Pretorius is relishing the opportunity to play for the other side this time and to measure himself against 22 of his fiercest countrymen.

Historic day ... NSW's 17-6 win over the South Africa on June 19, 1937.

Historic day ... NSW's 17-6 win over the South Africa on June 19, 1937. Photo: Fairfax Archive

''There's something extra [in a game against the Bulls],'' he says. ''When I was back in South Africa playing for the Cheetahs it was always a big game playing against those big unions and always a big rivalry against the Bulls. It's always nice to measure yourself against them and especially now that I'm with the Waratahs. I'm also looking forward to speaking a bit of Afrikaans on the field maybe.''

Pretorius will not be the only Waratah with South African heritage on the pitch tomorrow night. Chris Alcock will return to the starting openside breakaway position after recovering from appendicitis and will be needed against the ferociously physical men from Pretoria, the heart of South African rugby.

Unlike Pretorius, who spent all his life in a proud, Afrikaaner-dominated farming region outside Johannesburg before arriving in Australia with wife Nicola last year, Alcock has been here since he was 10. His family, like many South Africans over the past 20 years, left their home in Durban, on South Africa's lush north-east coast, to make a new life in Australia 12 years ago.

Dual nationals … Chris Alcock and Sarel Pretorius.

Dual nationals … Chris Alcock and Sarel Pretorius. Photo: Steve Christo

''I thought it was one big holiday, I was that young,'' Alcock says. As a rugby-mad schoolboy he supported the Sharks and the Springboks, but mostly because it was expected of him.

''The main reason was my friends said no matter what I was a South African, so if the South Africans won I got shit for it and if they lost I got shit for it, so I said if I'm going to get that then I might as well support them,'' he says. ''But eventually they let it slide and I'm now allowed to support the Wallabies - and the Waratahs, obviously.''

Alcock still has an audible South African accent and is dating a woman who was also born in South Africa but who, like him, has spend most of her life here. He loves going back to Durban and is proud of his heritage but feels more Australian than African these days.

''I like to think my South African roots are my family and friends over there,'' he says. ''That's my connection to Africa. Obviously it's a beautiful place but my roots are my family and friends. So as long as I've got family and friends there I'll always be connected to it.''

Tomorrow's match, dubbed Heritage Night on the Waratahs' season calendar, celebrates the 75th anniversary of the downing of the Boks, the 1937 game that brought the South Africans's undefeated tour of Australia to a sodden, sliding halt under teeming rain at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Australians celebrated a Springboks defeat as much then as they do now.

But the reality is that South Africans have made a rich contribution to the Waratahs over the years. Aside from Pretorius, Alcock and Test lock Dan Vickerman, who joined the club after returning from Britain last year, Tiaan Strauss stands out in the history books.

The dual international lock had played 15 Tests for the Springboks before coming to Australia to play league for Cronulla in the mid-1990s. He joined the Waratahs in 1998, just after the game turned professional in Australia, and went on to captain the side, be named NSW player of the year, and notch 11 Tests for the Wallabies. It was a remarkable career that paved the way for many other men to ply their trade in countries long regarded as fierce rugby rivals.

Pretorius says his stay in Australia has been a tremendous learning curve. Asked why many Australians regard South Africans as the most arrogant among their sporting foes, he laughs and says: ''I think we think so of them as well.

''I think the main thing is sometimes it looks like the guys are arrogant but they are just full of confidence,'' Pretorius says.

Sarel Joshua might be wrapped up in his cot when his father takes the field tomorrow night. But Pretorius and his wife are determined their son will learn all about his father, their family and his own heritage.

''He is born in Aussie but I think he will know where his roots are,'' Pretorius says. ''I will take him back after Super Rugby and show him a bit of South Africa. He'll grow up learning Afrikaans, that's our home language, we speak Afrikaans in the house. But it's always nice to have a good second language, so he'll have English too.''

As far as heritage goes, there might be a pint-sized Waratahs jersey in his cupboard one day.

But probably never a Wallabies one.

Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 0vs FJI 0 05:00Twic
TGA 0vs GEO 0 21:00Kholm
IRE 0vs CAN 0 23:30MilS
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs JPN 0 01:45Brig
FRA 0vs ITA 0 05:00Twic
SAM 0vs USA 0 21:00Brig
WAL 0vs URU 0 23:30MilS
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs ARG 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 0vs JPN 0 23:30Kholm
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs ROM 0 05:00The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs NAM 0 05:00The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 0vs GEO 0 01:45Kholm
ITA 0vs CAN 0 23:30Ella
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SAM 0 01:45Villa
ENG 0vs WAL 0 05:00Twic
AUS 0vs URU 0 21:00Villa
SCO 0vs USA 0 23:30Ella
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 0vs ROM 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 0vs NAM 0 01:45Sand
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs CAN 0 05:00stadium:mk
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs GEO 0 05:00MilS
SAM 0vs JPN 0 23:30stadium:mk
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SCO 0 01:45St James' Park
ENG 0vs AUS 0 06:00Twic
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 0vs TGA 0 00:30KPS
IRE 0vs ITA 0 02:45The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 0vs ROM 0 02:45KPS
FJI 0vs URU 0 06:00stadium:mk
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 0vs USA 0 02:45The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
NAM 0vs GEO 0 06:00Sand
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 0vs TGA 0 06:00St James' Park
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 0vs SCO 0 00:30St James' Park
AUS 0vs WAL 0 02:45Twic
ENG 0vs URU 0 06:00Manch
ARG 0vs NAM 0 22:00KPS
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 0vs ROM 0 00:30Sand
FRA 0vs IRE 0 02:45MilS
USA 0vs JPN 0 06:00Kholm
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinB 0vs RUpA 0 02:00Twic
WinC 0vs RUpD 0 06:00MilS
WinD 0vs RUpC 0 23:00MilS
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinA 0vs RUpB 0 02:00Twic
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF1 0vs WQF2 0 02:00Twic
Mon, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF3 0vs WQF4 0 03:00Twic
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
LSF1 0vs LSF2 0 07:00The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSF1 0vs WSF2 0 03:00Twic
View All Fixtures
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
France 0 0 0 0 0 0
New Zealand 0 0 0 0 0 0
Canada 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tonga 0 0 0 0 0 0
Japan 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Romania 0 0 0 0 0 0
Argentina 0 0 0 0 0 0
England 0 0 0 0 0 0
Georgia 0 0 0 0 0 0
Scotland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 0 0 0 0 0 0
USA 0 0 0 0 0 0
Italy 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ireland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Fiji 0 0 0 0 0 0
Samoa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Namibia 0 0 0 0 0 0
South Africa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Wales 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
 

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