From ‘huiskind’ to hero – Bok sensation Kurt-Lee Arendse’s old school swells with pride on eve of World Cup semi
Paulus Joubert Senior Secondary School is the alma mater of Springbok speedster Kurt-Lee Arendse. Situated in the disadvantaged neighbourhood of Lantana in Paarl East, it has consistently produced elite players, including the late Tinus Linee, Marlin Williams and Renfred Dazel who now coaches the Springbok Women’s Sevens team. Daily Maverick visited the school on the eve of this weekend’s Rugby World Cup semifinal.
Daily Maverick was bombarded by Bok fever on the way to Paulus Joubert Senior Secondary in Paarl on Friday morning. Pupils from the William Lloyd Primary School, teachers, residents and members of the Klein Nederburg under-19 rugby team were out generating some gees with a local song, Maak oop die Hekke.
In terms of favourites, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Kwagga Smith, Eben Etzebeth, Chester Williams and Damian Willemse were the names uttered with big smiles.
The upbeat mood was a prelude to the euphoria that will erupt on Saturday at 9pm when the Springboks face England in the RWC 2023 semifinals in France.
Kurt-Lee attended Paulus Joubert Senior Secondary from 2010 to 2014.
Matriculants at the school were waiting for the gates to open so they could obtain their exam numbers in the hall. Most of their signature white jerseys bore the name “Kurt-Lee Arendse”. One of them, Jermaine van Neel, had created a pen portrait of the winger on the back of his shirt.
Walking into the school, a giant poster of the school’s Springbok players, including Arendse, the late Linee, Williams and Dazel, rose like a beacon of optimism.
I always encourage learners that what Kurt-Lee accomplished, they can accomplish as well. It makes no difference where you reside.
Pupils and teachers alike couldn’t wait to share their thoughts on the interaction with these four players, particularly Arendse, whose name is on everyone’s lips.
The rugby pitch at Paulus Joubert Senior Secondary, where those four players made their names, does not appear to be suited for play. The gravel patches and thorns poking through the grass have earned it the nickname “Doringbaai Rugby Field”.
Yet international rugby teams flock to play here each year, not for the surface, but for the magnificent alpine surroundings.
Life orientation teacher Rochelle de Wee has a long history with Kurt-Lee. He used to visit her house regularly, and she described him as “huiskind”.
“Kurt-Lee is a quiet person with a great personality and discipline. He is a role model for the learners who look up to him. I always encourage learners that what Kurt-Lee accomplished, they can accomplish as well. It makes no difference where you reside,” De Wee said.
One of Kurt-Lee’s distinguishing characteristics is that he always returns to school. He gave the school his Springbok jersey last year.
The school is in a rural area, where many parents are unemployed. Gangsterism and drugs are also prominent – a plague that has infiltrated large portions of Cape Town.
Why is Kurt-Lee the No 1 player for these pupils? “He is currently the only player on the team who does not come from an ex-Model C school. He is a tremendous inspiration because he comes from a location where we hail, and many of us want to mimic his success.”
Kurt-Lee’s former geography teacher, Olivia Kulsen, said: “From the moment I saw him he was well-mannered. He was really humble and always wore a blazer.”
She remembers Kurt-Lee studying at her house when he was in Grade 11. Pupils, she added, look up to Kurt-Lee not only for his exploits on the field, but also for his humility.
“One of Kurt-Lee’s distinguishing characteristics is that he always returns to school. He gave the school his Springbok jersey last year.”
Looking ahead to Saturday’s titanic semifinal, Kulsen said: “My boy – I used to call him Boetie – just give it your best. We are proud of you and will cherish you in our hearts forever.”
Althea Daniels, Kurt-Lee’s cousin and a Grade 10 pupil at the school, plays scrumhalf for the school team and made it to the Boland selection squads.
“Kurt-Lee’s and my brother Giovania Sauls’s influence inspired me to play rugby. I, like Kurt-Lee, aspire to be a Springbok player,” she said.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Rugby World Cup 2023
The school’s rugby coaches, Athol Ontong and Jeronavan Prins, spotted Kurt-Lee’s abilities and were key in encouraging him to greater heights.
Both are immensely proud of him and believe the school will undoubtedly produce more Springboks in the future.
Please, boy, eat your stam mielies en boontjies before the game against England for that extra woema.
Ontong said he focused on “discipline, hard work and punctuality” in his coaching sessions. “I attempted to impart all of the principles that a child/learner requires after he leaves school in order to have a successful future.”
He remembers attending the Boland trials in 2014 with Kurt-Lee who was disappointed that he did not make the Craven Week under-19 team. He made the Academic team, which competed at a tournament in Worcester.
“He stood head and shoulders above the other competitors in this tournament. That achievement opened several avenues. The first was the University of the Western Cape, whose scouts approached him. At the time, the late Chester Williams was the coach at UWC, and he took him under his wing to study there.”
He was then accepted into the WP Academy and ended up playing with the Bulls.
The most difficult challenges that Paulus Joubert Senior Secondary faces, Ontong explained, is that the majority of potential players are promised money, books, uniforms and gym facilities by other schools in other provinces that have poached them.
“We simply cannot compete with those wealthy schools and rugby unions.”
Magdalene Meyer, who is in charge of the kitchen at the school and fed “maer” Kurt-Lee when he was at the school, had some solid advice for him:
“Please, boy, eat your stam mielies en boontjies before the game against England for that extra woema.” DM
Watch on a big screen in a crowd
The game kicks off at 9pm South Africa time.
Eight of the biggest shopping malls in South Africa are decked out in green and gold to share in the gees at the MTN Springbok Fan Malls in Gauteng, KZN, the Free State, and the Western Cape.
Springbok Fan Malls have been set up in conjunction with SA Rugby and some its commercial partners at Menlyn Park (Pretoria), Mall of Africa, Nelson Mandela Square, Eastgate (Johannesburg)m Gateway (Durban), Mimosa Mall (Bloem) as well as Canal Walk and Tyger Valley Shopping Centre (Cape Town)]
If you are in Cape Town, you can watch from the V&A Waterfront at the Amphitheatre.
Here are some fan park options in Joburg: where to watch