False Bay RFC was rocked by the sad news of the passing of one of its favourite sons and standout players, Francois “Sweis” Breytenbach. He was involved in a fatal motor accident.
He was 26 years old.
Francois was a remarkable character, easily remembered for his trademark toothy smile which exuded warmth, kindness and mischief. “Sweis”, which was probably the most frequently used of a string of nicknames, was a standout player who enjoyed his rugby and life to the fullest.
Having captained Limpopo Province at the 2005 Craven Week, Francois then spent a year in Italy playing rugby. Raised on a farm in the Limpopo, his positive outlook on life and natural gift of storytelling endeared him to all.
He enthralled his team mates at False Bay with his long yarns which were picturesque journeys through an event and often left the listener wondering just how much was fact and fiction, but never feeling cheated if indeed truth was sparse.
After returning to South Africa, he joined the SA Navy and settled in Cape Town where he met his beloved fiancée, Nicole Southward. They were due to be married on 3 December.
Francois threw every ounce of his ability into succeeding as a sailor, his former Commander remarking in his eulogy on his rapid progress on the Submariner’s Programme, a mark of his passion and ability.
Francois joined False Bay RFC in 2010 and made a tremendous impact as a player and member. The Bay has something unique, a secret ingredient which is difficult to accurately identify. One accurate description is that False Bay RFC is a Band of Brothers, and Francois Breytenbach was integral.
Club Captain Marc Davids had this to say in his Eulogy at Francois’ Memorial Service:
“Fransie B or Swys as he was affectionately known to his friends and team mates was a true False Bay man. He was one of the very few players who can claim to have represented every senior team at the club, most significantly ending this season playing an important role in guiding the False Bay 1st XV to the Semi-Finals of the Presidents Cup.
"Having played in all those teams was most definitely a victory for every player he encountered along the way, as they were able to experience the infectious joy and passion for the game and his friends which seemed to radiate from our brother Fransie B. He was one of those family members at our club who could instantly put a smile on any player’s face the moment he arrived at the practice field. He had the most infectious smile in the world, one that you knew was utterly genuine, and no matter how terrible your day had been, you’d instantly perk up and be ready to take on what punishment the coaches decided to dish up on the day".
Pieter Benade, former False Bay flyhalf and now Coach recounts his first meeting with Francois.
“When I first got to the Bay I was playing in a 2nd team match early in the season. We never had proper reserves so when we lost a starting guy you were never sure who would be coming on. I remember there was about 20 minutes or so to go and we were marginally ahead.
“Our flank went off and Sweis came jogging onto the field. Fransie’s physical appearance certainly gave no clues as to what he was capable of as a rugby player and after a quick handshake I remember being quite concerned that I may have to actually start tackling with this new guy at flank not exactly looking like he spent hours in the gym.
“First scrum was in our 22 and after a backline switch play Sweis clattered into a big centre, got to his feet and stole the ball off him. I don’t think I had to make another tackle all game as he just went around hunting ball carriers and like Snoopy said going into rucks and putting his head where most sensible people would not. We won that game and I was very impressed with our impact player”.
Graham Knoop remarks, “During one of our games this season I broke my leg pretty badly. I was pretty calm lying in my hospital bed when a text message came through letting me know that after the game, Fransie B had decided to lead the guys in prayer for me. When I heard that I was in pieces, where else would you find a guy like this, who would say and do something like that. Fransie was always full of Love, so incredibly selfless. Amazing”
Club Chairman, Gareth Jones had this to say about Francois. “We are terribly saddened at the untimely passing of one of our most humble servants, Francois Swys Breytenbach. He was a shining light of unassuming dedication, commitment and respect, putting the team first, but always with a happy demeanour and glint in his eye. We have truly lost a great Bay man”.
First XV captain Michael Poppmeier paid homage with these words: “Listening to Marc Davids yesterday I cannot help but feel privileged to have known Fransie B and to also be a part of this BAND OF BROTHERS, "FALSE BAY".
“As our season slowly approaches I personally will always look back and remind myself of the FEARLESS LEGEND that was Fransie B and would like to dedicate our upcoming season to him. I know he would have only wanted us to go out and play to our best ability every Saturday”.
Francois’ memorial service was an indication of the impact this remarkable young man had made on those around him. Eulogies were presented by a number of people, colleagues, team mates, superiors, lecturers and friends. One of his school masters had made the journey from Limpopo to pay his last respects and shared his warm feelings of Francois.
As people recalled the effect of Francois on their lives, his smiling face looked over the packed-to-the-rafters hall from a big screen, a bittersweet reminder that he would not have wanted those who encountered him to shed tears at his passing.
He enjoyed every minute he had been gifted on this Earth and touched more lives in his short 26 years than many who spend their full three score and ten do.
Quite poignantly a mischievous wagtail flew through the open doors, circled the hall and flew out again, a greeting perhaps from a remarkable young man that society has lost and the kind South Africa needs.