JUSTIN VAN WINKEL
The name Justin van Winkel will no longer as has been the case for so many years, feature as an outstanding player in False Bay RFC match reports. The 34-year-old’s illustrious playing career, which included over two hundred First XV caps, a Super League A title and a Gold Cup runners-up medal, came to an abrupt end when he was advised to retire for medical reasons.
van Winkel joined the Bay in 2006 after spending three years at UCT and half a season at Villager RFC.
This Wynberg Boys High School product was encouraged to join the Constantia club by his colleague and friend, the late Daryl Sim who was coaching at the club until his untimely passing in 2006. “I am forever grateful to Daryl for introducing me to False Bay and I wish he could have been with us on our 12-year journey to SLA victory”, says van Winkel.
A hooker until he switched allegiances to the Constantia club, van Winkel set a new standard of openside flank play in WP Club rugby. Long the outstanding flanker on the SLB, he continued to shine when given the opportunity to showcase his talents in the Super League A.
When asked of the highlights of his career, this modest and charismatic Economics master and First XV coach at his alma mater Wynberg Boys High, typically honours the broader base by recognising those around him instead of absorbing the deserved glory of playing over two hundred matches for False Bay RFC.
“It was fantastic having loyal supporters and committee members follow us to the some of the toughest games in 2006 and then having the same loyal faces clapping us on to our SLA title 12 years later”, says the flanker. “I enjoyed playing much of that rugby with two of my best mates Marc Davids and Andre “Vlam” van Vuuren and it was particularly special having my wife, Lauren and family present when we won the title last year, which was also my 200th cap for the Bay”, he continued.
van Winkel lists contesting the Gold Cup Final on a super-hot Highveld day in Rustenberg against Impala as particularly special. “Playing in the Gold Cup competition, but especially the final in Rustenburg, was monumental for me. I never dreamed it was possible”, he says, the last remark a little tongue-in-cheek. “I loved every moment, from the build up to the 42 degree heat to every single one of the 80 minutes on the pitch”.
Supporters of the Constantia club who may only have witnessed their performance in the live television broadcast were not exposed to the essence of Old Club Rugby values as False Bay, despite their loss interacted with supporters and their opposition, a feature they had played a massive role in returning to the game. “I never knew then that it would be the end for me, which makes that experience all that much more special”, he says.
van Winkel again coaches the Wynberg Boys High School First XV with his good friend Allan Gerber. The duo enjoyed a particularly successful stint before returning to the lower age groups to groom and escort a team to senior level and the school is sure to enjoy success at the hands of these two astute coaches.
The disappointment of time being called early on his playing career is tempered by this challenge. A man of virtue and values, he takes great pride in playing a positive role in the lives of his pupils and players. “We strive to produce passionate men, who are loyal and committed in the real world”, he says. “Coaching rugby gives me an opportunity to add value in the boy's lives. They challenge and teach me all the time. The team environment provides a platform for boys to learn important life skills that are absent in modern society”.
For someone with such commitment and passion for the game of rugby, combined with the documented success, having it all summarily taken away him is something not many can evenly deal with. “After 28 years of playing rugby, it was shock to be told that I cannot ever again play the game that I love. I am grateful to my Mom, Dad, sister and especially my wife, who have all been incredibly supportive over my career”, he says. “God has a plan for my life and and I am quite excited about the road ahead”.
True to his character, van Winkel is seen on the sidelines with his team mates on Saturday afternoon, sharing sage commentary when necessary, his presence alone valued by the team. It is a big hole that this special man leaves, one he would not allow to be exaggerated and certainly his presence in the dugout is comfort to many.
False Bay host UCT at Constantia in their first home SLA league match on Saturday. The match will also be contested for the Mark Jordaan Trophy. First games are at 1.30pm and the main game starts at 4pm.