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The Order of Ikhamanga in Silver
Awarded to George Moir Christie (1940 - 1998) for
Excellent contribution to the game of rugby through his remarkable coaching abilities, and coaching South Africa to rugby world cup victory in 1995.
Profile of George Moir Christie
George Moir Christie was born in Johannesburg on 31 January 1940 to a Scottish father and English mother. He was educated at Leith Academy in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Christie returned to South Africa to join the Pretoria Harlequins Rugby Club as a flanker. His dedication, talent and insight into the game of rugby ensured that his relationship with the club flourished. He stayed with the club for many years until, looking for a change of scenery; he moved to coach Glenwood Old Boys in Durban. At Glenwood Old Boys, he continued his successful streak, coaching them to a number of trophies as well as serving as a Northern Transvaal selector.
His commitment to the game saw him moving once again in 1980, this time to the United States of America (USA) where he broadened his rugby horizons and transformed the fortunes of the Chicago Lions team. In his short stint of three months there, he elevated the team to a higher plain, leading the club to the Midwest regional crown.
He accepted an offer from Transvaal president Louis Luyt in 1992 to take over the reins at Ellis Park.
His success as a coach made him a national icon. He won back-to-back Currie Cup titles, convincing the SA Rugby Football Union that Christie was the man to coach the national team.
From October 1994 to March 1996, when ill-health forced him to withdraw from rugby, Christie steered the Springboks to 14 wins in 14 tests, including that famous World Cup final against the All Blacks in June 1995. Towards the run-up to the 1995 Rugby World Cup, hosted by South Africa, and the first major competition for the Springboks after their return from international expulsion, Christie inspired hope and showed himself to be a rock of dependability.
A natural leader and unifier, he played an invaluable role, along with Morné Du Plessis, his assistant coach Gysie Pienaar, and former Springbok captain Francois Pienaar, in mobilising all South Africans behind the victorious Amabokoboko. This was the first time in the history of South Africa that all South Africans, from all walks of life, were enthusiastic and excited about rugby.
During the World Cup final, the match ended in a 12-12 draw in regulation time, sending the teams to extra time, during which Joel Stransky's drop goal won the Webb Ellis Trophy for South Africa. This led to the especially memorable awards ceremony during which South African President Nelson Mandela, wearing a Springbok jersey – long a symbol of apartheid – handed the trophy to Pienaar.
In March 1996, Christie was forced to step down from the Springboks after being diagnosed with leukaemia. Initially, his treatment went well enough, enabling him to finally fulfil his long-time dream of coaching Northern Transvaal, and accepting the head coaching job there for the 1997 Super 12 season.
By the end of 1997, his condition had worsened to the point that he sought specialised treatment in the USA. He was able to return to rugby as a technical adviser to the Falcons in 1998, but entered hospital for the final time on Easter Sunday of 1998. Christie died at the age of 58, after a long battle against leukaemia. He left behind his wife of 19 years, Judy, and their son Clayton.
George Moir Christie, known as “Kitch”, contributed to the advancement of South African rugby in a manner that could never be underestimated.