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Daniel “Cheeky” Watson

The Order of Ikhamanga in

Daniel “Cheeky” Watson Awarded for:
His exceptional contribution to the field of sport, in particular rugby. He is recognised for his excellent contribution towards the creation of non-racial rugby, and his stand in the struggle for the creation of a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society.
Profile of Daniel “Cheeky” Watson

Daniel Watson was born in 1955 and was one of the first white South African rugby union players to participate in a mixed-race rugby game during a period when mixed-race activities were forbidden by apartheid legislation.

Watson grew up on a farm near Somerset East, in the Eastern Cape. He attended the Graeme College boarding school in Grahamstown, where he began playing union rugby. He later captained the Graeme College side.

As a 21-year old, Watson played for the Eastern Province team which lost by one point to the visiting All Blacks in 1976. Mona Badela, a black journalist and president of the KwaZakhele Rugby Union (Kwaru), invited him to practise his Christian convictions by coaching a black side in the townships. When Watson took the black rugby team to practise at the Saint George’s Sports Ground in Port Elizabeth, they were met with strong opposition.

Watson was selected as a wing for the Junior Springboks in 1976. However, he declined an invitation to participate in the trials for the 1976 senior Springbok team. He joined the Spring Rose Rugby Football Club in the black township of New Brighton, Port Elizabeth, which was affiliated with Kwaru. His wing partner was Zola Yeye, later manager of the 2007 Springbok squad.

On 10 October 1976, Watson and his brother Valance played with 13 black players for Kwaru against the South Eastern Districts Rugby Union (Sedru) in the Dan Qeqe Stadium in KwaZakhele township. Local authorities and the Crusaders Rugby Club tried to dissuade him from participating. Non-racial sports meetings were at that time prohibited in terms of the apartheid-era Group Areas Act, 1950 and the Separate Amenities Act, 1953. Armoured vehicles circled the stadium, and the two brothers had to lie flat on the floor of a taxi that transported black Africans. The black rugby team regularly stayed at the Watson home.

By 1978, the Watson family had been drawn into the anti-apartheid struggle, with dual membership in the then-banned African National Congress and South African Communist Party. His brother Ronnie gathered intelligence for both organisations.

The Watsons were subsequently threatened, ostracised, harassed and shot at. Their home was burnt down in 1986.

Friends stopped visiting, either because they were being threatened by authorities, or because they disagreed with the Watsons’ political stance.

Today, Daniel Watson is a business consultant residing in the South End suburb of Port Elizabeth, and has recently assumed the presidency of the Eastern Province Rugby Union based in Port Elizabeth, which operates the Eastern Province Kings Currie Cup team. He is also the chairperson of the Southern Kings rugby franchise, which was launched in June 2009 and will play Super Rugby from 2013 onwards.