greig muir, nerine pienaar, francois pienaar and bruce gardnerGreig Muir, Nerine Pienaar, Francois Pienaar and Bruce Gardner
(Grant Norval)

Summerhill is blessed in its visitations by famous names, and as celebrated as any among our friends is Francois Pienaar, captain of the 1995 World Cup winning Springbok rugby team who famously donated his No.6 rugby jersey to Nelson Mandela on that historic occasion. Francois first came to Summerhill courtesy of a friendship with one of our oldest customers, Bruce Gardner, and his lovely wife Jo, and they were back at the farm on a nostalgic visit on Friday. It used to be that the party included the coach of that great team, Kitch Christie, who has sadly passed on since then. But it is evident from the picture above, that Francois has lost none of his zest nor love of the competitve nature of the horseracing business.

At the height of his Springbok’s seventeen consecutive victories, Summerhill introduced Francois to racing courtesy of a filly whose name was appropriately changed to Amabokoboko, as an acknowledgement to the achievements of his side. It was in his association with this filly that Francois rediscovered the meaning of humility, on an evening that he, his lovely wife Nerine and the Gosses were invited to join Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for supper on her gracious boat, Britannia. As we mounted the gangplank, he lamented the fact that Amabokoboko had finished 2nd on five consecutive occasions, only to be reminded by the Summerhill contingent that after 17 consecutive victories, it was time he learnt to lose!!

During the course of the evening, much of which Her Majesty spent talking horses with our party, which included cricketer Jonty Rhodes, Bafana Bafana captain Neil Tovey and former Natal and Western Province sportsman and erstwhile “Star” editor Richard Steyn, the Queen enquired of Francois what the secret was to his and his fellow forwards great size.

In typical diplomatic Francois Pienaar fashion, the retort was short and to the point:

“Mielies, M’am!”.