SA's big rugby jersey collector – 500 and counting!

WILLEM DU PREEZ, Blitzbok Werner Kok's father-in-law, has collected more than 500 rugby jerseys. He explains how he began and which jerseys mean the most to him.

I played for the Lowveld union for five years, having represented the South Eastern Transvaal U20 and South African Air Force teams. When I stopped playing, I decided I needed to do something else rugby-related, so I started collecting jerseys.

My only regret is that I didn't start while I was playing. Lowveld competed against other smaller unions like Winelands, Boland, Border and Transkei, so I could have got all those jerseys then. But I will get them eventually.

I've tried to get as many jerseys as possible from players who come from the Lowveld. Most of those I've asked – like Vleis Visagie, Derick Badenhorst, Schutte Bekker, Nico Wegner, Danie Rossouw and Duane Vermeulen – have given me either a provincial or Springbok jersey.

[caption id="attachment_11792" align="alignnone" width="450"]Lowveld Lowveld union jerseys[/caption]

My son-in-law, Werner Kok, plays for the Blitzboks but he doesn't like to give jerseys away. I've got three of his jerseys and two of them are from an auction! But it's OK, I'll get some more jerseys from him.

When players come to Nelspruit, they say they will give me a jersey if give them some Mampoer! But I don't like to beg people. I ask a guy once and if he doesn't give me a jersey, I won't ask again.

Some players don't like to give away their jerseys, which I understand. I never put on a player's jersey because I did not earn the right to wear it, and it annoys me when I see some fans doing that.

I've got over 500 jerseys now, more than 400 ties (which I began collecting before the jerseys) as well as blazers, boots, books and programmes. Everything except underpants!

[caption id="attachment_11795" align="alignnone" width="450"]Bakkies Botha Bakkies Botha's jersey for his 100th Super Rugby match[/caption]

I have a few prized jerseys. I'm a Bulls supporter, so the signed jersey Joost van der Westhuizen wore in the 1998 Currie Cup final and the jersey Bakkies Botha wore in his 100th Super Rugby game are both very special to me. The other day, I got a 1938 blazer from an Eastern Province player, which was quite a find.

[caption id="attachment_11794" align="alignnone" width="449"]Bulls Prized Bulls jerseys[/caption]

I often tell players if they have jerseys lying in a cupboard that they should rather give them to me to display. I've built special wooden cupboards in which I can put 15 jerseys. I'd like to do that for each union.

[caption id="attachment_11796" align="alignnone" width="450"]Transvaal/Lions jerseys Transvaal/Lions jerseys[/caption]

I'm also collecting all the Varsity Cup jerseys, old and new, and have quite a lot of them already. And all the Carlton League club jerseys – I only need Iscor and the Tuks B team jerseys to complete that set.

Some collectors have jerseys displayed all around their house. I don't do that, but I have quite a big farmhouse in Nelspruit so there's enough room for my jerseys.

A lot of my friends visit me just so they can see my collection and then tell other people about it, which is great. I hope to show them many more jerseys in future!

[caption id="attachment_11797" align="alignnone" width="550"]Springbok jerseys Springbok jerseys[/caption] – Got a jersey for Willem? Contact him at 083-282-0265. – Do you collect rugby jerseys or anything else rugby-related? If so, let us know at