Rugby mentor succumbs to cancer

Coach Johann Kotze

The rugby fraternity is grieving the loss of former Brackenfell and Durbanville-Bellville (Durbell) coach, Johann Kotze who lost his battle with cancer on Saturday April 4 at the age of 47.

The humble coach, who helped both Brackenfell and Durbell achieve numerous individual and club accolades in Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU) club rugby over the years, leaves behind his wife, Surita, and 12-year-old twins, Le Roux and Jana. 

Ms Kotze said her husband was an absolute gentleman of the game and a hero to his family and friends. 

“I was privileged to be married to my soulmate. He loved the game but more so the people and players who he met over the years. He was a talented rugby player and coach and he will be missed by many. He saw the best in people and was loved by many, a true legend, husband and father,” she said.  

Known for his charismatic leadership style, Kotze’s former teammates, club members and friends also had good memories to share about him.

Chairman at Durbell, Robert Wallander was still shocked by the news. He said they became close friends, formidable partners and good advisers about the game and life over the years. 

“Everyone knew who Johann was through rugby. He joined our club at the end of 2017. We went for a cup of coffee, shook hands and our journey started. We wanted to do something different. Club rugby had lost its most important ingredient which is ‘the love of the game’. We wanted to bring back the enjoyment of the amatuer game. Loyalty was rewarded more than anything. We set out goals for two years. The first year we made the WP Super League final. Last year we made the Gold Cup final and once again the WP League final of which we were crowned the champions; Johann’s proudest rugby moment,” he said. 

Wallander said Kotze always believed rugby was only the vessel, but “It’s always about the players.” 

“Johann was a great person. One of a kind. He would have wanted us to work harder and give it 100%. As a club we can do our best to honour him in rugby. As individuals we can take the lessons learned and live life to the fullest. Rugby has lost a true gentleman. To his beloved wife and kids we want to thank them for lending him to us. We think about them every day and they must know that they will always be part of our rugby family. Once a Durbie, always a Durbie,” said Wallander. 

WP Rugby coach and Stormers skills coach, Labeeb Levy said Kotze still had much to offer in life and in the game. 

Levy recalled Kotze as a centre and fly-half 20 years ago. He remembered him as a “fierce and honest competitor” for Brackenfell and Boland, playing perfect switches.

“We played many games on the beach and nationals. When we both migrated to the rugby coaching environment our paths crossed at rugby matches, courses, workshops and training sessions. We would chat about the teams we were coaching, as well as (scouting) talent coming through the system. 

“I was quite happy when he was appointed Brackenfell coach as well with the results he achieved at Durbell. He was always so passionate for his players and was always going the extra mile, sacrificing so much time, which is a scarcity,” he said. 

Levy said Kotze was a true example of what a human being should strive to be. In rugby and in life, he was committed, honest, passionate and fair no matter what the occasion or challenge. 

“To his friend’s, family and rugby family, time heals all and let’s remember the good times and let’s value what’s important in this time and make a difference in each others lives as Johann had done. He was a top guy. From God we come and unto God we return,” said Levy.

Head coach at Uni-Mil Rugby Club, Ishmaeel Dollie said the news was a massive shock. 

“I could not believe this as Johann seemed a healthy young man having chatted to him regularly during rugby season. We have known each other for a number of years coaching against each other, sharing rugby knowledge and material with each other regularly,” he said.

Dollie said Kotze was a genuine, soft and kind-hearted person who always seemed calm and never flustered whenever they interacted.

“Johann has left an indelible mark on the WP Club rugby fraternity. This is evident in the high praise he gets whenever his players that he coached and other coaches speak about him. Most importantly, his wonderful character is something that will live on in my memory. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this time,” said Dollie. 

Brackenfell Rugby posted a sequence of pictures on Facebook that shared a few memories of coach Kotze, saying “his void as a friend will certainly be missed.”

“We are thinking of Surita and his children in this difficult time and pray that they will find peace and will know he is in a better place. Rest in peace, Johann.”