Swallows Rugby Football Club, South Africa: The story of a century, 1911-2011

  • P Nongogo
  • AL Toriola
Keywords: Swallows RFC, East Bank Location, black rugby, Rubusana, non-racial sport.


This paper aims to deconstruct and isolate a century-long story of the  Swallows RFC from a multifarious Xhosa and black peoplees rugby history and locate it in the epicentre of research in the country. This Club was  established in 1911 at the East Bank Location (EBL) of East London, in the present day Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. It is believed to be the oldest Xhosa peoplees rugby club in the region. This paper discusses the history of the Club: highlighting its role, contribution, weaknesses and influences in the development of not only Xhosa peoplees sports but also that of the broader black peoplees sporting experiences in the region and beyond. The Swallows RFCe story and the \institution. it grew to be, is discussed within the context of the broader development of sports and the social structures of the EBL. The personalities that were involved in  establishing and growing, not only the Swallows RFC but also in the  diffusion of Rugby Union game in the greater East London and the Border region are highlighted. Lest paeans of praise take centre stage, a  concerted effort is made to tell this Clubes story in an inclusive manner; incorporating the views and roles of those of the other clubs and game enthusiast that it had interacted with over the years. Special focus is however given to the Swallows RFCes role in the diffusion and transition of black rugby from the colonial and apartheid eras to the period of \unified. and/or \racially inclusive. rugby dispensation. It was believed that the latter was to usher-in \non-racial. rugby and .social democratice (Vawda, 1988) sporting dispensation during the early 1990s. The Clubes growth,  upheavals and eventual \survival. during post-1991 South African Rugby Football Union (SARFU) era, are also discussed. This paper therefore should be read specifically, in the context of origins and diffusion of \a more than a century rugby evolution. amongst the Xhosa people and the previously disadvantaged populations of the Eastern Cape and in South Africa, generally. This paper is based on oral testimonies of former Swallows players, administrators and rugby enthusiasts of the other clubs from the Border region and; primary sources and archival material on the topic that comprised the early vernacular newspapers such as the IsiXhosa columns of the Ilizwi Labantu; Imvo Zabantsundu and Indaba were extensively consulted because there is almost no formal published work on the history of the Club, except its brief history compiled by its former president, Ndimhle Lawrence Ngqondela This is a descriptive study; focusing on specific critical developments of the club rather than a definitive attempt to chronologically documenting this century-long story and its rivals in the region. A semi-structured questionnaire was developed and administered to 35 rugby stalwarts of the club and its rivals for the purpose of data collection. The interviews were administered from identified and available informants. Limited secondary sources pertinent to the topic were accessed and analysed for the purpose of cross-referencing the emerging \facts. from the interviews and primary sources. Content analysis was administered on the collected data; attempts were made to draw conclusions and to build a body of evidence and literature.

Keywords: Swallows RFC, East Bank Location, black rugby, Rubusana, non-racial sport.


Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: 2411-6939