The golden thread through club rugby always stays the same: it is run by people who give of themselves, their time and often also their money to keep clubs afloat. In the case of James du Toit, chairman of Johannesburg Police (Bobbies) this is no exception. Du Toit and his charges are hard work to get Marks Park ready for the Currie Cup Qualifying game against Griquas at their venue this weekend.
This man has given most of the past 25 years of his life to club rugby, first at Union rugby club where he had various roles from coach to manager, in between two years at Pirates and the last five years at Johannesburg Police since the club moved to Marks Park. In the Du Toit household involvement in club rugby is a given. All three sons, from Jason (34), JP (22) and Donovan (20) have been in action for the club. Jason recently retired due to injury, JP is hooker for the second team and Donovan injuredhis shoulder against Alberton but was back on the park this week.
Wife Elzina was a SA netball referee and understands and loves sport just as much as her husband and sons. James is very forthright when coaxed about the challenges of running a club these days. “First off we are in the middle of UJ, Wits and Pirates. This is a big challenge because youngsters would rather go to a university. We work hard to recruit players, and especially young players to the club. Our passion for the sport is what draws kids to come play for us.
“Sponsors, or the lack thereof, are the next big challenge. We lost our sponsor and currently I fund the club out of my pocket. Luckily my wife is in it with me for the long haul and she understand. We will do it for as long as it is necessary,” James confirms unabashedly. James is a born and bred Lion, in other words he grew up in Lions country, Johannesburg and have stood by his favourite team through the thick and the thin years.
“In the tough years, when there were only ten people at Ellis Park, I was one of those ten. Together with my uncles we have stuck with the Lions and we still stick,” he says with a confident grin. He runs a guest house with Elzina in Brackenhurst while he also runs a construction business. Johannesburg Police didn’t think twice when offered the opportunity to host a Currie Cup Qualifying game at their venue.
“We hosted the Lions Sevens for the last two years and it was a huge success. To host the Lions at our club is a big honour and privilege. If we can make some money from the day, it will be a huge bonus,” Du Toit says. Bobbies, his club, won their league for two years in a row and managed to qualify for the Pirates Grand Challenge in 2016. Their biggest goal is not to get relegated again. “We are doing well at the moment as there are two or three teams under us on the log. If we can keep it that way, we will be happy,” he acknowledges.