Paul Roos Gymnasium went up from Stellenbosch to Bloemfontein for a variety of competitions with Grey College. Some 700 went up in buses, including 27 rugby teams – including Kerwin Noemdo.
Rugby365.com reports that the rugby at Grey on Saturday was a famous sporting Old Boy of the great school, Ryk Neethling, who swam for South Africa at four successive Olympic Games and won a gold medal in 2004 – a national hero. He was watching the rugby and saw Kerwin play. Neethling was impressed.
Amongst the 27 Paul Roos rugby teams there were 10 Under-19 teams – from 1st XV to 10th XV. Kerwin was in the 2nd XV. They played Grey’s second team, called the Cherries, often regarded as the second best team in the Free State, after their 1st XV, that is.
Of the 27 rugby matches between the two schools Grey won 18. Two were drawn. One of those that were drawn was the match between the second teams, and Kerwin was in the Paul Roos 2nd XV. He played fullback and he converted the Paul Roos try that drew the match.
That is not remarkable unless you know that Kerwin has only one hand.
For Ryk Neethling it certainly was amazing. He tweeted:
“At Grey v PRG inter schools. PRG 2nd team fullback only has one arm and playing a blinder. #respect”
He tweeted again at the game’s end: “How about that… Kerwin the fullback w one arm kicked a conversion in the last min to tie the game. PRG 2nd 18 – Cherries 18. Well done boy.”
Talk to Kerwin and he will find nothing strange in what he does. He was born with a small, deformed right hand because the umbilical cord was twisted around his right wrist which was behind his back and so not detected before birth. The deformed hand was amputated when he was just over two months old. “I have never known what it was like to have two hands.” And so he just got on with it, and getting on with it included playing rugby and doing all the other things Paul Roos Boys do.
He is on the school’s student council, is the head of his koshuis, Nova, and he is the fullback for the 2nd XV. He has also played cricket and soccer, and has steadfastly refused to consider himself as disabled. He had, after all, been treated as a normal person right through his upbringing. And part of his upbringing was rugby. He comes from a rugby family.
“Rugby is in my blood. When I started playing in Grade 8, some people were sceptical. Those who did not know me thought that it could not be done. They did not understand how it could be done. For me it was a challenge and I enjoyed the challenge. In the whole of my high school career I have dropped a high kick only once.”
How does he do it? “In the same way that other people have learnt to catch and pass with two hands, I have done so with one hand. If I suddenly got a second hand, I’d struggle to catch and pass because I am not used to having two hands.”
Of course, there is something special here. After all a hero regards him as heroic.