Robert Loftus Owen Versfeld

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Robert Loftus Owen Versfeld

Also Known As: "Loftus"
Birthdate: (69)
Birthplace: Cape Town, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
Death: May 5, 1932 (69)
Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg, City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality, Gauteng, South Africa (Heart Attack)
Immediate Family:

Son of Marthinus Versfeld, b5c3 and Johanna Hillegonda Carolina Owen
Husband of Johanna Catharina Elizabeth Botha, b3c8d1e1
Father of Wilfred Versfeld; Thelma Versfeld and Winifred Versveld
Brother of Marthinus "Oupa" Versfeld; Helena Elizabeth Versfeld; Jan Hendrik Christoffel Versfeld; Charles "Hasie" Versfeld and Willem Versfeld

Managed by: Patricia Ann Seaton
Last Updated:

About Robert Loftus Owen Versfeld

Robert Loftus Owen Versfeld was a South African rugby union player and administrator who was a founding member of the Eastern Province Rugby Union and of the Pretoria Rugby Subunion (1908) which in 1938 became Northern Transvaal. He founded Pretoria Rugby Club in 1888, and established Pretoria rugby headquarters at Eastern Sports Grounds. He introduced grass playing fields to the Transvaal.

Versfeld is the only South African player to have won a Grand Challenge Cup in three different provinces with three different teams: the inaugural Western Province Grand Challenge Cup with Hamilton Rugby Football Club in 1883; the Eastern Province Grand Challenge Cup with Union RFC in 1888; and the Transvaal Grand Challenge Cup with Pretoria RFC in 1889. He also played for a Transvaal Country XV against Bill MacLagan's touring British Isles side in 1891.

The hallowed rugby ground Loftus Versfeld, was named in his honour. Loftus Versfeld, Petroria, became a rugby ground in 1909 when it was called the Eastern Sports Ground. It was renamed Loftus Versfeld in 1933 after Robert Versfeld, who formed the first rugby club in Pretoria in 1888. Robert Versfeld was one of four rugby playing brothers; two of whom, Oupa and Hasie, were Springboks in 1891 against the first British touring team. In 1908 Loftus founded the Pretoria Rugby Sub-Union, which became the Northern Transvaal Rugby Union in 1938. Robert Loftus Versfelt and three of his five brothers, John, Marthinus (Oupa), and Charles (Hasie) all played rugby for Hamilton RFC. In 1885 all four were in the Hamilton side that won the inaugural WP Grand Challenge Cup. In the same year they were on the Combined Cape Town team that competed in the first interprovincial competition at Grahamstown. Loftus was later named as a life-member of Hamiltons Rugby Club (Cape Town).

Robert Loftus Versfeld moved to Murraysburg, where he practiced law, and then to Uitenhage, where he lived in 1886. He not only helped start the Union Club, but also the Eastern Province Rugby Union. He was on Union's 1888 team that won the inaugural Eastern Province Grand Challenge Cup. In 1888 Robert Loftus Versfeld moved to Pretoria, and started the Good Hope Football Club, which later became Pretoria Rugby Football Club, "the oldest Rugby Football Club in the Transvaal". He was the captain of Pretoria's 1889 team which won the first Transvaal Grand Challenge Cup. Although rugby had been played in Pretoria since 1887, it had never been formally organized. Robert Loftus Versfeld was the captain of Pretoria's 1889 team which won the first Transvaal Grand Challenge Cup.

Versfeld and his three brothers all faced Bill MacLagan's 1891 British tourists. Charles "Hasie" and Martinus "Oupa" played alongside Jan "John" in a Cape Town XV. Hasie became the first South African to score a try against an international touring side in Cape Town's 1-15 loss at Newlands on 9 July 1891. Tries then had a value of only 1 point, and Hasie's try was the only point scored against the Brits on their entire 1891 tour. Marthinus "Oupa" (3 caps) and Charles "Hasie" (1 cap) went on to represent South Africa's national team. Loftus was in the Transvaal Country Districts XV who on 15 August 1891 lost 0-22 to the British in Johannesburg. His teammates included the future Boer general Christiaan Beyers, "one of the leading players in Pretoria, a powerful forward, who led the van in rushes".

Robert "Loftus" Versfeld retired from playing rugby in 1897, and became President of Pretoria RC. He started the Pretoria Rugby Subunion in 1908 of which he became the second President, following Fred Hopley. In recognition of his contributions to rugby Versfeld was named life-member of the subunion and eventually of the Transvaal Rugby Union. In 1919-20 he used imported kikuyu grass from Kenya to produce the first grass rugby field in the Transvaal.

Loftus Versfeld suffered a fatal heart attack while watching a Currie Cup fixture between Transvaal and the Free State at Ellis Park Stadium on 5th May 1932. His son, Wilfred, became President of the Northern Transvaal Rugby Union from its inception in 1938 until 1950. A year after Loftus' death the Eastern Sports Grounds - where Versfeld established rugby headquarters in Pretoria - were renamed Loftus Versfeld in his honour.

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Robert Loftus Owen Versfeld's Timeline

December 7, 1862
Cape Town, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
May 5, 1932
Age 69
Johannesburg, City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality, Gauteng, South Africa