ACTIVITIES @ SHONGWENI
In an age of professionalism supposedly making the ethos of small-town community club rugby obsolete, Hillcrest Villagers has bucked the trend by bringing the game back to its spirited home of family and community-driven entertainment. Led by seasoned administrators, such as Honourary Life President Keith Dent and current Chairman Rene Missen, this staple of the Upper Highway has dedicated itself to the expansion of the game throughout the region.
Aside from this success story, the Junior Rugby Club has itself produced players who have gone on to the highest level of the game. Stade Français hooker Craig Burden, SWD Eagles centre Tyler Fisher, England International Geoff Appleford and German international Ayron Schramm all developed their love for the game on the uncompromising fields of Villagers’ former home, the William Gillitt Sports Ground (commonly referred to as the Hillcrest Sports Club).
Formed in 1970, Hillcrest Villagers’ ability to adapt to a changing social landscape has seen it thrive whilst other clubs falter into collapse or uncomfortable amalgamations. Extensive entertainment options coupled with the emphasis on schoolboys signing junior provincial contracts has meant that haphazard family outings to the local club are a thing of the past. Here, on-field success and the evolution of the club went hand in hand. Victory in the 2008 First Division meant a step up to Premier Division, which required the use of two fields. Initial plans for a swap of facilities with Highway United Football Club fell through due to residential concerns in Winston Park, and saw the club relocate to the Durban Shongweni Club (DSC).
The pristine facilities and equine attractions ensure the whole family is entertained and the synergy between the two parties has lent itself to a match day atmosphere to savour. What sets Hillcrest Villagers apart from its contemporaries is the clubmanship that flows through its ranks, from seasoned veterans plying their trade in the third team, to the first team regulars and title sponsors, Land Rover Durban. Funding is the lifeblood of club sport and without such assistance, this dynamic club may have faded into obscurity.
With a passion for the game, the community and the Durban Shongweni Club, Hillcrest Villagers has all the necessary support required to make a conscious push towards a place amongst the leading rugby clubs in the province. Such admirable resolve certainly warrants such a reward.
With the fall of so many amateur rugby clubs in SA, Hillcrest Villagers is fighting forward and taking club rugby to higher levels. Amateur rugby is struggling, and many clubs don’t have the support they had with the rise of social fitness, one on one sports and lack of funding. But this communality-based club is holding strong. With Rene Missen’ still leading at the helm the club is looking forward to a very exciting 2019 season. Villagers Backed by title sponsor Land Rover Durban who remain the proud sponsor of Hillcrest Villagers 1st and 2nd XV and Turaco Energy title sponsor of the 3rd XV.
2019 will see the merge and re connect of the senior and junior clubs. For many years the junior rugby club has run as separate club and for the 1st time in years the clubs will come together and play as one unit. With Head Coach Mike De Kock, Club Captain Brian Lewis and the juniors Chairperson Natashca Kretzel pushing for the connection of the two clubs in 2017 and 2018, it has finally happened. The junior club will be joining the senior cub at the Durban shongweni club for the 2019 season.
This connection of the two club will bring life to the villagers u20 division. The club is hoping that the connection will encourage the flow of players from juniors into the senior club building a stronger villager’s family. The juniors Chairperson Natashca Kretzel and Hillcrest Villagers Vice chairperson Danielle Audibert have secured the connection with a shared sponsor who will be supporting our club from U7 to the U20 teams. Villagers is very excited to welcome Built It Pinetown to the villager’s senior family.
2017 and 2018 bought changes that will help steer the club into what looks like a very exciting future. They had the re-formation on the 3rd side dream team, head up by the Club Captain Brian “Cappy” Lewis. He was able to pull the senior players back and create an incredible old boys’ side. This side has worked hard in the last three years to give back to the community. The old school villagers “AKA DREAM TEAM” pick one needy child every year and we host a charity day to raise money for this child, villagers 1st, 2nd and 3rdXV all play games and get the opposing clubs to help with the fud raising. Each year the old school villagers raise over 100k, their motto is simple “we are giving back to the community that gave to us” The villagers 3rd side has grown and is starting to compete strongly in their division again.
2017 and 2018 saw a change in leadership in coaching staff of the 1st and 2nd XV. Our head Coach Mike De Kock assisted by Jared Chiocchetti have managed to take the teams to higher levels. 2018 has seen Villagers once again challenge for top honours in the Fidelity First Division South Section, missing out to South Coast Warriors by mere bonus points, whilst the 2nd team also claimed a runner’s up spot in the Fidelity First Division South Reserves. Incredibly, second was also the placing of the 3rd team in the DRSU Foaden Bowl; but all the above suggests a club that is on the cusp of the transitioning to the next level. All the signs are there; such as their lifting of the Keith Parkinson Cup this year, and the emergence of an impressive batch of young players who still find themselves living in the bourgeoning Upper Highway.