Why Rugby great Syd attacked antisemitic opponent

SYD Nomis once injured an opponent after he made an antisemitic remark.

The South African, who has died at the age of 76, was one of the greatest Jewish rugby players.

Nomis played 54 times for his country, 25 of them in successive test matches between 1967 and 1972, which was then a record.

Early in his career, playing for the Wanderers in Johannesburg, he was called a “blerrie Jood” (bloody Jew) by an Afrikaner opponent.

But the racist was soon carried from the field, after Nomis registered a forceful protest.

Described as likeable and quiet off the field, he was involved in a number of violent clashes on it, losing two teeth in an incident in Cape Town in 1970, involving All Black full-back Fergie McCormick.

Luckily, the referee, Wynand Malan, was a dentist and gave Nomis running repairs on the field.

Nomis was born in Johannesburg. He joined the Wanderers on leaving school and went on to play provincial rugby for Transvaal, for whom he made 54 appearances from 1963, until his retirement in 1974.

In 1969, Nomis scored a decisive try in South Africa’s series victory over the touring British Lions.

But Springbok tours of Britain in 1969 and New Zealand in 1970, in which he took part, were disrupted by anti-apartheid protests.

Nomis said that he sometimes feared for his life during these violent demonstrations and let it be known that he had not voted for his country’s apartheid regime.

South Africa lost only four of the 25 tests in which he appeared.

After retiring from rugby, he became a printer, then worked in the clothing industry before moving into security.

In 1999, he was inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

In 2010, on a visit to Switzerland, Nomis suffered serious blood clots, resulting in the amputation of his left leg.

He is survived by wife Ann, son Gary, who played rugby for Transvaal, and daughters, Joanne and Romy, who both represented South Africa at hockey in the Maccabiah Games.

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