Choet Visser was a Free State Rugby player whose private rugby collection achieved legendary status. The privately owned Choet Visser Rugby Museum was first opened in 1974 and by 1976, it had seen 5000 people enter through the doors.
The collection housed thousands of sweaters, jackets, balls, pictures and ties. There were also original, signed cartoons and pictures of teams and players displayed on the walls. The oldest item was the agenda for the establishment of the English Rugby Football Union, the oldest rugby union in 1871, which was convened in the Pall Mall Restaurant in London. Visser had strict rules for his collection, one of which was that an item must have been a gift. He never bought anything.
It was during the 25th anniversary of the 1974 Lions triumph in South Africa, held in 1999 in Edinburgh, that Princess Anne, the patron of the Scottish Rugby Union, was sitting next to the Free State rugby legend and turned to him saying, "So you are the famous Choet Visser whom everyone is talking about."
Visser passed away on 30 June 2005, but his legend lives in Nooitgedacht Village.
Theo Geustyn is a rugby enthusiast and collector extraordinaire whose vast collection of rugby memorabilia, consisting of more than 600 rugby jerseys, jackets, balls, team photos and ties from all across the rugby-playing world.
“All these pieces are special,” says Theo, “but if I had to single out one it would be the Springbok jersey and tog bag of Sias de Kock from the 1921 Springbok tour to New Zealand.”
Other jerseys in the collection include those of Jack van der Schyff from the 1949 Springbok and All Blacks series, and Poens Prinsloo’s from the 1963 clash between the Springboks and the Wallabies. “That jersey still has the ‘Pronkbokkie’ badge and I think there are only six of them left in the country. Then there’s the jersey of Gareth Edwards from the 1974 British Lions tour to South Africa, the French captain Jean Pierre Rives’ from the 1980 test series between France and South Africa and Andrew Mehrtens’ fly-half jersey from the 1996 clash between the All Black and the Springboks,”.
The collection is massive and each jersey or collectible has a story to tell of how Theo came to be in possession of it. One of the more entertaining anecdotes is how he got hold of prop Ollie le Roux’s 1994 jersey while the Springboks were on tour in New Zealand. “One night, after a game against Bay of Plenty, Gysie Pienaar, the fullback, casually strolled into our hotel room with what appeared to be a bag of mud, saying he had a gift for me. Digging through all that mud, I found shreds of Ollie’s torn jersey. That’s how hard he was mauled during the game. Luckily, after an all-night soak in a tub of water and detergent, you could once again make out that it was Ollie’s jersey.” Theo reminisces. Bloemfontein-born Theo began collecting rugby memorabilia at the tender age of 10. At first, he collected newspaper clippings and used the Afrikaans family magazine, Huisgenoot, to collect photos of his local and international rugby heroes.
Theo Geustyn’s incredible collection has now found its home in World Rugby Experience @ Nooitgedacht. Here, it is sure to grow even greater, and to be appreciated by scores of people who share Theo’s passion for the game.
Nooitgedacht Village is built on more than 300 years of history. The Village was a dream that began with Fritz Wirth, who passed the reins to his son, Werner Wirth. Werner, together with a dedicated team of professionals, brought the dream to life. Today, Nooitgedacht Village has reached close to 30% of its total development plan, with close to 300 families already calling Nooitgedacht Village home.
The Nooitgedacht Village vision is one marked by a custodian’s passion for conserving heritage and the environment. Nooitgedacht Estate is a place where a life-giving balance is struck between people and the environment. The estate also recaptures the old-world treasure of public space – where people can thrive together within a cohesive community. Here, piazzas once again become the outdoor living rooms where togetherness can be enjoyed. World Rugby Experience @ Nooitgedacht fits perfectly with this vision as a hub of cultural innovation and preservation.