Former Princeton and Spine Road high schools’ girls’ rugby coach, Shafiek Murphy, 49, from Westridge, was laid to rest last week following a severe heart attack.
Friends, family and especially the players and coaches whom he interacted with on and off the rugby field, all bear testimony to the impact he had on their lives.
Murphy was instrumental in developing girls’ rugby in Mitchell’s Plain and played a big role in helping Princeton High’s squad become the first girls’ team from the area to win a major WP schools’ trophy.
Harvester Primary School bursar, Jeanette Bailey, worked closely with Murphy as many of the players whom she coached at her school, ended up playing for Princeton.
She first met Murphy at a coaching clinic, at Newlands, after coaches from WP visited the school with the aim to develop the girls’ game. Bailey joined the players who formed a guard of honour at Murphy’s funeral, which was attended by many prominent people involved with rugby.
“Just looking at the players that attended the funeral,” she said, “we have two Springboks and four Western Province players.”
“It’s amazing to see what he has done to for these girls, not just as players but overall,” Bailey said.
Former Princeton High girls’ team utility player, Leandi Smith, 21, from Eastridge, who now performs duty on the wing for the SA national side, remembers Murphy as more than just a coach.
Smith, a BA graduate from UWC, is part of a select squad that was invited to a six-week training camp in Stellenbosch later this year, to prepare the national team for next year’s women’s world cup in New Zealand. She was also part of Murphy’s winning squad when rugby was first introduced at Princeton High.
“He was like a father figure to me,” she said. “When I got called up to the provincial side and the national team, he was the first person to come to mind.”
“Today I’m part of the national senior set-up but I can still hear him screaming from the sidelines ‘Go Hondas, go’,” she said, referring to the nickname he used to called her by.
“Words cannot explain how much he meant to me. He was my first coach. He had a way of spotting potential, even when we did not believe it,” she said.
“I used to tell him, look at my size, look at how small I am. But he just kept on pushing me and I am forever grateful for that, she said.
Former Tafelsig High principal, Ruschda O’Shea, the current principal at Sans Souci Girls’ High School in Claremont, shared a similar sentiment. She said that Murphy was appointed as the head of sport at Sans Souci in January 2019, his last coaching position.
“He was a selfless man who never thought it’s impossible to do anything. He was passionate man that loved sport and youth development and will be sadly missed by all at Sans Souci,” she said.
“He introduced rugby at the school and one student was selected for the Western Cape team after only starting rugby three months earlier,” she said.
Murphy’s wife, Nawahl, said her husband had had a massive heart attack and a few mild ones during this month.
She said he was rushed to Lentegeur Hospital and ultimately Groote Schuur, where he was due to have a major operation.
Ms Murphy said they were looking forward to celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary next year.
She said her husband also had diabetes and kidney problems which may have led to complications during the final surgery.
Like her husband, she was also very involved with the players whom he had coached.
“They were like children in our house. We’d drive them from one game to the next,” she said.
Murphy was buried at the Mowbray Muslim cemetery and leaves behind his wife, three children and three grandchildren, his mother and mother-in-law.