Siya Kolisi, John Smit, Bryan Habana and Jean de Villiers are among a host of Bok icons who have paid tribute to Annelee Murray in ‘The First Lady of Springbok rugby’, the book celebrating the 20-year journey of the beloved Springbok rugby public relations manager.
In a tribute to her, former Springbok captain De Villiers writes that when he started his international career, he wondered who Annelee Murray was, but by the time he finished it – 109 Tests and 111 Springbok matches later – he knew she was as important to the team as the head coach.
De Villiers writes that Murray was the go-to person on all things related to the Springboks outside the actual playing of the Test match, and it is a sentiment shared by those who captained South Africa during her 20-year association with the team.
Murray has two World Cup winner’s medals, but it is the countless memories that define her journey with South African rugby supporters’ favourite sons. She has experienced the good, the bad and the ugly, but her journey is a celebration of Springbok rugby.
Many among the Springboks affectionately call her the ‘mother of the Springboks’ because of her protective nature and unconditional love and support of the players, and because of her competency and ability to get any job done. But she was also the First Lady of the Springboks and a pioneer in the previously exclusive male-dominated Springbok management teams.
Murray gives the reader an insight into her 20-year life with the Springboks that goes beyond the 80 minutes of a Test match and leaves one with a sense of having been on the journey with her that included five World Cup tournaments, 244 matches, seven coaches, 21 captains, six Test centurions and the welcoming of 248 Springboks.
Every one of these living captains and centurions has complemented Murray’s words with a tribute of their own, in a book that will make your understanding of and love for the Springboks even greater.
In his tribute, current Springbok captain Siya Kolisi extolled Murray’s massive contribution that often went unseen to the public eye but which the players depended on when the cameras weren’t around:
“Annelee, there are so many things I can say.
“You are the person who made sure there was not even the slightest thing that we had to worry about as players, our families, our friends or anyone. If we needed flights, passports, visas … no matter how late it was, you always made a plan and we knew it would be sorted out.
“If our kids needed to be looked after, you were there. If my wife needed anything, you made sure it happened. You looked after my dad when he came to my first game on Father’s Day and on my birthday weekend. Just seeing my dad so happy … I will never forget that day.
“You gave me my first-ever birthday cake when I was with the Springboks. I will never forget that moment. You cared so much.
“You are an amazing human being, through and through. We had a connection, with both of us being from the Eastern Cape, and we got along from the first time we met and worked together. Annelee, you always put us first and you always protected us.
“You have been such a huge role model, having done it for so many years. To be the first woman to do it in such a male-dominated sport, I salute you for everything you have done. I will be forever grateful.
“I know so many young women look up to you and would love to achieve what you have achieved. I hope that when people talk about women in sport, especially a male-dominated sport, they will be singing your name over and over again.
“I am excited to hear and read your story, and what we can learn from your journey. You are a special person, a true hero and a legend to me.”