Jerome Paarwater was born 50 years ago in Bellville, South Western Cape, and comes from a big and tight rugby family of six brothers and six sisters.
Paarwater is the second youngest of the brothers, who all played rugby.
Paarwater grew up in a rugby atmosphere. His father Jacobus started a rugby club called Bellville in South Western Cape, where his mother Rosina ended up building a stadium that is now named in her honour (Rosina Paarwater Stadium). It’s the only stadium named after a woman in South Africa.
Back then there was no rugby stadium in Bellville and it’s the influence of Jerome’s mother as the deputy mayor of the city that she worked hard to get a rugby stadium with proper facilities for the town. Paarwater would end up marrying Cheryn, the daughter of his coach Doucie Dyres. Together with Cheryn, they have two children - son Joel (20) and daughter Eden (18). Joel is in Western Province’s Under-21 rugby team.
“I grew up in the apartheid era both at school and rugby, and that made me stronger and tough,” says Paarwater, who got to set goals in life from a young age. “You simply can’t do it without the family support. With the support of my mother, father and brothers, I grew up doing the right things and stayed on the right path.”
In 1988, Paarwater, at 20, played his first unofficial Test match for South Africa with Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. “It was tough then. We couldn’t fly freely owing to apartheid as South Africa wasn’t officially back yet on international sporting scene,” says Paarwater.
He remembers the difficulties Springboks went through due to apartheid while travelling via London where they stayed for three days en route to South America.
“We were forced to travel in groups of five as we pretended not to know each other. We couldn’t stay at same hotel or have breakfast as a team. We did it in groups of three pretending we didn’t know each other,” says Paarwater, who went on to play against Fiji, Tonga and Samoa in 1992 for a total of six unofficial Test matches for South Africa.
Paawater also played professional rugby for Piacenza RFC in Italy between 1994-1996 where helped the club gain promotion to the Super 8 series. In 1999, he went back to the club to lead them to victory in Italian Championship and in Heineken Cup in 2001 as a coach.
“It’s sad that despite having schools playing rugby in Kenya, the country still doesn’t have development structures like in South Africa where we have university and secondary school leagues," says Paarwater.