Every few years King Edward VII School (KES) produces an irresistible team that sets the schoolboy rugby scene aflame. With 2011 and 2017 being the superb years for the 121 year-old English medium boy’s school based in Houghton in Lion’s region of Johannesburg, 2024 holds the promise of producing a similar season of excellence.
Young Marco Engelbrecht, an old boy from the King Edward VII Class of 2013, will take charge of the Red Army for a fourth season in 2024. Still in his 20’s, it’s no wonder that this rising star who has aspirations of becoming a pro rugby coach, is currently the second youngest top level 1st XV schoolboy rugby head coach in the land. Marco also contributes to KES school life as a teacher and boarding master.
In spite of his youth, he packs quite a bit of experience, having been head coach of the St David’s Prep, starting the year after completing matric. He then moved up to assist another KES alumni and youngster Mzwakhe Nkosi (Class of 2009) at the Reds 1st XV level at the start of 2018.
Talented Mzwakhe has progressed swiftly up the pro rugby coaching ranks since leaving KES in 2020 and is currently the Lions’ Currie Cup head coach with more promotions likely to follow in the years to come.
Amongst other good players, Mzwakhe was a first team teammate to standout hooker Scarra Ntubeni who play SA Schools in 2009 before going on to become a household name as a pro player in the Cape. The likeable frontrower debuted for the Boks in 2019.
Marco, on the other hand had the opportunity to play in the 1st XV alongside an even greater star hooker in the form of Malcolm Marx. Well-known pros Cyle Brink and Dylan Smith were also in the KES teams of 2011 and 2012. Back then Smith was prop as he still is to this today, but his Bulls teammate and blindsider Cyle Brink was a lock and the superstar Marx a hard to stop big-ball-carrying looseforward, who switched to hooker during his matric year.
Marco himself was a talented u16 flyhalf, fast-tracked to 1st XV level in 2011 due to his brilliance. It was unfortunately a promising career cut short by crippling injuries. He however continues to see the big picture and positively describes it as God’s will for his life.
For his coaching career, Marco pays tribute to current Sharks URC assistant coach Joey Mongalo (Pretoria Boys’ High old boy) for all he has done for him as a friend and mentor. Joey who had a spell as Director of Coaching at KES along his journey in rugby, overheard Marco tell current Baby Boks SA u20 coach Bafana Nhleko (then Lions u19 coach) that he was done playing rugby due to injuries and praying for a calling as he want to start coaching. Joey saw something in Marco and took him under his wing. The KES head coach said he is privileged to have someone of this calibre guiding him on and off the field. A huge part of his coaching career and what he knows and how he executes today is because of Joey’s guidance.
Now heading to 2024, included in his Reds squad is yet another hooker who has the opportunity to make a Scarra or Marx-like name for himself. Big Siphosethu Mnebelele has already been capped as an SA Schools player in 2023. He is a fantastic player with ball-in-hand with his scrumming and lineout setpiece work certain to only get better. If he can up the tempo of his play without the ball, his size will move into the Malcolm Marx like “real-deal” territory as far as future potential is concerned. For now the comparisons are there for all to witness.
KES also has another version of Marco Engelbrecht in their midst for 2024. Returning flyhalf Vusi Moyo oozes talent as a pivot with the authority, vision and boot to dominate a match. No doubt this is a worrying position in senior level rugby in South Africa and it’s in everyone’s best interest to see players with Moyo’s capabilities rise to top, especially after school where flyhalf development coaching certainly has to be placed under the microscope and explanations given for the shortage of genuine quality in the position at pro level.
For now, who better to have as a flyhalf mentor than Marco who was once in that same high school prodigy talent bracket as Moyo finds himself.
Other Reds players to keep an eye on in 2024 include Kebotile Maake, a top rated loose-forward and outside centre Olunje Mehlomakulu as well as returning dependable players James Kabrowisky (6), Raymond Gordon (9), Thomas Beling (4), Haniel Monkoti (11), Mbuso Methula (14) and Tristan Maugeri (15).
The KES motto is ‘Strenue’ which means vigorously or actively, an energy this 1st XV is bound to endorse.