On 12 July 1980, 40 years ago, Raymond Herman (“Ray”) Mordt [Back row – second from left], played in his fourth test against the British & Irish Lions at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria. A native of Ceres in the Western Cape Province, he received his formal and rugby education at David Livingstone and Church Hill High Schools in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. He missed out on a place in the former Rhodesian schools side although he was regarded as a ‘great emerging talent’. After school, he joined the Rhodesian Army for two years, but never played rugby. Following his Army stint, Mordt joined the Police and, by his own admission, was asked to leave after three weeks because of his ‘reputation as a troublemaker’. Fortunately, he befriended Springbok Ian Robertson who became his training partner and mentor and succeeded in channeling his abundant talent and energy into competitive rugby.
By 1977, aged 19 years, Mordt, a member of the Old Hararians club, was selected to represent Rhodesia on the wing for the Currie Cup. He made his debut against Western Province at the Police Ground in Salisbury before 15,000 ecstatic fans. Mordt, ‘thundering through the cover defence, shrugging off tackles and scoring the final try’ helped his team to a famous 18–9 victory. He scored further tries against Boland and Natal as well as for the Rhodesian XV against a South African XV at the end of the season. This started a three-year association with Currie Cup rugby and Rhodesia.
Despite playing representative rugby for one of the minnows in the Currie Cup, Mordt from the outset Mordt established himself as one of the competition’s foremost try-scorers. In addition to being a first-class wing and often being described as virtually almost unstoppable, he also shone on defence. Amongst his provincial achievements were a hat-trick of tries in their 25- 12 victory against Griquas on 22 September 1979 at Hatfield. This was only the second time in the history of Rhodesian rugby that a player achieved such a feat. His fine form was finally rewarded with selection for the South African Gazelles, the under-24s team at the end of the 1978-season. Due to injury, however, Mordt was not able to play and had to withdraw. On 26 April 1980, however, he made his debut for the Springboks against the South American Jaguars. There was therefore no looking back and over the subsequent years, he represented the Springboks in 18 tests against diverse opponents such as the South American Jaguars, British Lions, All Blacks, France, Ireland and the USA.
Following South Africa’s rugby isolation, and with nothing more to achieve in rugby union, Mordt joined English rugby league club Wigan. He made his début for the new club on the wing on Sunday, 5 January 1986 against Swinton. He scored his first try for Wigan on Sunday 2 March 1986, a year after his arrival, in a 44-6 victory over Hull F.C. at Central Park, Wigan. Playing on the right wing, i.e. number 2, in only his second match, he also represented Wigan in the 1985–86 John Player Special Trophy Final at Elland Road, Leeds on Saturday 11 January 1986. Played in freezing cold, with rain turning to a blizzard, Mordt enjoyed early success following their 11-8 victory over Hull Kingston Rovers. Mordt enjoyed further success as part of the Championship-winning team during the 1986–87 season. Particularly satisfying was his last try for Wigan in the 54-2 victory over Oldham at Central Park, Wigan on Wednesday 8 April 1987. Mordt played his last match on Monday 20 April 1987 against Oldham at Watersheddings. This last victory [24-6 victory ] signalled the end of Mordt short rugby league career of 16 first team appearances, plus four off the bench, and a credible 15 tries.