John had been ill for some time, however his passing today has shocked the Villager community.
Villager FC President Bossie Clarke paid tribute to Gainsford.
“John’s passing has deeply saddened us,” said Clarke. “He was and forever will remain a legend of not only Villager FC but also of Western Province and the Boks. John was adored by the local fans and his record speaks for itself. We offer our heartfelt sympathies to John’s family.”
John was born in Germiston to John and Enid Gainsford. His mother had swum for New South Wales and was related to Wallabies Ron Bülmann and Cyril Burke. Gainsford grew up in Lansdowne and went to what was then Lansdowne High School and now is Windsor High, where he played hooker to start with and then scrumhalf and then centre. He was the star of the school, head boy, captain of rugby, excelling in cricket, athletics and academic.
After school he went to the local club, Villager FC and played centre. He was 19 when he played his first match for Western Province at the age of 19 and 20 when he went on the Junior Springbok tour to Argentina in 1959 and 21 the next year when he played his first Test – against Scotland in Port Elizabeth. Later that year he made his Springbok debut in a Test series against New Zealand and soon after he proved to be the star player in the Springboks’ five-Test tour of Europe.
Gainsford went on to establish himself as one of the greatest centres of his generation due to his powerful bursts and rock-solid defence. He earned 33 Test caps and scored eight tries during his Springbok career between 1960 and 1967, playing in 71 Springbok matches in total (including tour matches). He surpassed the record of 28 Test matches by Johan Claassen to become the most capped Springbok – and remained the most capped Springbok centre until as recently as 2001 when his record was finally overtaken by Japie Mulder.
Gainsford was also a Province man through and through. He played for them 46 times, which was a vast number in those days, and he played from 1958 to 1967 without being dropped. He was the Province captain in 1966 when they won the Currie Cup.
One of his most notable achievements was the two tries he scored during the 1962 British Lions tour, which contributed to the Springboks’ series victory.
Following his playing days he coached Western Province and later became a member of the Western Province Rugby Union executive. On the professional side of his life John teamed up with fellow Villager team mate and firm friend Dave Stewart, where together with Jan Pickard and Eric Logan, they took over Logans Sports (now Sportsmans Warehouse) and developed it.
“I would like to extend my sincere condolences to the Gainsford family for their loss.” said Hoskins “John was a superstar of his generation and a he will go down in history as one of the greatest Springboks to have played the sport. He believed that rugby was played to be won, and he demonstrated this on the field with his line breaks, raw pace and power. I met him on many occasions. He was a great man.”
Gainsford is survived by his wife Shona, children Murray, Lindsay, Kirk and Shona-Leigh and 11 grandchildren.
Remembering John Gainsford
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