Book Reviews - March 2020

March 11 2020

Tokkie Smith and the Colour of Rugby

Tokkie Smith and the Colour of Rugby - Vancouver Author John D'Eathe Explores the Beginnings of the Hong Kong 7s and the Role of South African Tokkie Smith in its Inception

I was sent a book to review a while ago by the publisher and finally decided to put some pen to paper and share my thoughts. The book is called "Tokkie Smith and the Colour of Rugby". It's written by a Vancouverite and includes a few mentions of well known Canadian players from years past. It basically covers the inception and early growth of the Hong Kong 7s and the part played by a South African named Tokkie Smith. The book begins in 1959 when Tokkie arrived in Hong Kong and it gives some insights into rugby and business in Hong Kong at the time.

The author is John D'Eathe and his story is just as interesting from a Canadian perspective. I had a chance to chat with him by email to get some background on the book and his involvement with Hong Kong rugby and Tokkie.
"We played together for the Hong Kong Football Club where we met when he was 25 and I was 24. My background is real estate and law and I was working for the largest property group there when he turned up to start his own clothing business. I beat him into the Hong Kong team but had to give up because of recurring concussions. I then became hon secretary of the union which gave me the background for the book.

In the later 1960s I moved to Vancouver where the property world has served me well. My sons played some rugby at high school, not my daughter, but lived hockey so I drifted away from the sport. However, I was back in Hong Kong fairly often, and kept up with Tokkie while he was founding the Hong Kong Sevens. Then I lost track of him but heard way after the event he had died young. A few years ago my wife Lane and I we were in Hong Kong and I was asked what had happened to Tokkie Smith? He had founded the Hong Kong Sevens, was known as Mr. Rugby and internationally recognized but then just mysteriously disappeared. He was not even recorded, except in a list as a past chairman, in the Hong Kong RU Awards. When I dug into it I discovered what had happened and set out on a modest crusade to have him properly recognized in rugby history. The Canadian members of Tokkie’s Dragons helped with the story and all agree!"
With the Hong Kong 7s being postponed this year, I suggest you pick up a copy of the book and you'll find yourself transported back in time to learn about the beginning of the renowned tournament and get some insight into the Hong Kong rugby scene at the time. I found the book enthralling and had a few chuckles along the way at the old school rugby culture. Anyone who has been involved in rugby politics will appreciate the insights the author shares on what happens behind the scenes.

The book also takes a look at the apartheid era and how it affected the rugby world. From a Canadian perspective it mentions Canadian greats like Hans de Goede, Spence McTavish, Mike Luke and Ro Hindson and how the BCRU and Canadian Rugby Union had to deal with the Canadian government after they returned from the 1982 South Africa tour with Tokkie's Dragons.

If you look up Hong Kong 7s on Wikipedia you'll get the following basic information on its inception.
The Hong Kong Sevens was originally the idea of the Marketing and Promotions Manager of Rothman's Export for a Pan Asia 15s Rugby Tournament. Rodney Bentham-Wood wanted Rothmans to sponsor a pan Asia rugby Tournament. Leah May was considering Carlsberg as the main sponsor. However, after a discussion between him and the chairman of the HKRFU, South African entrepreneur, A.D.C. "Tokkie" Smith, it was decided that a Sevens Tournament would be cheaper and simpler to set up.

If you want the in depth story listen to John D'Eathe tell the story through the 200 pages of his book, Tokkie Smith and The Colour of Rugby. You can get more information on ordering the book through Amazon from the website

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