Tribute to Bryan “ Beans” Bateman (Class of 1973)

College sadly lost one of its most popular sons with the passing of Bryan “Beans” Bateman (class of 1973) in the early morning of 5 February 2024.

Beans was a fine example of a man who lived all the College values of loyalty, honesty, integrity, courage, and commitment, and as a result was someone who was a friend to all who met him. His word was his bond, and you always knew exactly where you stood with him.

Beans’ characteristic wide and infectious smile was the first thing that greeted one, but his warm and engaging personality is what endeared him to so many people. His earnest enquiries demonstrated his deep empathy for people, and it was that which earned him the respect of all.  But mostly Beans was a fun guy. He was always great company and a good storyteller. Laughter and good cheer followed him wherever he went. His loyalty to his friends was such that once you were a mate of Beans, you were his mate for life, and gee, he had plenty of those from all social classes and all ages.

Beans left College in 1973, having represented the 1st XV with distinction as a no nonsense lock forward who was solid and dependable. He played under renowned College captain Brian Dennison, who had this to say about Beans, “He was a good team player who fitted in well with our disciplined and determined approach”. Wise words indeed, as discipline and determination were two of the characteristics that best summed Beans up in all his endeavors in life, especially when it came to rugby.

Beans retained his close links to College throughout his life and was a regular attendee at College rugby and hockey matches and Old Collegians gatherings. After a stint playing rugby at Maritzburg Collegians after school, where he found himself in the 1st XV  front row, Beans then turned his hand to coaching, initially with his great friend “ Graham” Gudgie” Dixon (class of 1976) and with whom Beans paddled many a Duzi Canoe Marathon. His rugby coaching career began at Maritzburg University in the 1980’s and rugby coaching was to continue to be a huge part of Beans’ life for the remainder of his life.

In 1993 Beans began coaching the 1st XV at College Rovers rugby club, appointing legendary College captain Brenton Catterall as his 1ST XV captain, and later another renowned Old Collegian, Duncan MacDonald took over the captaincy of the 1st XV for an extended period under Beans as coach. College Rovers was a club that Beans was part of right until his passing, serving in various capacities, but mostly as 1st XV coach or Director of Rugby, with the exception of his stint as 1st team coach at College from 2005 to 2008.

It was during his stint as College 1ST team  coach that he experienced one of the highlights of his coaching career when College, captained by Justin “ Bear “ Meanwell, College defied conventional wisdom and famously spurned an easy  kick at poles which could have earned College a draw, but kicked for the corner  to set up a lineout. College won the ensuing lineout and crashed over for a try in front of Basher Ridge to roars approval of the College boys seated right there, and so defeated a strong Grey College side complete with Frans Steyn at fly half. The smile on Beans’ face was a joy to behold, but as always, he gave all the credit to the players and not himself. It was never about him, the players always came first.

During his decades of loyal service to College Rovers which entailed many hours on the road between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, Beans achieved a great deal of success, coaching numerous Springbok and Provincial players and in winning  National Club Rugby Championships. He was also coach of the Natal Duikers and the Natal B rugby sides for a period, but Beans became an absolute institution at College Rovers, and the hundreds of tributes that have poured in for him from past players and opponents alike bear testimony to the esteem in which he was held at the club and indeed in the province.

 A prominent provincial referee remarked this week, “as refs, we always loved blowing games when Beans was the coach. He always approached us after the game with a warm smile and firm handshake, was always grateful for us having blown the game, but never critical of us no matter the outcome”. ‘That was Beans, the epitome of a gentleman, who always conducted himself with a quiet dignity that belied the fierce determination to win that was at the centre of all he did.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Beans’ wife Bridget, their son Scott, himself an Old Collegian, and their daughter Sarah at this incredibly sad time. Your loss is also our loss. We mourn Beans’ passing but rejoice in having had the opportunity to have known and loved such a wonderful man.

Rest in peace Beans, you have left us too soon, but we your friends will remember you  with gratitude for all you did for so many,  and for the joy and laughter you brought to us all.  

Peter Rodseth Class of 1975.

Past President and Honorary Life Member of the MCOBA