UFH - Rugby - Head coach - Chase Morison

Blues head coach Chase Morison recently came across a phrase that perfectly describes his ambition for Fort Hare rugby.

“It’s not about winning championships; it’s about creating championship players.”

For the 31-year-old, officially appointed to his role at the back end of the 2024 FNB Varsity Shield, these words resonate powerfully with his dream of turning his charges into some of South Africa’s best players.

Morison has been around the Blues set-up since 2021, when he was invited in as a consultant by former head coach Lumumba Currie with whom he had worked at Border Rugby.

“I will never forget the first time I went to a Blues session. I was asked to assess the players’ fitness,” he said.

“I saw a bunch of willing boys who were keen to learn and who wanted to better themselves as players. That left a lasting impression on me.”

Condsidering the many memorable moments in his career as a professional player and top Eastern Cape coach it is huge testament to the passion that exists at Fort Hare.

Morison was born in Gauteng but moved with his family to East London at a very young age.

UFH - Rugby - Head coach - Chase Morison

Recently appointed Fort Hare head coach Chase Morison wants to build rugby champions at the university. Photo: Varsity Sports

He was schooled at Stirling Primary and Selborne College, where he starred as a prop forward. It was a matter of course that he would be selected for the Border U16 and U18 sides during his high school years.

After matric he was awarded a junior contract with the Free State Cheetahs. He also enrolled at the University of Free State to study human movement sciences, which allowed him to turn out for Shimlas in the Varsity Cup.

In 2015 the Free State students lifted the Cup for the first time, with Morison playing a major role in their success thanks to his powerful scrummaging up front.

Stints with the Cheetahs’ U19 and U21 teams followed before making his debut for the senior side in the 2014 Vodacom Cup.

This was a game he will never forget. Included in their line-up was Heinrich Brüssow, at the time considered the best loose forward “fetcher” in the world.

While they only played one match together, it was a moment that would live with Morison forever.

A year later, he made his full Currie Cup debut for the Cheetahs.

Another standout moment he recalled from his time in Bloemfontein was being in the same Free State side as Springbok and former Stormers favourite Tiaan Liebenberg.

After sustaining a serious back injury, it seemed like Liebenberg would never play again. However, after a Herculean comeback the Cheetahs took a chance on him.

“What I learnt from him in the short space of time that we played together was incredible. You could see he was a Springbok and that he had played at that level before.”

Morison moved to Griquas in 2016 but when his contract was not renewed by the Kimberley-based side, he may well have believed his professional playing days were behind him.

So, in 2017, he returned to Selborne as the first XV’s strength and conditioning coach and 12 months later the school produced one of its best sides with five players being selected for the South African Schools squad.

Three of these were also on the radar of a professional rugby scout who had travelled to East London to chat to the boys and their coaches.

Little did Morison know that his life would take another dramatic turn when he and the rest of Selborne’s management team met the scout that evening.

“He told me they were desperate for a tighthead to play for a team in Japan. They were only two weeks out from the Top League (Japan’s premier rugby competition) and only one of their four tightheads was fit.

“I told him, ‘I’m your man!’” Two weeks later I received a contract to play for Sanix Blues in Japan.”

His five months in the Land of the Rising Sun were some of the best of his life.

Springbok centre André Esterhuizen was a teammate and he played against greats of the game like All Blacks legend Dan Carter and Aussie kingpin Matt Giteau.

Another clubmate was Karne Hesketh, the Japan back who broke Springbok hearts in their shock win at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Morison was welcomed with open arms by Selborne upon his return to South Africa to become assistant and then head coach of the college.

He is now looking forward to the challenge of inspiring the next generation of Fort Hare players.

“In terms of willingness and talent of the players, there’s an abundance,” he said. “There is so much potential here.”

However, he was adamant that the players’ studies would play a major role in their future success as academic results were directly linked to playing in the Varsity Shield.

“They need to have discipline. If that happens, they will be far better equipped not only on the rugby field, but for life after varsity.”