John Cameron Robbie was born in 1955 in Dublin, Ireland. At a very young age, from his Welsh granddad, he inherited a love of rugby that became a passion. At the High School Dublin, with John at scrum-half, the school won the prestigious Leinster Schools Cup for the first and only time in its history.
He attended Trinity College Dublin and was elected the youngest ever captain of rugby in 1976, a year in which the team had its greatest success in over sixty years. He was capped for Ireland that year, against Australia, at the age of 20 years and three months. John graduated with an honours B.Sc and was accepted by Christ’s College Cambridge for further study. He captained the Light Blues in 1978 and scored 17 points in the Varsity Match win over Oxford. He represents both the Irish and British University fifteens and captained the Barbarians.
John won nine caps for Ireland in a career that saw him break his leg against France in 1977. He toured South Africa, as an early replacement, with the 1980 British and Irish Lions, and played in the fourth test against the Springboks. It was the Lions only test victory in the series.
John joined Arthur Guinness & Sons in Dublin, as a graduate trainee after University. He captained the Greystones Club and the Leinster Provincial side for two championship-winning years.
He toured South Africa with Ireland in 1981 and, as a result, lost his job. He emigrated to South Africa and became a South African citizen after the democratic elections in 1994. He played rugby for Wanderers, winning 83 caps for the Transvaal side. He also played in two Currie Cup and two Lion Cup Finals. He sat on the bench for the Springboks four times and played for them on the internal tour in 1985. However, no caps were awarded for this. John was voted one of the five SA players of the year in 1987 and he retired from rugby the following year. He also won the SA Superstars title for multiple sports and athletic performances.
John joined 702 in 1986 as a sports reporter and twice won the ‘SA Sports Journalist of the Year’ award, once for radio and once for television. He is also an Ambassador for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.
In 1990 he moved into current affairs on 702 and hosted the controversial Talk at Ten show. It launched a long career on 702 that culminated with John hosting ‘The Breakfast Show’ for a total of seventeen years. In that time both audience and revenue figures increased greatly and John has won both ‘Best Morning Host’ and ‘Best Morning Show’ on multiple occasions.
For a spell, he co-hosted with Dan Moyane, in what was then, the first multi-racial breakfast show in SA. They were known as “The Cereal Killers”!
Over the years John has interviewed almost all of the top decision-makers in South Africa, building a reputation for professionalism, integrity and fairness. Archbishop Desmond Tutu told him that his show was not a radio show, but rather ‘a mission’. Nelson Mandela once told John to “shut up!” but this was followed with a hearty laugh. Eugene de Kock, the apartheid assassin, revealed that he had once been instructed to kill John because of the influence of his show.
In 2015 John had a star, in the constellation of Perseus, named after him in recognition for work he did with the Reach for a Dream Foundation.
John retired after thirty years on 702.