It was quite a year. I had shot up and was the tallest blonde in the team, but our real strength lay in an outstanding flyhalf called De Wet Ras and great teamwork. We were coached by a tennis champ called Bruce who inspired us to give our all. We beat all-comers and moved on to play against bigger teams. We drew one game against Bethlehem Voortrekker (our “winning” De Wet Ras drop kick sailing high directly above the right upright, so the ref did not award it). We beat them in a re-match. We were the Harrismith under 13 team of 1967, playing in bright orange!
At the end of the season we read in The Friend of Bloemfontein: Free State Champs: 140 points for and 0 against! But they weren’t talking about us – it was an u/13 team from Virginia. We thought: Free State Champs? Like Hell! Bruce phoned them and challenged them to come and play us. “No, we’re FS Champs, they said, you’ll have to come to us!”
Off we went to Virginia, where we watched their second team (also unbeaten) play Saaiplaas, a little mining village team. We cheered Saaiplaas on and exhorted them to victory! They beat the Virginia 2nds 3-0. I can still hear our hooker Skottie Meyer shouting “Thlaaiplaath!! Thlaiplaath!!”
Our turn next and the Saaiplaas boys did their best to be heard above the din of the enthusiastic local supporters. It was a tight match but we had the edge, our left wing Krugertjie being stopped inches from the left corner flag and our right wing Krugertjie being pulled down inches from the right corner flag (identical twins). The difference at the final whistle was a De Wet Ras drop goal from near the halfway line. 3-0 to us to complete a bad day for ex-FS Champs Virginia.
Now Bruce Humphries had the Free State’s biggest fish in his sights: Grey College Bloemfontein. No, they didn’t really think they’d want to play us and anyway they were off on a tour to Natal that week. “Well”, said Bruce “You can’t get back from Natal without passing through Harrismith, and you wouldn’t really sneak past us would you?”
So the game was on. That day the pawiljoen at the park was packed with our enthusiastic supporters and cars ringed the field. Our followers’ numbers had grown as the season progressed and excitement at our unbeaten tag increased. Another tough game ensued, but a try just left of the posts by the tallest blonde in our team was the difference: We beat them 8-3, all the other points being scored by our points machine and tactical general De Wet!
What a year!
Beating the Rest
When it came to selecting an Eastern Free State team, the other schools introduced a twist: Not only did you have to be under 13, you also had to be in primary school! This excluded a few of our boys so we only had about four of our team chosen. So we challenged them to a game. Told them it would do them good to have a warm-up game against the rest of us. (Having only been chosen as reserve, I was lucky: I could play for “us”!) plus we added Gabba Coetzee at 8th man to boost our depleted team. He was just too old to actually be u/13.
Ho Hum! 17-0
L-R: Bruce Humphries (coach) – Dana Moore, Attie Labuschagne, Leon Fluffy Crawley, De Wet Ras, Redge Jelliman, Skottie Meyer, Conradie, Hansie, Irené Tuffy Joubert, Coenie Meyer, Peter Koos Swanepoel, Kruger, Kobus Odendaal, Kruger, Max Wessels – Ben Marais (coach) – Wonder what the trophy De Wet is holding was for?
We got word that Bruce Humphries passed away in about 2011. Go well Sir! We'll never forget that 1967 rugby season.