Tag Archives: Springboks

Please Release Me Let Me Go!

July 1970. The All Blacks were on tour. We had seen them playing in Bethlehem where Bryan Williams, the first Maori allowed to play in South Africa (inconveniently fast, handsome and popular) scored a try in his first game in an All Blacks jersey. I think our Dawie Fourie played against them. Check the Bethlehem news “en daar was rugby ook”: We got klapped 43-9, so the rugby was just an afterthought!

Now they were playing Free State (or Vrystaat) in Bloem and Jean le Roux and I decided we needed to go and see the game. We hitch-hiked, arrived in time and watched the game. Let’s conveniently forget the score. You know how those All Blacks are.

After the game we realised it was getting dark and cold. We had made zero plans or arrangements, so we made our way to the police station, told our tale of need and were met with excited enthusiasm and hospitality. NOT. We were actually met with indifference and ignored. Eventually one konstabel saw us and asked, “Wat maak julle hier?” and we told our tale again. He said nothing but fetched some keys and beckoned us to follow him. “There’s a ladies cell vacant”, he muttered, letting us in and locking the door behind us.

Toilet in the corner with no cistern, no seat and a piece of wire protruding through a hole in the wall: the chain. Four mattresses with dirty grey blankets. Lots of graffitti, mostly scratched into the plaster. Yirr, some vieslike words! We slept and woke early, eager to hit the road back to Harrismith. After waiting a while we started peering out of the little hole in the door, hoping someone would walk past. Then we called politely with our lips at the hole. Eventually we started shouting – to no avail. After what seemed like ages someone came to the door. Thank goodness!

“Please open up and let us out, we have to hitch-hike back to Harrismith”, we said, eagerly. “Dink jy ek is vokken mal?” * came the voice and he walked off. We realised it was probably a new shift and no-one knew about our innocence!

We had to bellow and yell and perform before we eventually could get someone to believe us and let us out.

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* Do you think I’m crazy?

Uh, Correction, Mrs Bedford!

In 1969 a bunch of us were taken to Durban to watch a rugby test match Springboks against the Australian Wallabies. “Our” Tommy Bedford was captain of the ‘Boks. We didn’t know it, but it was to be his last game.

'69 wallabies durban

Schoolboy “seats” were flat on your bum on the grass in front of the main stand at Kings Park. Looking around we spotted old Ella Bedford (Harrismith English teacher and the captain’s Mom – hence our feeling like special guests!) up in the stands. Sitting next to her was a really spunky blonde so we whistled and hooted and waved until she returned the wave.

Back at school ‘Mis Betfit’ told us how her daughter-in-law had turned to her and said:
“Ooh look, those boys are waving at me!”.
And she replied (and some of you will hear her tone of voice in your mind’s ear):
“No they’re not! They’re my boys. They’re waving at me!”

We just smiled, thinking ‘So, Mis Betfit isn’t always right’.

.

Mrs Bedford taught English as second language. Apparently anything you got wrong had to be fixed below your work under the heading “corrections”. Anything you got wrong in your corrections had to be fixed under the heading “corrections of corrections”. Mistakes in those would be “corrections of corrections of corrections”. And so on, ad infinitum! She never gave up. You WOULD get it all right eventually!

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After:

In matric the rugby season started and I suddenly thought: Why’m I playing rugby? I’m playing because people think I have to play rugby! I don’t.

So I didn’t.

It caused a mild little stir, especially for ou Vis, mnr Alberts, I think. He came up from the laerskool specially to voice his dismay. Nee man, jy moet ons tweede Tommy Beford wees! he protested. That was optimistic. I had played some good rugby when I shot up and became the tallest in the team¹, not because of real talent for the game – as I went on to prove².

  1. https://vrystaatconfessions.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/rugby-champs/
  2. https://vrystaatconfessions.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/a-brief-encounter/

Rocky Horror in Senekal, Vrystaat

1971: Rugby in Bloemfontein, Springboks vs the Frogs.
After the game, Tabs, Des, Raz, Stervis and I are driving back when the kroeg (no way you could call it a pub) in Senekal beckoned.
By the time the barman threw us out Des had bonded deeply with one of Senekal’s left-behinds and when we suggested we leave for home rather than go home with Deliverance for a braai, Des told us in no uncertain terms that WE could go but HE was not leaving his lifelong mate (of three hours) in the lurch.

ONE fing we must NOT do, we were told when we got to the small house on the wrong side of Senekal, is wake his wife. Lemme tell you carefully, you must not, no marrer whut you do, wake my wahf, you hear?

Wooden floors, five drunk ous stumbling around, I started to think this goon doesn’t actually have a wife, and if he does she’s in pieces in the chest deepfreeze. Which is where Conan is, scratching around and hauling out what looks like a roundish, rock-hard lump of blood in a plastic checkers.
Des, we should go, this is going to take forever.
It’s like Des told us: WE can go, but HE’s not leaving his lifelong mate.

Eventually a fire gets going – sort of – and the icy red lump piece of deceased wife sits on it, refusing to melt. (Another recollection is the oven was turned on and the lump placed in there. Exact facts are hazy). It’s midnight in June in Senekal, Vrystaat. It’s not hot.

Meantime, Jack Nicholson has found some dop and we have to drink, and luckily this puts him to sleep and mellows the Glutz so we’re able to persuade him to make a bolt for it, hitting the Senekal dirt roads till we find the tar to Harrismith. (Another recollection has the Wildman pulling out a gun and taking potshots as the getaway car spins madly down the driveway).

Bliksem!

To this day I can experience that weird, out-of-body sensation of “WTF are we DOING here? Am I in a bad movie or in a bad dream?!”