July 1970. The All Blacks were on tour. We had gone to Bethlehem – surely the only town in the world where a big sign saying FAKKELHOF welcomes you as you drive in? – to see them play. 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 with more coverage of the pomptroppies than the rugby: “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 my mate 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 tentatively, trying to hover above those mattresses, which were also vieslik, 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.
* Do you think I’m crazy?
vieslik – disgusting