Rugby Heroes – or ‘Delusion’

Ode to a Tighthead Prop – Author unknown (but probly some Kiwi – they tend to wax forth after a few). The poem could also be called ‘Delusions of Grandeur.

It was midway through the season
we were just outside the four
and although I know we won it
I can’t recall the score.

But there’s one thing I remember
and to me it says a lot
about the men who front the scrum –
the men we call “the props”.

We won a lineout near half way
the backs went on a run
the flankers quickly ripped the ball
and second phase was won.

Another back then crashed it up
and drove towards the line
another maul was duly set
to attack it one more time.

The forwards pushed and rolled that maul
They set the ball up to a tee
the last man in played tight head prop
and wore the number “3”

The ball was pushed into his hands
he held it like a beer
then simply dropped to score the try –
his first in 15 years.

Then later, once the game was done
he sat amidst his team
he led the song and called himself
the try scoring machine.

But it wasn’t till the night wore on
that the truth was finally told
just two beers in, he’d scored the try
and also kicked the goal.

At 6 o’clock the try was scored
by barging through their pack
he carried two men as he scored
while stepping ’round a back.

By seven he’d run twenty yards
out-sprinting their quick men
then beat the last line of defence
with a “Jonah Lomu” fend.

By eight he’d run from near half way
and thrown a cut out pass
then looped around and run again
no-one was in his class.

By nine he’d run from end to end
his teammates stood in awe
he chipped and caught it on the full
then swan dived as he scored.

By ten he’d drunk a dozen beers
but still his eyes did glisten
as he told the story of “that try”
to anyone who’d listen.

His chest filled up, as he spoke,
his voice was filled with pride
he felt for sure he would be named
the captain of that side.

By nights end he was by himself
still talking on his own
the club was shut, the lights were out
his mates had all gone home.

And that’s why I love my front row –
they simply never stop
and why I always lend an ear

when a try’s scored by a prop.

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This try was much like our mighty prop Hubby Hulbert’s try in our epic match against the InjunKnees. Do you recall? ca. 1975

Hubby found himself lying down for a brief rest on the ground under a mass of other bumsniffers when an oval object appeared next to him and he placed his hand on it. The ref went wild and indicated we had managed to beat the InjunKnees, a team no-one thought would be beaten.

We were dressed in our all-black jerseys, black shorts, black socks with OPTOMETRY in front and  ZEISS in white on the back. To show our appreciation to our jersey sponsors after a few beers – also kindly sponsored by them – we would shout “ZEISS ist Scheiss!”  I’ll admit, sometimes we weren’t impeccably behaved.

That game against those InjunKnees: We had spent 79 mins desperately defending our tryline when some scrawny scrumhalf type happened to get the ball by mistake and hoofed it as hard as he could in the opposite direction of where we’d been back-pedaling all day. Those days his hair colour matched the colour of our jersey; Nowadays the bits that are left match the colour of our logo

We got a line-out near their line, Hubby fell down, the ball fell next to him and he inadvertently became a match-winning hero. He’ll call it a tactical move.

I forget if he gave a speech afterwards in the Dev but we wouldn’t have listened to him anyway. We’d have sung ‘How The Hell Can We Buh-LEEEV You!?’

The game was played on the Normaal Kollege grounds in Empire Road, Jo’burg. We shouted for our hosts as we waited for them to finish their game so we could trot onto their field and display our brilliance. Up Normaal!! we shouted. Ab-normaal!

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On 2018/12/11 Peter Brauer (he of scrawny scrumhalf fame) wrote: Classic example of how bashful props become more truthful / eloquent when their throats aren’t parched.

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bumsniffers – forwards; the tight five; the slow; the engine room; the brains trust; depends who you ask

InjunKnees – engineers; they had a T-shirt slogan ‘six monfs ago I cooden even spel injineer and now I are one’

Normaal Kollege – anything but

Wits Rag

Someone with a better memory must clear up the haze. I remember building a ‘float’, acting silly and reading Wits Wits. There has to be more detail than that?

Someone else probly spiked my beer . . .

Wits Rag_Float parade

Note the dreaded collection tins! We had to shake them to raise funds for our optometric clinics in Riverlea, Alexandra and Doories!

4 Hillside Road, Parktown Joburg

I was looking thru Dan Palatnik’s Digital Garage (well worth a visit) and an old Willys Jeep reminded me of Leibs and Achim lying under their old Jeeps in the backyard of our communal home at 4 Hillside Road, Parktown. Mainly they were banging out rust and stuffing V8’s under the bonnets.

Willys Jeep 1947.jpg
Somehow, theirs never looked this complete

Achim went on to do a lot of off-road rallying in Brits, where he ran his optometric practice with his bream, wife and former lecturer Eva the  dispensing optician. On the side he ran a garage to tjoon up his racing 4X4’s and fit divorce pipes, one of which eventually got him. Maybe she kicked him out for getting grease on the contact lenses?

NOTE: I wrote a similar post here – but just because I remembered the same era doesn’t mean I remembered it all exactly the same, so its worth a read too!! We improve with age . . .

Inmates of 4 Hillside I remember are:

– Pierre ‘Leibs’ Leibbrandt and the lovely Claire. As students we fitted Leibs with silicon permawear contact lenses! He drove an Alfa Romeo;

– Granger Grey. Grey VW Beetle;

– Donald ‘Coolsie’ Collins. (“You take off your clothes, I’m just having a shit . . ” to part-time girlfriend ‘Vaalwater’);

– Mike Doyle, girlfriend Michaela or ‘Shale’. Old blue LandRover;

– Clive ‘Nel’ Nel. A book could and should be written. “Dee dee dee BARKER!! baap”. Endured by the wonderful and long-suffering Sandy Norts. White Mazda RX2;

– Glen ‘Barks’ Barker. Another book. Green Toyota Corona;

– Gerald ‘Gelard’ the Malawian butler with ambitions of becoming a tycoon. Hurt that we thought mowing the lawn was in his portfolio. He called Coolsie Boss Donut.

Friends-of-4-Hillside included: – Jos, another teacher who lived nearby. Not tall, with high-plus specs, an Alfa and a lovely girlfriend; – ‘Norbs’ Norbury. Yet another educator. Big black beard. Norbs imitated Charles Fortune to perfection at the Wanderers cricket ground, entertaining the inebriated crowds on the grassy banks as he waxed lyrical about the clouds and the birds while blissfully ignoring the fall of a wicket. Would sing loud John Denver: “You Philip My Dentures . . . “;

Other memories: Sitting in the crowded little TV lounge watching the news and Dorianne Berry came on to read the news wearing a strapless top, the camera only showing above it. “Ooh, maybe we’ll get to see Dorianne’s berries”, was the call. Disappointed.

Dorianne Berry

Lying under the grey-and-grey Opel fixing the drum brakes before going to Port Shepstone. Now, who the hell would drive 700km in a car whose brakes I had fiddled with!? Turns out a few students, including the delightful Cheryl Forsdick;

Brauer irresponsibly dancing on the roof of that same Opel at the late-night farewell end-of-term party held at 4 Hillside.

The delightful SSS Featherbed Fotherby was a welcome visitor to 4 Hillside in one of the few lucky – and brief – periods I ‘had a girlfriend’!

Steve Reed wrote: Granger – never forgotten. Mostly for his height-enhancing shoe-stuffing for weight watchers meetings; I’d forgotten that! Granger flopped into one of our overstuffed, undersprung TV room chairs one night and wheezed as he reached down and removed his shoes, removing a fat wad of newsprint from each shoe. ‘And now, Grange?’, we asked. ‘No, we had a weigh-in tonight and I didn’t want them to give me a low target weight‘, he said, quite seriously, matter of fact. We collapsed when we realised what that entailed! He was cheating the system – and himself!

 

Pete Brauer wrote: More vivid nostalgic memories of Granger Grey shoving quarts of Black Label down his throat;

I remember Granger Grey (6ft 4 high, 4ft 6 wide) getting home late one night, well-oiled with a placid beam on his face. He joined us students braaiing on the lawn next to the pool and started eyeing the sizzling meat. Borrowing one ale after the other he got progressively more glass-eyed and we watched in awe as he swayed, Obelix-like, WAY past a normal centre of gravity then slowed to a halt, jutting chin way forward, eyes on the tjops n boerie and then SLO-OWLY swayed back to upright, then way back, with his beer resting on his boep till he was leaning 450 backwards  and HAD to see his arse but halted, hovered and started the slow sway forward again. Musta been the size eleventeen shoes that held him upright!

We had to hurriedly clear the braai and endure his hurt look. Imperative to be tough and take evasive action when Granger got near food though: Gerard the Malawian butler on steak days would cook the veggies and spuds and put the seven big steaks on the wall above the fridge in the 4 Hillside kitchen. Strict house rule: Whoever cracked first had to divide the veg into seven equal portions and only then could he cook his own steak and eat.

Granger got home early one day and did just that. Then he had just ONE more steak ‘cos, hey! maybe someone wouldn’t be coming home and that would be a waste. Then he had another . . . .

As he finished the seventh and last steak he was overcome by remorse and panic. He hopped in to his long-suffering grey VW Beetle and hared off to Fontana in Hillbrow and bought two roast chickens off their rotisserie to replace the looted steaks. Alas, on the way home one of the chickens clucked seductively and persuasively and he ate most of that before finally plonking one lonely fowl on the wall for us to share.

Granger Fontana chicken

Granger. Heart of gold. He had bigger brothers, one called Tiny. He read Ayn Rand and thought she was on to something.

Steve Reed again: The legend that I subscribe to is that the famous Vespa scooter that ended up on the bottom of the 4 Hillside Road pool originally belonged to a bird called Terry  who later married Keith Taylor. Keith’s brother Ian Taylor [who became a Doctor] had apparently commandeered Terry’s scooter and somehow it had ended up at 4 Hillside where it met its famous fate. Of course, the story may be the result of the effects on Terry of the third bottle of  pinot noir  on a cold Auckland night.

Vespa scooter reminds me of Keith Ballin zipping along, specs and moustache peering out from under his helmet, scarf trailing behind him in the breeze!

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I don’t like nostalgia unless it’s mine.

(Lou Reed)

Nostalgia: A device that removes the potholes from memory lane.

(Doug Larson)

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Vaalwater – name of young lass from the distant metropolis of Vaalwater

tjoon – tune-up in this case; sometimes ‘explain’

braai – barbecue

tjops n boerie – red meat sacrificed over an open flame

boep – stomach; paunch

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‘Twas at 4 Hillside that a knock came at the front door. We knew it was a stranger as no-one knocked at the front door. Actually, no one knocked, you just walked into the kitchen door.

It was a pink-faced balding chap and he asked for Peter Swanepoel.

We found out later from Madeleine what had transpired: A pink-faced balding chap walked into the School of Optometry and enquired at reception: Who’s your BEST optometrist? When Madeleine asked Um, Why? he said I want to employ your best final year optom student. Stifling a grin Madeleine said, Actually most of them already have jobs, they’re nearly finished their exams. Oh, said the pink-faced balding chap, So who hasn’t got a job yet?

The rumour that he then went on to ask OK, then who’s your WORST student? is just that: A vicious rumour.

Good Lord, Deliver us!

I really needed to take a hike, I really did.

But to do it I needed a henchman. You can hike alone, but I’d really rather not, so I persuaded Stefaans Reed, The Big Weed, resident son of hizzonner the Worshipful Lord Mayor of Nêrens (aka Clarens) and fellow optometry student in Jo’burg to accompany me. Sucker, he agreed.

We sallied forth, rucksacks on our backs, boerewors and coffee and billy can and sleeping bags inside, up the slopes of Platberg, from Piet Uys Street, up past the Botanic Gardens, von During and Hawkins Dams, into the ‘Government forest’. Pine forest. We could discern two types of pines, I’m sure there are more, but the type we liked had the long soft needles and made a good bed. We walked next to the concrete furrow that led water down the mountain into town. Often broken and dry but sometimes full of clear water, it made finding the way easy.

Gibson Dam furrow
The furrow on top

Halfway up we made camp, clearing a big area of the soft pine needles down to bare earth so we could safely light a fire.

Learning from our primate cousins we raked together a huge pile for a gorilla mattress and lay down to gaze at the stars through the treetops. This was 1974, we were eerstejaar studente in the big smog of Doornfontein, Jo’burg. We had learnt to drink more beer, sing bawdy songs, throw a mean dart in a smoke-filled pub, hang out of friends car windows as they drove home thinking ‘Whoa! better get these hooligans home!’ and generally honed our urban skills. Now we were honing our rural skills. Wilderness ‘n all.

As we lay in our sleeping bags, burping boerewors and gazing through the pine fronds at the stars, we heard a loud, startling, beautiful sound.

I was wide-eyed wide-awake! WHAT on EARTH was that!? I knew it had to be a night bird, but what? Which one?

In the dark I scribbled down a picture of the sound. This is what it sounded like to me and I wanted to be sure I didn’t forget it:

sonogram-fiery-necked-nightjar

I didn’t know I was drawing a “sonogram” – I’d never heard of that.

When I got back home I looked through my ‘Birds of South Africa – Austin Roberts’ by  G.R. McLachlan and R. Liversidge, 1970 – and found there was a nightjar that said “Good Lord Deliver Us” and I knew that was it. The Fiery-Necked Nightjar – some call it the Litany Bird. I loved it, I love it, I’ll never forget it and it’s still a favourite bird.

It’s the call! – they look similar but sound very different

Click here to hear it as we heard it that night.

Fiery-necked nightjar_2.jpg
Stunning nocturnal aerial insect catcher

Next morning we hiked on, past the beautiful eastern tip of Platberg – some call it ‘Bobbejaanskop’ – and down round Queen’s Hill through some very dense thicket, across the N3 highway, back home and a cold beer.

Sheila in the cosmos
Dense thicket in foreground

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  • Thanks xeno-canto.org for sharing birdsounds from around the world.
  • Those pine trees may be Pinus patula – soft leaves, not spiky. Comfy. Still an invasive pest, though.
  • A ‘litany’ is “a tedious recital or repetitive series; ‘a litany of complaints’; a series of invocations and supplications; – “Good Lord, Deliver us!” The Catholics can really rev it up:

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven,
Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on us.

– This is one-twelfth of the Catholic Litany, there’s eleven-twelfths more! Holy shit!!

~~~~~ooo000ooo~~~~~

boerewors – raw beef wurst; just add fire

eerstejaar studente – first year students

Bobbejaanskop – Baboon peak

Nêrens – nowhere, or Clarens in the Free State, named after Clarens, Switzerland to which that coward Paul Kruger fled cowardly after accusing my brave great-great Oom of cowardice. Ha! Who actually stayed and fought the war, huh?

Tennis Champs

The pinnacle of my tennis career came when I beat a Springbok tennis player in a tournament at the Wanderers in Jo’burg.

Of course, it helped that my playing partner was Free State junior champ Alick Ross, a brilliant left-hander who carried me all the way.

Also, it helped that the ‘Springbok tennis player’ was actually our opponent’s DAUGHTER, not he himself. So the truth is Alick and I beat Ilana Kloss’ FATHER in an early round of a doubles tournament back in 1974.

Here’s Ilana, who we didn’t beat:

Ilana kloss

Oh, well, it sounded good for a while there . . .

Unlike me, Ilana went on to greater heights, winning a Grand Slam title, the US Open doubles, with Linky Boshoff two years later. Her Dad had probably passed on a few things he learnt from me.

Us.

OK, Alick.

Twaalf Eiers

Alf Beyers, son of the Hoof of the Hoerskool in Petrus Steyn OFS, struck enormous good fortune on leaving the village and striking out for the big smoke of lower Doornfontein, Johannesburg, city of sin and laughter. It was akin to winning the lottery.

He was allocated me as his room-mate.

Dropping our suitcases on the sticky deep purple linoleum floor we immediately headed off to Nirvana, a place we had heard about for years. A place our mothers warned against with such dire foreboding that we knew we had to find it.

Hillbrow.

We heard they sold liquor in Hillbrow and we had fresh pocket money, so off we went with the gang of new students in the Doories res of the Wits Tech for Advanced Technical Education on our first night in Joeys, 1974, in search of pubs and nightclubs. Vague names waft around in my head now: Summit? Idols? Sands Hotel?

Most of us returned late that night, but there was no sign of Alf. He had landed up in the Johannesburg General Hospital, a victim of alcohol poisoning. The docs assured him it wasn’t bad liquor, it was simply too much good liquor.

The ill-effects wore off quickly and the potential for fun endured. On another occasion when we’d had a skinful Alf indulged in a bit of streaking under the Harrow Road flyover, appearing completely kaalgat to the amusement and delight of rush-hour motorists. Some were so impressed they called the cops and Alf roared up the stairs and hid in the smallish free-standing cupboard in our room, which actually overlooked the spot where he’d been parading!

When the hullabaloo died down he appeared with a huge grin on his face, still buck naked and inquired innocently “Looking for me?”

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twaalf eiers – a dozen eggs; rhymes with Alf Beyers;

hoerskool – school of ill repute;

Hoof of the Hoerskool – in charge of that place; influential position

kaalgat – naked as the day he was born;

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Dodgy history lesson: Grand Central Station, in the metropolis of Petrus Steyn, situated on the banks of the mighty Renoster:

Petrus_Steyn_Train_Station_ruins

House (mistress) Trained

Willie the housemaster of the Doornfontein residence of the Witwatersrand College for Advanced Technical Education was a good ou. In the fickle lottery of life he drew the short straw when we moved in to the room adjacent to the housemasters conjugal apartment that he shared with his long-suffering wife. Willie tried his best. We ignored him.

You couldn’t really ignore the real boss of the res, Sarie Oelofse though. She was fearsome. When we checked in to res on day one as fresh new arrivals she made it very clear that she vatniekaknie.

Let us pause briefly right here to think about what sort of doos would christen a place a “College for Advanced Technical Education”. Fuck me! Catchy title, china! One can imagine flocks of proud alumni saying “I went to the College for Advanced Technical Education”.

But about Sarie: She was tall, had been through some husbands, and was crowned by a snow white mop on top. No one would dare give her kak, we thought. Then we met Slabber. Sarie marched into our room one day in our first week as inmates in first year and asked in her strident voice “Vuddafokgaanhieraan?” We were drinking against the rules and making a happy, ribald commotion against those same rules.

We were ready to capitulate and come with all sorts of “jammer mevrous” and “ons sal dit nooit weer doen nies” and kak like that when Slabber – an old hand in his third year in res stepped forward and said “Ag kak, Sarie, hier: Hier’s vir jou ‘n dop” and poured her a large brandy.

Sarie melted like a marshmallow on a stick roasting on an open fire. She sat down, smiled coyly and lost all her authority in one gulp. It was wonderful. From then on, we wagged the dog. We continued to show her huge respect while doing whatever the hell we wanted. We helped her, and she turned a blind eye. The formula Chris Slabber had worked out while living over the road in the old St Augustines Street cottages worked like a charm. It needed regular dop provision, of course, but that was no PT: Whatever we were drinking we would just pour Sarie some and she would remain completely reasonable and amenable.

It was what you could call win-win. Educational, in fact.

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vatniekaknie – intolerant of rambustious student behaviour

doos – person lacking your clear insight

kak – uphill

Vuddafokgaanhieraan? – What gives, gentlemen?

jammer mevrous – apologies

ons sal dit nooit weer doen nies – perish the thought

Ag kak, Sarie, hier: Hier’s vir jou ‘n dop – Have a seat, ma’am

dop – libation. Actually, any alcoholic drink

——-ooo000ooo——-

Another lady lived off the premises, just outside our windows in St Augustines Street. Her name was Agnes and the poor thing would attempt oblivion by swallowing methylated spirits. When going strong she would rant and rave and give us plenty lip. Feisty, was ole Agnes. Sleeping rough in winter she and her companions would huddle around whatever they could set alight for some warmth. One night she must have got a bit too close to the fire and then belched. A fatal meths belching on an open fire. ‘Twas the end of Agnes.