Culture, FreeState Style. And Counter-Culture

At the Harrismith se Hoerskool, we were taught “sang” by Eben, well-known HNP lid of the Harrismith Tak who we thought fancied himself as a singer and ladies man.

HARRISMITH HS TEACHERS 1967 Eben

He tried his best, but we were not an easy task. The RIGHT way was very clear in ou Eben’s mind: Die Volk, Afrikaans, Die Voortrekkers, Die FAK Sangbundel, no “anglisismes” and no Engels. And modern music was the work of the devil. This much was not in doubt. This meant, of course, that the RIGHT way in our minds was – well, something other than that.

He announced one day in the asbestos pre-fab sangklas that we would now sing “Heb je al gehoord van den silveren vloot”, which wasn’t actually Afrikaans, being Hoog Hollands, but that was kosher in his world; followed by the pure Afrikaans “Wie is die dapper generaal? DE WET!” which made us all think we were singing a song of praise for our flyhalf, De Wet Ras.

At this, Skottie Meyer sighed audibly: “O, jis, sing ons al weer vir Vokken Vaderland?”

Rugby HY 1972 Skottie

Well! Despite Skottie’s protestations that he had said “Volk en Vaderland”, he was despatched by a puce-faced Eben to the headmaster’s office, forthwith! Inderdaad! But he must have forgotten to go all the way because he appeared at the window behind Eben a minute later and proceeded to have us stifling grins the rest of the session.

I will confess we did sometimes sing words other than those strictly written down in the sangbundel.

Skottie has since shuffled off this mortal coil. Actually, they both have.

Rugby Free State u/13 Champs

It was quite a year. I had shot up and was the tallest blonde in the team (Coenie Meyer was the only other one!), 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. Ben backed him up and supported us – a kind soul was Ben Marais. We beat all-comers and moved on to play against bigger teams. We drew one game against Bethlehem Voortrekker 0-0, 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 8-3.

We were the Harrismith under thirteen team of 1967, playing in bright orange, looking for all the world like mangos complete with little green leaves on top and some black spots below.!

HarrismithU13Rugby cropped_2.jpg

At the end of the season we were unbeaten and happy.

But then we read in the newspaper, The Friend of Bloemfontein:

Free State u/13 Champs: 140 points for and 0 against!

And they weren’t talking about us – it was an u/13 team from Virginia. We thought: Free State Champs? Like Hell! We also thought: Where the hell’s Virginia?

Bruce Humphries phoned them and challenged them to come and play us. “No, we’re Free State Champs”, they said, “Can’t you read? You’ll have to come to us!”

Off we went to Virginia in Bruce’s new 1966 white Ford Cortina and Giel du Toit’s tweede-hands black Mercedes 190 – about 1959.

Cars Harrismith_2

There we watched their second team play Saaiplaas, a little mining village team. We cheered Saaiplaas on and exhorted them to victory! They beat the Virginia seconds 3-0, their first defeat. I can still hear our hooker Skottie Meyer shouting mockingly – he was full of nonsense like that, onse Skottie – “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 pulled down inches from the right corner flag. Yep, identical twins, find them in the pic. 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-Free State Champs Virginia.

What’s Next?
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, thank  you. ‘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. No Grey College team had ever played in this little outpost before.

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!

see: Not that Generaal De Wet.

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 thirteen, you also had to be in primary school! This excluded a few of our boys, who were in Std 6 (Gr8). Only four of our team were chosen. So we challenged them to a game. Bruce told them it would do them good to have a warm-up game against the rest of us before they went to Bloem to play in a tournament. Having been chosen as reserve, I was lucky: I could still play for ‘us’! Plus we ‘innocently’ added Gabba Coetzee to boost our depleted team. With their permission. He was in Std 6 and just too old to actually be under thirteen. He was a legendary machine of an eighth man!

Ho Hum! 17-0

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L: Bruce Humphries (coach); R: Ben Marais (coach)

Heads L-R: 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

– Wonder what that trophy is that De Wet is holding? ‘Handsome Vrystaters Floating-on-air Trophy’ maybe?

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We got word that Bruce Humphries passed away in about 2011. 
Go Well Sir!  We'll never forget that 1967 rugby season.