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. 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.

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 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 white Cortina and Giel du Toit’s black Mercedes 190. 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! – “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). So we only had 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 before they went to Bloem to play in a tournament. Having been chosen as reserve, I was lucky: I could 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 Trophy?

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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.

Just Call Me Wally

It was 1981 and we were new in Durban and decided to watch the Comrades Marathon, an 89km exercise in insanity being run “up” from the coast at Durban to the heights of Sleepy Hollow that year. Those days it was easy to follow the race: You just got in the way, parked wherever and got out whenever you felt like shouting encouragement to the possessed. Early in the morning we stood near 45th cutting and soon the runners arrived. Near to us was a short old bald whispy-haired fella shouting enthusiastic encouragement and giving two-thumbs-up to virtually every runner, some of whom – quite a number – seemed to recognise him.

Once the last stragglers had passed we started to head off to Dave’s green VW Beetle, but noticed the old bullet seemed lost. Can we help you? we asked. Do you know the way to the finish? he asked. Sure, and we’re going there, we said, wanna come along? I’d love that, he said gratefully, and that’s how two complete Comrades ignoramuses ended up driving Wally Hayward in the back of a Beetle to the finish of the 1981 Comrades – a race he had run five times AND WON FIVE TIMES!

Well, you couldn’t spend a morning with Wally without hearing a whole bunch of tales and we milked him for more and fell under the spell of this warm and unassuming bundle of energy. At the finish we sat on the grass and heard an announcement that some old bullet who won the race decades ago was there and was going to do a lap of honour. The wonderful brave soul – I think Phil Masterson-Smith, the 1931 winner – shuffled slowly around the track to tremendous applause, none louder than that coming from Wally who watched intently, quivering like a bird-dog with a huge grin and a wistful look in his eyes. I winked at Dave and snuck off to the announcer’s tower and told them we had the 1930 winner Wally Hayward with us, and could they make a fuss of him, too?

They could indeed and so, 51yrs after first winning the race Wally hit the track, totally surprised – but also totally chuffed – and ran that 400m with a smile like a truck radiator and his knees flying past his ears looking for all the world like an escaped ostrich! I bet his 400m time would have been way up there among the quickest ever for a 73yr-old!

Yes, Wally had won in 1930 (below left), then again in 1950, ’51, ’53 (below right) and 1954! He had run this crazy ultra-marathon only five times in all and won it every time he entered, the last time at the age of 45, a record which still stood in 1981. It was only broken much later – in 2004.

It took us a while to find him after his lap of honour, celebrity that he now was, but yes, he still wanted a lift back to Durban please.

I s’pose he didn’t know the way!

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Six years after we enjoyed this magic day, Wally ran Comrades again, thirty three years after his last run and shortly before his 80th birthday. He ran a magnificent race, beating half the field and beating the winner Bruce Fordyce on an age-handicapped calculation. Bruce himself mentioned and emphasised this after the race.

Wally’s memoirs were published in time for the 1999 Comrades by a wonderful friend of mine, fellow Comrades runner and Dusi paddler Bill Jamieson. He titled the book: “JUST CALL ME WALLY”.

Wally Hayward 88

89km in 9hrs 44mins just before his 80th birthday.

Wally died in 2006, aged 97.

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Dave Simpson wrote to me on seeing this post:
Hi Pete,
Well this does bring back memories – 33 years ago at that! Actually, we originally only planned to go as far as Fields Hill.
When Bruce Fordyce past us outside the Westridge Park Tennis Stadium, with his bunch of early race ‘klingons’ and yelled out ‘Walleeeee’ as he strode past the great man – we knew we were dealing with someone special. The rest you’ve said.
Great story.
Hood

Me:
I’d forgotten that! It was Fordyce’s first win that year. The first of nine.
In the back of my mind I thought we did know there was something special about him, but we weren’t sure who he was.
When he asked for a lift, did we already know who he was?

Dave again:
No, we did not know who he was. When he asked for a lift, he told us that he was there with his mate, who wanted to follow his son who was a plodder at the back of the field. Dear Wally just assumed that we, like him wanted to watch the front runners.
As it turned out, Wally was wrong – we just wanted to be with Wally!

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Among many other running achievements, Wally had also won the Harrismith Mountain Race.