When U7 is an institution

2012-04-03 00:00

MY father used to say that there is nothing that can beat watching U7 rugby. “It’s is more entertaining than the Tri-Nations”, he would claim every Saturday morning at my brother’s rugby matches where he wore his bright-red-embarrass-his-


In this province, it’s not just the

fathers who are so involved, it is also the cattle. But I will come to the bovines later. Cattle aside, it has taken me two years to get my son involved. I was not hooked on him playing rugby in particular, I just wanted him to do any extramural.

So now that he has bowed to peer pressure and got involved. My husband and I sit (and scream) along with all the other parents at rugby practises. If you scan the field from the sidelines, there are almost more fathers involved than there are boys playing. And I am not talking about spectators. I am talking about fathers who coach. At a glance one would swear that the town has a high unemployment rate, as how can so many breadwinners get so much time off work? Surely these men are filling in their time by die huis doing something for the community. But they are not. They are just dead keen, and if they don’t boer for themselves then they swivel their lunches around at the Korporasie so that they can be there. The U7 team, for example, has not one, not two, but three coaches, all volunteer fathers. While the U12s push tractor tyres across the field to build muscles never to be seen in Cape Town muesli family circles, Oom Werner, Oom Jacques and Oom Tinus coach their sons and their sons’ friends in Bulletjies rugby.

Indeed, rugby in this area is so strong that it is an antidote to the emigration stream that floods the rest of the country. Having lived away from South Africa, I am always interested to know other people’s ideas on the issue. A couple of years ago, while I was paying for Herman’s grandmother’s gravestone at the funeral parlour, I chatted to Marnel who was working there.

At that stage I was new in town, which meant everyone wanted to know where I came from. With my red hair, my freckles and my bad Afrikaans, people were always waiting to hear about England. When I answered Cape Town, I always had the question thrown back at me: “No, but where were you from before that?” “Before that, still Cape Town.” “But where were your parents from?” “Jo’burg,” I would answer. No! I could see them thinking, “She is lying!” It was clear to everyone that I was not South African. Not with that Afrikaans.

Ironically, once we had got over where I used to live, and we started discussing where I currently lived, and I explained that we live on our family farm next to Oom Piet and Tannie

Greta, Herman’s Aunt and Uncle, then their next exclamation would be: “O! Maar dan is ons familie!” They would explain how their aunt was Oom Piet’s aunt, and how that meant they were second cousins to me. This happened at the funeral parlour, at the butcher and the hardware store. I was clasped into the bosom of the dorp, united with family members who were now thrilled to be related to a compulsive liar.

But to get back to Marnel, after we had gone through the origin of my

species, I thought I would test her feelings on emigration. Would she ever consider going to live in another country? Marnel looked into the distance. She was not sure. Actually no. Her husband sometimes talks of going to live in Natal, but she cannot imagine sitting on a couch near the sea and having to scream for the Sharks. No. She could not leave her rugby team. Migration, let alone emigration would never be an option.

So that’s the humans, then what about the cattle? How do they fit in to rugby in our province? Well, the farmers are the coaches and if there are calves that need to go to market on a Saturday morning, they are loaded onto the truck before the match. The coach drives them into town and the truck is parked at the side of the field where the cattle have prime seats. So if they are interested (which they should be) they can crane their necks through the bars of the livestock trucks and catch a glimpse of some action.

And if you listen carefully, you can hear them saying to each other: “So this is what he does when he isn’t herding us?” Or, when things get hectic on the field and they start feeling related to everything, they shout: “Go Bulletjies!” Then there is always the cynical realist: “You better enjoy this now boys, ‘cos I have this creepy feeling that regardless of the outcome of this game, eventually we are going to be slaughtered!”

• Catherine Smetherham is rediscovering herself and South Africa from a platteland perspective. She lives in Strydpoort, North West Province. Contact her at Catherine@holtzhausen. com

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