An expat’s thoughts on Covid-19

2020-03-31 06:01
Harold Karele running out for Toulon.

Harold Karele running out for Toulon.

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Before moving to France in July 2001, Harold Karele – originally from Lansdowne – had a stellar rugby career in South Africa.

Speaking to People’s Post, Karele shared his memories of playing in South Africa, a recent road trip, how the Covid-19 virus is effecting them in France and why we should take the lockdown seriously.

“Even though the longing to return to SA is always there, we (he and wife, Madeleine) know in our hearts it is better for our two sons, born in France, that we remain here. In 2014, we obtained our French nationality, which was duelled with our South African nationality.”

Back in the day, Karele played rugby for EP, Boland, WP, Stormers and SWD. He was shaped by coaches like Alex Wylie (EP), Nick Mallett (Boland), Harry Viljoen (Stormers and WP), Heyneke Meyer, Frans Ludekke (SWD), Charles Williams, Ian Kirkpatrick (Springbok Development), and Pote Human (Springbok U23), not to mention the many training camps under Kitch Christie for the Springboks.

“I toured England, Scotland and Wales with an amazing, unbeaten Springbok development side. Each of my SA coaches had a part in my development but Alex Wylie was the believer and helped me grow very fast.”

Another coach who believed Karele could go all the way to the Springbok side was Viljoen who personally paid him to return to WP. Karele says Viljoen was very disappointed when he injured his back in 2000. “Funny story. I had recovered from my back operation, the Springboks were in Plett and a contact session was organised between SWD and Springboks. Harry was pleased to see me until he saw I was lacing up. He runs over to Eric Sauls (SA u.20 coach) and very loudly states I can’t participate in practice as the Boks have a test match that weekend, and when asked why, Harry said, ‘Hy gaan iemand vrek tackle.’ (‘He is going to tackle someone to death.’)

“Needless to say, I got hold of Andre Vos and opened his eyebrow. Harry was so upset he pulled me off the field. Bob Skinstad says to me afterwards, ‘HK, when we saw you lacing up all the okes shouted, no short balls around the ruck to the ‘scrummies’ (scrumhalves).”

Karele caught a flight back to SA on Tuesday 25 February for a quick visit with family and friends until Sunday 1 March.

“I got to go on a road trip with some close friends and my oldest brother, Richard.”

The travellers had to go over the Wellington pass because of a fire on the N1 pass, then worked their way back to Worcester to stop at Golden Valley Casino.

“Afterwards, we had the most amazing milkshakes at the Big Red Chair (restaurant) outside Robertson.” Next, they hit the road to Goudini Spa and Avalon Springs Resort.

“I forgot how beautiful the Small Karoo is, the valley’s beauty, of Timmy Goodwin’s home place!”

Karele says driving through the valley got him thinking of Thinus Linee and Chester Williams (army and WP teammates).

“Thinus singing Drie Bobejane. Chester’s infectious laugh. The brotherhood of Russell Roux, Dean Daniels and these two, how can you forget!”

Karele and his group of friends call themselves The Brotherhood 7764 (Lansdowne area code).

“We all attended Windsor High and played first-team rugby under Charl Jacobs and Cecil Reed (our coaches). When we went on a tour to Mossel Bay in 1988 we stopped at Goudini on our way there, the same place we stayed at for a night on this road trip.

“Memories were shared of how we beat Port Rex from East London, we sang old songs and shared new stories.”

The “band of brothers” made their way back via Franschhoek pass and stopped at Drakenstein Prison “to say hello to Madiba” before they returned Karele to his family just in time for the return flight at midnight.

“We try to visit every year but, as you know, I no longer play rugby, too young now, so finances need to be in order before each trip.”

In France, Karele coaches an amateur side (director of rugby), which he says has a small budget of just over R6 million.

“Which is nothing compared to Toulon’s (whom he played for) of R300 million.”

He also works for the state as a dog handler (police) and a maintenance man.

All of France has been in lockdown for the past two weeks. Karele says, at first, people weren’t all that concerned and then the infection numbers started to spike.

“We are quite isolated from the big cities but the virus doesn’t care. And the Frenchies are serious, we are confined to our homes, everything is ordered. We get heavy fines if out without proper authorisation documents.”

Karele says they are making the best of a bad situation and describes their days as pretty structured with school work, games and elastic gym. “My wife has already told me to get out of the house. Ek raak te veel vir hulle (I’m getting too much for them). She’ll pay the fine for me.”

Karele urges everybody in Cape Town to stay safe from Covid-19, as he attempts to do the same in France.

“And take the lockdown seriously!”

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