News | Opinion
As a scrawny nine-year old boy, my introduction to playing rugby was everything but pleasant.
While I was one of the fastest boys in what was then called Standard 2, most of my classmates were much bigger.
Ball in hand and on the attack, I could outsprint most.
Thanks to my slick handling, though, I always made sure that I got rid of the ball before any defender came within three meters of me.
Needless to say, I was not a prolific try scorer. In defence, it was even worse. There I was all fear.
It didn’t take me long to realise that my best defensive tactic was to let my opponent pass and then to haul him in from behind, jump on his back to slow him down and wait for the cavalry to come to the rescue.
Our coach was not impressed. In order to improve our defence, we were punished at the first practice after a match for every tackle missed.
The forwards and the backs would line up, each armed with a tekkie, and one by one those of us who missed a tackle would run the gauntlet.
For me it was a Catch-22 situation because I could never tell which was worse – having a kid twice my size steamroller me with the whole school watching, or having my own teammates beat my backside black and blue.
The only part of playing rugby I enjoyed, was eating my slice of orange at half-time.
Those rugby memories of crushed ribs and chipped teeth came flooding back last week when visiting the Joburg CBD.
Making my way eight blocks on foot – in a hurry – was what I imagine a rugby Test against the All Blacks would be like. I had to side-step taxis hellbent on crash-tackling me Jonah Lomu-style.
Buses charged me, very much like a prop intent on going through me rather than around me.
Every three steps I had to jink inside or outside to avoid a motorcycle or a scooter, all rushing up at me from an offside position.
I so wish my under-nine rugby coach could have seen my performance. He would have been so proud.
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