The speed at which I had immersed myself into the game had led to tunnel vision. Opportunities to play more competitive rugby abounded, mainly because of my involvement with Spring Rose.
In the middle of 1995, Spring Rose – largely through Gerald Majola’s contacts and perseverance – were invited to play against a club in Walvis Bay, Namibia. Gerald, whom we fondly called Gailor, organised everything single-handedly. He was the club’s administrator during those times and occasionally played for the second team. Gerald took over the fly half jersey from the great Peter Mkata, but that was before I came into the team. By the time I arrived, Gerald was in semi-retirement and was more focused on administering the club affairs.
To travel to Namibia, everyone had to scurry to get a passport, or they would be left behind. I desperately wanted to go, but I could not get a passport because I was underage. I was only turning 17 in October that year and the trip to Namibia was taking place around July. The older club players suggested that I make myself seem older and pointed me in the various directions I needed to go to get it done. At the time I was not aware that I was being led astray. And, in my desperation to board the coach, I went along with it willingly.
In those days it was easy to get forged birth documentation from home affairs. You would be referred to a certain unnamed person who would quickly organise your fake documents. If I went as a minor, I would have needed an adult to accompany me, which would not have been possible considering my living circumstances. No one at home had a passport and I couldn’t ask Uncle Mel to come along as he had a household to run. At the time I didn’t have a birth certificate either, though, so I was able to fabricate my birth date. I lied and said I was born in 1977, even though I was born in 1978, but I kept the birthday and month the same.
So, in the end, I managed to get my passport, which allowed me to join the chaps on the trip to Namibia. When you are excited about something, the consequences of your decisions are an after-thought, because you are not thinking further than your nose.
The trip itself was beautiful. I had never been outside the country before, not even outside the province. The two Spring Rose teams – the Firsts and Seconds, which were both scheduled to play three games in the upcoming week – took a coach all the way up to Walvis Bay, which I can tell you is not the fastest way to get there.
We travelled via Kimberley and then to Upington before crossing the border in the south of Namibia and then making our way around the desert towards Walvis Bay. The bus sometimes stopped along the way because it overheated.
There was a warm brotherhood between the players on the bus – a camaraderie that only travelling sports teams can bring together. To pass the time, I wrote a diary of events in a small notebook, in which I described the trip and my observations and feelings about it. This earned me the nickname “Journalist” from the lads.