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CityPress - - Voices -

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.

HASTA MANANA

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