Rugby in JHB

I skipped rugby in matric. Then I played one season of high school football in Oklahoma. When I got to Johannesburg I was ready to play rugby again, but as there was little sport at the Wits Tech, friend Glen joined Wanderers club. He had a car, so I joined him and off we would go in his Gran’s green 1969-ish Toyota Corona 1600 NX 106 to the field in Corlett Drive for practice.

I doubt there were 30 players in u/21 so we made the B side – probably by default; Games I remember were Oostelikes; Strathvaal; Diggers; None of these guys were delicate flowers.

At Strathvaal near Potchefstroom we played and lost and I was removing my boots at the side of the field when a senior coach asked me to please fill in for the senior 3rds – they were short. The game had already started so I laced up and waited on the sideline for a gap. I ran on as a scrum formed and they got the ball. Moving up from inside centre I went to tackle my man – and was carried off on a stretcher.

Who knows what happened, but at about five or six seconds it was the shortest game of any kind I’ve ever played! Those miners were built like brick shithouses and liked them nothing more than some explosive contact! Here’s one of the more nimble Strathvaalians skopping daai bal:

rugby Strathvaal.jpg

skopping daai bal – kicking that ball

Casa Blanca Roadhouse, Joburg

As students 1974-1977 we would frequent the Casa Blanca roadhouse at the foot of Nugget Hill below Hillbrow when the pocket money arrived from home. Squeezed into Joz’s VW Beetle or Steve’s beige Apache or Bobby’s Mini Cooper S or Glen’s green Toyota, we’d ask the old Elvis-looking guy with a cap, flip-up sunglasses and whispy whiskers for a burger n chips plus a coke; Or a cheeseburger chips n coke 70c, or – as Steve Reed reminded me – “if we were flush, the Dagwood with everything including the runny fried egg. Sheer luxury. Messy, but worth it!”

I don’t have a pic of the Casa Blanca, but here’s the Doll House in Highlands North and the Casbah in Alberton so long:

Every so often you’d be asked “Move forward” and you’d inch forward to make room for new arrivals behind you, till you reached the “finishing line” where you handed back the tray the Elvis look-alike waitron had clipped to your half-rolled-up window and drove off under the big sign on the wall: QUIET. HOSPITAL.

Many years later (OK, twenty six years later!) work took me back to Jozi and I had time to kill in my hired car so I drove around Doories and Yeoville and Hillbrow. Lunchtime I pulled in to the Casa Blanca and I SWEAR there was the exact same oke who had served us twenty six years earlier, with his SAME cap, his SAME flip-up shades and his SAME whispy whiskers! Astonishing!

I told him cheeseburger chips n coke and how long have you been here?

“Thirty six years” he said “but I’m just filling in now”.

Charged me 70c. Plus twenty six years-worth of inflation.