Rugby and a visit to the old College of Knowledge.
Rugby eh, now there is a sure fire way to find people trying to be ultra macho and tough, and don’t I know it? You see I have left the old College of Knowledge otherwise known as Gwebi Agticultural College, and am now working on the farm. Every four weeks I get the week-end off, courtesy of a good boss who has made damn sure there is no horse racing on that week-end. After all you have got to box very clever like. So, it is my week-end off and I still have a few mates who were the year below me still at the College, one of them being the newly elected Rugby captain of the fifteen. Blimey I must see this, so Saturday afternoon finds me at the College going to case out the NEW RUGBY CAPTAIN. It is important to tell you first a little bit about how I think about sport. Firstly, to me fair play is everything. Rugby being a hard physical contact sport is no more different in this than any other sport. When I was in my first year at senior school watching the first fifteen play Rugby was compulsory. Occasionally a touring team came up from South Africa and they were always so much better than any of us. That’s just the way it was, except in this case.It was a new school and they came up to Rhodesia on tour. Plumtree being the first school on the bottom of the border and then onto Bulawayo the second largest city and from there up to Salisbury the
capitol.The long and short of all this is, we began to give them a hiding, yet still they persisted playing their own brand of Rugby.What this consisted of was tackling low, I never saw one tackle above ankle height not one. Something, really something and a joy to behold. Just prior to halftime they held a line out right in front of us. The props were the first in line and theirs was crying, a slow deluge of tears running down his face. There are two main points here (for me anyway), the first being, that if you are stronger than somebody else, does this then mean that you must grind him into the ground by bullying, mean tactics, and against every spirit of the game? The second being, this poor blokes parents had raised the money for him to go on tour amidst much excitement I’m sure.Can anyone remember the pleasure of being chosen to go on tour? More importantly it was a golden opportunity for him to cry quits, ‘ouch my back is sore’ etc. etc. Did he hell, no he didn’t he kept on playing and still he only tackled at ankle height instead of resorting to nefarious tactics. I was twelve years old at this time and DISGUSTED with our prop. In the second half as it begun, the mood of the school had changed. When one of our players made a waist high tackle which normally the school would have applauded he was met with, “Boooooooo, tackle low.” And on and on it went, a knee high tackle was met with, “Boooooooo, tackle low.” Obviously then I wasn’t the only boy disgusted with our prop, the whole school was and we began to support the touring side which of course unsettled our players and the tourists began to get on top. We still ended up winning…………just. Without a shadow of a doubt it was the greatest display of tackling I have ever seen, then or since, and it didn’t quite end there. So we are eating supper, the Head of school (boys) and the head of houses (boys) sat at the top table positioned hard left and about the middle of the dining hall. Whenever any meal had ended one of them said a short prayer of thanks. This night when he had finished our Rugby coach and the touring sides Rugby coach were standing there and ours said,” the touring coach would like to say a few words to you all.” The long and short of all this, is, he proceeded to say that he had been a teacher for a very long time, and he had never, never, never ever seen a re-action from another school as he saw today and on behalf of him and his team he would like to thank us all and none of them would ever forget Plumtree school. By gum you should have seen the reaction from the school, a cacophony of sound and cheers, boys banging silver mugs on the table en masse. Five or so years later I went on a hockey tour to South Africa and staying with one of the lads I played against. He had an elder brother who was a junior Springbok Rugby player and playing Currie Cup Rugby for his province he was late, and high tackled, which left him a quadriplegic. Two days after his accident his fiancee gave him her engagement ring back and left him and he never saw her again. I mention the above two topics because it gave me my life long views at a formative age when I was still young and I have never forgotten any of this. So what this means for me anyway,is, fair play is paramount at all times?
NOW WHERE WAS I?
Ah yes, the Rugby game at the old college of knowledge, so ably led by, wait for it, none other than little Rinty Mombie now all grown up and and a very big man. I’m early, just in case more than two men and a dog pitch up to watch, and I need to get a good seat, not that I should have
worried unduly. Rinty Mombie is putting his band of merry men through their warm up exercises. By gum, something, really something, and most Olympic gymnasts would have been hard put to do some of the contortions he was putting them through? It is called being as keen as mustard and all the while the erstwhile Rugby captain is egging them on, “stretch lads, one, two, three,” and so on and so forth. I’m very suitably impressed but also wondering if they are going to be to ‘buggered’ to play after this warm up? It is nearly time for play to commence and both teams are lined up between the stands, ready to run onto the field. Rinty Mombie is exhorting his troops and jumping up and down like a static Kangaroo, while at the same time exercising his head and neck muscles, and it is some head b’lieve you me. “Now then lads” SPROING, “let’s have a good game,” BOING, ” let’s keep it clean.” SPROING, BOING. Just then the referee blows the whistle and Rinty Mombie leads his men onto the field with a sprint akin to Usain Bolt winning the hundred metres dash at the Olympics. While everybody is getting into position, Rinty Mombie is doing his static Kangaroo exercises, SPROING, BOING. The opposition take the opening kick and they have been doing there homework as it is lofted to Rinty Mombie Rugby captain of note. Now I have never seen this boy take a catch, normally it is spilled. However, lo and behold, this time he fields it cleanly and off he goes still exhorting his troops with a bellow of, “follow me lads.” He gets approximately a metre when he is brought down by a terrific tackle. A loose scrimmage entails, from the bottom of which a terrible ‘keening’ is heard. It is Rinty Mombie sounding. In the ensuing melee a hand pops up at the top like a periscope surfacing in rough seas in the Atlantic during World War two. “Krauts at 10 o’ clock.” A short while later another hand appears as above. “Krauts at 3 o’clock.” It is Rinty Mombie working his way up. Suddenly, his head pops out and it is smoking from both ears and both nostrils, and he begins fisting. Anyone in sight including his own team mates.
REFEREES ARBITERS OF THE RUGBY GAME.
The whistle thrills thrice, it is the referee at play. Rinty Mombie gets a stern dressing down, but, avoids getting sent off and a penalty is awarded to the opposition. The kick goes over, scoreline, t’ree……..nil. I’m sorry but as our players run back to the halfway line I cannot resist it and
bellow out, ” let’s keep it clean lads.” Rinty Mombie leads the charge over the line from the kick off, and just as he is about to tackle the opponent with a treeeeeeemendous tackle. Why the opponent sidesteps, and our erstwhile Rugby captain crashes into the ground. It is about this time that I begin laughing, he is actually a very good friend of mine and so much fun. I also notice the referee, why, it is none other than the very reverend, most honourable J.J.Keene, esteemed poultry lecturer here at the old college of knowledge, and a man for all seasons. Whatever the sport you can rest assured he plays it, or better still he referees it as is no longer in the first stages of youth. Mentally yes, physically no. Now the thing is J.J. = Jungle Jaw (courtesy of a wispy beard) has a very peculiar running style. His upper half falls forward and somehow this gets his legs going which appear as if the heels are slapping him halfway up his back. This is fast forward or slow astern (so naval people can understand), and off he goes. Nearly always far off the pace of the game. Correction……always, but he sure can shrill a whistle. Gwebi Rugby guys never look like scoring. It doesn’t help when Rinty Mombie spills, and knocks forward a pass, slap bang, right in the middle of the posts. Even J.J. is laughing. I thought refs were supposed to be non partisan? The important point being in those days nobody queried the ref and he was an important part of the game, unlike in today’s world where he is open to scorn from everybody. You don’t believe me? Well look at the furore about the ref in the latest Springbok, New Zealand All Blacks game and it is still ongoing. I guess it boils down to in the old days the referee never made a mistake even as in JJ’s case when he could spot a forward pass from fifty metres behind the flow of the game. All this without modern technology to boot as well. Or, as I happen to think we were better losers in those days being used to it of course. The game has about run its course and JJ shrills the final whistle. Rinty Mombie leads his dejected players off after another hiding. However being a great captain he is still consoling them. “Well played chaps, we sure gave them a run for the money, great tackle there Social, way to go boy.” And so on and so forth. Suddenly he sprints off towards the pavillion across the other field, side stepping left, then right, and I have never seen him play so well. Oh I forgot if you don’t get to the showers quickly they run out of hot water. Is it any wonder he is CAPTAIN?
I LEFT THE BEST TILL LAST:ENTERTAINMENT IN MUNDY’S FOLLY THE BAR.
Now all the lads from both teams are showered, spruced up, and looking in their prime. JJ Keene is wearing tie and jacket with a badge that
reads, Mashonaland Referees Association. Anything, anything for a badge. Well
things are warming up after a couple of beers and it only takes three sips to get Rinty Mombie on his ear, he never could take the pace. The opposing Captain has made his speech and now it is the turn of Rinty Mombie. Terrified, he has actually had and finished one beer for ‘Dutch courage’. He begins his speech with, ” I, um, er, um, er, um, um, I, um,um,er, um er, um, I” and then blurts out like a machine gun, ” I would like to say well played everyone.” And sits to applause. It is time for the fines which is JJ’s forte and his ever faithful girlfriend Betty Bum collects the money in a glass. What this entails is basically kindergarten stuff, JJ mentions something silly each player has done and fines him accordingly, 5 cents here, 10 cents there and Betty Bum collects the fine. Then comes the coup de grace when someone fines JJ at the end. Akin to ” for being behind the pace at all times.” He gets a whopping $10 fine being a salaried man and all. He puts it in reluctantly whilst pretending to hee haw at the joke. These fines are then used to buy a round of drinks for all concerned and so the night wears on becoming livelier. Rinty Mombie is now on his third and semi-conscious. Social is busy trying to KD JJ’s Betty Bum, a never ending saga with this boy. So ends another riveting piece but if one cares to read between the lines some important points are made regarding life and fair play?