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Culture, Sport

Tale of a Rugby Heathen

by Luke Mason / 23.08.2010

Behind the boerewors curtain disciples sit steadfast, silent in support of the green and gold. The service is about to start, the air heavy and devout. The barmaid, double chinned and bulldog jowled, pours and skulks, skulks and pours. A T-shirt bearing the slogan “Come have a few beers with us” is tented tight between her sagging boobs and a belly even Buddha wouldn’t rub. She sucks the expanse of her bottom lip against tobacco stained teeth, a hard bitch she is, a hard, hard bitch. I have stumbled like an infidel into a kerk of Castle and rugby, there is no one in here I’d like to offend.

A man with a pink, creased face, yellow hair and a blue collar hugs the altar, percolating in the strange theology. His pious, yellowing eyes swim in the Bloody Mary’s of absolution. When New Zealand is on the ball, there shall be no sound uttered, God will strike you down for such digressions in this sacred house. When South Africa breaks, so does the silence, and voices ring out with the vehemence of a heil to the Fuhrer himself.

I don’t want to step on anyone’s veldskoen, I want no part of any of this action. I do however, want to play pool. I tip toe around a mountain in a Bok jersey and an SAPS hat, eyes white with apprehension. Poppies hang from arms, arses swallow barstools, bellies sit on laps, a soutie feels mighty alkaline among the salt of this specific piece of earth. Sucking in my stomach I squeeze my way to the bar and ask the bulldog for the pool cues. Her beady-Dassie-eyes narrow.
“What did you say?”
I wonder if Trey Parker and Matt Stone know that Mrs Crabtree has escaped into the third dimension and is now serving drinks at the Elands Baai Hotel.
“The pool cues” I strike an imaginary whiteball with an imaginary cue, eyebrows raised, searching for cognisance.
“No” she says flatly, “not while the rugby is playing.”
I am in awe.
“Do you want me to stand and hold my heart the entire time?”
Her lips ripple into a half snarl. We face off. I know I’m out of my depth. Thick necks begin to turn in my direction. Oh fuck. I ask for a Black Label as politely as I can. I go and sit in the corner, sipping uneasily while commentators preach into my heathen ears.

At half time I slink out to check the surf. It’s still pure kak. I didn’t come all the way for this. I head back into the hotel but decide to give the bar the girth it deserves. I walk down a dusty corridor and into a dimly lit room. Lo and behold! People of colour! The sound of West Coast Afrikaans greets me as I enter. Complete racial separation. It seems I am caught between an exception and the rule – there is no room for white liberals here.

Although the room is more drab, the TV far smaller, further away and covered in transmission snow, the populous of the back room (or black room) are no less entranced by the sporting spectacle, and shouts of “vat hom” ring out whenever there is a hom that needed to be vat. The atmosphere is warmer, less militant, more relaxed. Smiles venture out without their shotguns. The dampened voices in the bar next-door can be heard through the walls resonating beneath the tinnier timbre of my new company. Good Old South Africa. Good old colour walls, as thin as ancient skin, impenetrable as Kevlar.

Some official looking black big-wigs are shown on screen watching the game from a private box.
“Kyk al die kaffirs daarin” a man smiles a gap-toothed grin at me.
He can see I’m neither coloured, nor from around these parts, but knows he can obviously break the ice with that old South African stalwart, invoking the dirty word, the ubiquitous hate of “die kaffir”. I do not smile back. It’s getting harder to breath in this cloud of testosterone and bad ideology.

Two minutes left and New Zealand scores a try that puts them within two points of drawing the match. Just as we saw happen in the soccer when Bafana Bafana caught Uruguayan stick, seats begin to empty. Black and non-black lips fall to black and non-black ankles. White and non-white feet begin to drag out of white and non-white doors. Probably a good thing, because seconds later the All Blacks take the match by jogging over an all-too-easy try. Not that I could give two fucks about either sport or the bullshit nationalism that surrounds it, but like death and taxes (neither of which have caught up with me just yet) South African fans prove as regular as Oprah’s morning dump. We builds the effigies of our “national heroes” with tooth picks and rainbow-coloured crepe paper and dance and sing and celebrate them in the sun. When it begins to rain, as it always does, and the giant dummies melt into piles of steaming streamer-shit, we take turns pissing on them and go home to beat our wives, or go to other peoples homes to steal their, better TVs in preparation for the next big game. God bless the rainbow nation, and the Leprechauns that guard it.

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