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Diamonds And Dust: 60 - Rugby Fields

...A friend of mine said that in one game the two packs of forwards were just about to have a scrum when suddenly one of the players shouted “Breek” (“Break”), and all the forwards scattered in different directions. They then all had to wait while someone came on to kill the puffadder that lay coiled just where they were about to scrum...

Playing rugby in Africa brought more than a fair share of hazards, as Malcolm Bertoni reveals.

To read earlier chapters of Malcolm's vivid account of diamond mining in Namibia please visit http://www.openwriting.com/archives/diamonds_and_dust/

To obtain a copy of his book click on http://www.equilibriumbooks.com/diamonds.htm

I played rugby my last two years on the mine and was lucky enough to play for the first fifteen. We used to play alternate weekends on a home and away basis. Oranjemund had excellent sports facilities and everyone used to love playing there.

We actually had grass fields. Unfortunately playing on the other team fields was not as good an experience. Almost all the rugby fields were sand or gravel. Some even had rocks. A friend of mine said that in one game the two packs of forwards were just about to have a scrum when suddenly one of the players shouted “Breek” (“Break”), and all the forwards scattered in different directions. They then all had to wait while someone came on to kill the puffadder that lay coiled just where they were about to scrum.

The fields were murderous on the knees and elbows and hands and everyone wore layers of knee and elbow guards. The first time I played away, no-one warned me – purposely I’m sure – and I came off the field a mess. I’m sure I lost a few square feet of skin and a pint on blood on that awful field. I would often be picking out small stones and gravel out of my knees and elbows for weeks.

One always tried to make sure that you never got tackled in the game and that you never tackled anyone. It made for quite entertaining and amusing play.

“Yours,” and the ball would come your way as three big hulking forwards zeroed in on you.

“No, yours,” as you would fling the ball anywhere as long as you didn’t have it for too long.

Sometimes you even gave the ball back to the opposition who would handle it like a hot potato, throwing it about with abandon.

Due to the non-tackling there were some very high scores in many of the games.

One game we played it actually rained and turned the field into a quagmire. Trying to run was like trying to run on treacle. The legs were pumping like hell but you didn’t go anywhere. After about 30 minutes everyone was covered in mud and unrecognisable and no-one knew who was who. For all you knew the guy standing next to you could have been the opposition. There was no way of knowing. The ball was as slippery as soap and impossible to handle, so we all just hacked it up and down the field. The final whistle was a relief to both teams.

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