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Diamonds And Dust: 61 - The Touch Judge

Malcolm Bertoni tells of a cunning winger who sold the perfect dummy.

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

This is a superb example of smart play. We were watching our second fifteen playing at home one weekend. It was a good, close and tightly contested game that was swinging backwards and forwards back up and down the field.

With about 10 minutes to go our team got the ball and in a classic backline movement sent the ball out to the wing, who managed to get around the outside of his opposite number and was thundering down the left hand side touchline with the ball tucked under one arm. The try line was still 50 meters away and the full back was angling across to cut off our winger and tackle him. On the outside of the field running parallel with the winger was the touch judge who was making sure that our wing didn’t step into touch. How he kept up we’ll never know as the winger was really motoring. The winger could see the full back coming across from his right and the touch judge running next to him on his left, watching the touch line.

The winger transferred the ball to both his hands. Watching him we thought that he had two options: try to get past the full back or put in a cross kick infield and hope that one of our guys would collect the ball. But our winger was smarter than that and did neither. As the full back came closer the winger threw a dummy pass out towards his left and towards the touch judge. It worked perfectly. The full back zoomed straight into the touch judge. There was a mighty crunch as the touch judge got creamed and the two collapsed in a tangle of arms and legs.

While all this was happening the winger ran between the posts and dotted the ball down for a try.

At first there was a stunned silence then a huge roar of laughter as the full back stood up and the touch judge lay groaning on the ground. It was a perfect dummy which the full back swallowed completely. The poor touch judge was carried off and I don’t think we ever saw him at a rugby game again. The full back was too embarrassed to even look up as his team walked back behind the try line for the goal kick and he just kept staring at the ground.

This seemed to kill the opposing team’s spirit and we scored another easy try to win the game comfortably.

One year we all wanted to go down to Cape Town to watch the Springboks play. It was against the All Blacks and being a rugby crazy nation we wanted to see the Springboks beat the crap out of the Kiwis. The rugby club organised a package deal which was a charter flight to Cape Town on the Saturday morning and returning Sunday late morning, hotel accommodation as well as a ticket for the game. It sounded good so a whole mob of us decided to go. There was one mad bastard called SW B_ who was a pretty good rugby player and he decided to come with us. He was a great guy until he had a few drinks and then his bad side would come out. He would then proceed to tell everyone what a good plant operator he was, that everyone else were fuckwits and didn’t know a thing and as he put it: “I am the greatest.”

He would also have an endless conversation with whoever was nearby and if there was no-one near then he would talk to himself. The problem was that he would slur his words so badly that no-one could understand him, including himself.

We started calling him “I am the greatest,” and he was not amused.

He didn’t drink too often thank goodness, but when he did he really got into it and wouldn’t stop until he passed out.

So SW decided that he would come down with us to Cape Town. On the day of departure we all turned up at Alexander Bay airport and boarded the plane which was an old Dakota. Not the most comfortable plane but cheap and fast enough for the flight to Cape Town, which took about 2 hours. Now SW hated flying so to give himself courage he had brought along a flask of fortitude elixir – brandy and coke.

By the time we got to Cape Town and SW poured himself off the plane, he wasn’t afraid of anything.

We hustled SW though the airport before he got himself arrested and grabbed a taxi to the Newlands rugby grounds. We got to the ground and managed to get in without too much problems and found our seats. By now it was about 2.00 pm. The game started at 3.30 pm so SW, who was getting thirsty decided to go to the bar and get us all a drink. I asked for a coke and the others variously asked for beer or cokes. Off went SW. 2.30 went by, then 3.00. At 3.15 a food vendor came by and we bought some soft drink and hot dogs. No sign of SW.

At 3.30 pm the game started and we all stopped thinking about him. At half time some-one said that we had better go see where SW was so two of us go down to the bar which was under the grandstand. There was SW sitting at the bar cradling a drink and listening to the game to the radio while talking to himself in that distinctive slur that he did so well when pissed. I went up to the barman and explained to him that SW was with us and that we would come collect him after the game. The barman nodded sympathetically and we get back to our seats just in time for the start of the second half.

After the game we went and collected SW who, by this time didn’t know who or where he was. We checked into the hotel and let SW sleep it off while we went out for a few hours.

The next morning it was a very sorry looking SW who boarded the plane. His first question was: “Who won the game?”

SW must be the only person in history to have flown down to Cape Town, had a seat in Newlands rugby ground, listened to game on the radio in the bar and still didn’t know what had happened.

Oh and just for the record, the Springboks won the game.



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