I grew up in Gugulethu NY-6 (native Yard 6) in the 80’s and we all know the how the country was in those days, a lot of unrest and turmoil.
I was a clever kid who could outrun most kids in the neighbourhood. I attended schools in Gugulethu and in KwaLanga depending if I was living with my mother or my mother. My parents had me when they were quite young so my Grandmother (dads mom) took care of me. She was mama to me.
When I was small she would take me to work with her in Camps Bay where she worked as a domestic worker. That was when Patricia Alves fell in love with a little boy from Gugs. I was still a baby then being carried around on the back of my grandmother while she got on about her work.
Time passed and I got great grades at school and you had to be number 1 in the class or you felt that you failed if you didn’t do so. I was also a prominent figure in our local club Blacks United aka Sampdoria as the ever solid central defender. I drew a lot of interest from bigger local clubs like Cape Town Pirates and Strikers. I used to play soccer 7 days a week and every day during the holidays. My dad played rugby for the Gugulethu Barbarians and used to go watch his games every Sunday at the Ny 49 Stadium. I was never a real fan of the sport as only the grown ups played the game and a spectacle it was back then as the league and tournaments were often fought between the big four, Barbarians, Villagers, Zebras and the All Blacks.
I kept on getting 1st place in the classroom because everything was a breeze really and I kept on getting better and better at soccer. I had worked pretty hard on my sprinting and was now quicker than most of the strikers so it was inevitable I moved there.
In grade 7 at Luzuko Primary School myself and great friend of mine Xolani were invited to write entrance exams to Bishops. Unfortunately we both didn’t make it. So when I registered in Retreat for high school Patricia Alves, now Patricia Hasselbach jump to my rescue and said she would take over my schooling going forth. Some strings were pulled and I went to an interview at SACS High School. I struggled in the interview because everything was so overwhelming and the Headmaster suggested that I redo grade 7 at the Junior School so as will adapt a lot better there. This hurt as I had worked so hard to get where I was and to be told I had to redo grade 7 again made me angry and what will the people in my neighbourhood gonna say. Not so clever after all…..
Nonetheless Pat sat me down and explained everything to me and what an opportunity this was for me. It wasn’t going to be easy but this was a once in an opportunity and i had to make it work. My parents would have never be able to afford the fees at the school and here was somebody who had watched me grow overt the years and was wanting to do something for my Grandmother by giving her grandson free education. Did I mention it came with boarding as well?
So in 1992, two years after the release of Nelson Mandela from Robben Island I started my schooling career at SACS.
I moved into the junior School Boarding House on Sunday and in my dorm we had a Xhosa boy, Greek Twins Tarso and Aristo Korpanakis, A surfer dude from Tableview Jason Hancoks, an Irishman Shane Maguire, Geoff Beatty and an Englishman Alec Tiffin. This was the true Rainbow Nation Dorm.
The following day I was the talk of the grade because I was the only other black guy in the grade. The other black guy was Zulu Boy from Jorburg. He didn’t offer much to the other white because I found myself in tough tussle for which I was to be part of when it came to Xhosa lesson’s. I joined the Cavemen and we kicked ass in class winning all the points and even though being taught my home language by a white teacher was a bit odd.
I was instantly put into remedial classes for extra English and that is when i was introduced to Mrs Anderson who was to be my extra English Teacher while the other kids went off to learn computers and other cool stuff. It was a drag but something I couldn’t get out of. Despite all that the other classes were great.
When it came to sports the kids in the grade wanted to find out how quick I was so at break time I was pitted against the fastest guy in the school Melish. I nearly beat him in the race and won the approval of my fellow classmates. Melish was soon to be the wing for the u13b rugby team and guess who was the other wing……..me. There was no soccer at the school so for a winter sport i had to sign up for Rugby and I remember thinking to myself what mess had I got myself into and “I should have asked my dad for some one on one rugby lessons”. That was all too late now I had to make it work.
Nevertheless I attended the practices and learnt fast. My fondest memory of my first try was when I passed the ball but it failed to reach my hands. Instead of trying to pick it up I toe punted it past the oncoming defender ran around him and the covering fullback was coming across and was ready to pounce on the ball. Still in soccer mode I dribbled the ball through his legs and found myself left with the ball and try line. I remembered that I needed only to dive on the ball once it rolled over the try line, so I did and that was the try of the day. I was the talk of the whole school came the following Monday and so began my love for the game.
It was all good going until my first term report came out and things were not so rosy. I had dropped from a 90% plus student to averaging 42% in my first term. I wished the ground would just open up and swallow me whole. Boy did I get the talking to of my life? My parents gave it to me and to make matters worse Pat together with her Husband, Eric, also gave me a talking to and made me understand what an opportunity I had and to pull my socks up. I didn’t want to disappoint my grandmother so I buckled down and got serious with my books.
I continued with English lessons and improved significantly, worked hard at the other subjects and finished the year with a pass of over 50%. Still it was not great and I still carried on with the extra English lessons with Mrs Anderson while the other kids learn’t computers. I kept on averaging around the 50’s and also my played for the u14C team and was made Captain for the season. Joined the school choir and was a member of the African Ethos Club.
In the boarding house I became Tennis and Squash Champion because I was introduced to the sports before while I was attending Luzuko Primary in Gugs and played at the UCT squash courts on Fridays before moving to SACS.
I carried on with the said sports making the 2nd teams at both codes later in my schooling career. In grade 9 I had improved significantly on my English and Mrs Anderson and I parted ways in the middle of the year. By that I was playing under 15B Rugby and was called up to the A side for the last 3 games f the season against our arch rivals, Bishops, Rondebosch and Wynberg. These were high pressure games and sadly couldn’t emulate the antics i was pulling off in the lower teams and it was too much pressure in the A sides and the opponents were just as sharp.
In Grade 10 I made the u16A team at Fly Half and kept that position the entire season. The highlight of that season the great comeback by the team when all chips were down. Down 24-0 at half time against Paul Roos, the writing was on the wall for us. Every other team had lost Paull Roos on that day including the hockey teams. It was down to the two final games of the day. The u16A and the first team. The first team game kicked off as were kicking off for the second half. What seemed an unlikely comeback we clawed our way back restricting any move the opponents made. We scored the first try through a cross kick from me to our winger Mark who bulldozed his way to the try line. The conversion was good and we scored two more tries an intercept by our centre and sneaky breakaway from one of our flankers. Both tries were converted and it was down to the final score. By this time all most of the spectators who we watching the 1st team game had turned their attention to our game and cheering us on. My winger asked me to put another one up in the air in his direction and I obliged. The bounce was good and he pounced on it put a nail in Paul Roos’ coffin. He converted the try to end up winners 28-24.
The rest of the season was topped off with wins over Bishops, Rondebosch and Wynberg.
In Grade 11 I made the 1st team as starting Fly-half, was very popular amongst the teachers and fellow pupils, I opted out of the school choir but took part in school plays, elected chairman of the African Ethos Club and my grades were up. That year I was part of the team that toured Zimbabwe. We were unbeaten in Zim, came back and continued the winning run to 11 matches taking scalps of the likes of Bishops, Paarl Boys High and Paarl Gym and to this day we were the last team to defeat them, the mighty team of 1996.
In my final year I made first team again and had a solid season. Even though we didn’t set the record books alight we had some good wins under our belts. At the end of the year I traveled with the squad to the U.K. I was also played as wicket keeper for the second team in cricket.
Was awarded one of the highest honours in the school, that of being a school prefect, the second black prefect in the history of the school. I also became a prefect in the Boarding house. I had made my parents, Pat and Eric and most importantly my grandmother proud of my achievements.
I finished school with an exemption and a C aggregate.