A decade of father and son ends ... with a hiding


A decade of father and son ends ... with a hiding

THEUNS VENTER says school rugby was an important part of his life for 10 years. After his son's last game, the ritual of belonging and sharing was over. And it hurt.


IT'S 6.30am on a cool Saturday. I leap out of bed, a man on a mission. I make coffee for those still sleeping and hurry everyone along because at 7.20, thing are getting under way at Boland Agricultural School, where my oldest son plays for the rugby C team. 

In earlier years, Hoër Landbouskool Boland had around 70 boys per grade, then another grade 8 boarding house was completed last year on the campus between Wellington and Paarl. Now there are 400 boys, and they all stay in the boarding house. Occasionally, one or two parents have to drive to the school to fetch their son if he's suspended from the boarding house for a while because a vape or cigarettes might have been found somewhere among the dirty clothes in a wardrobe, or some other mischief was done, but it happens rarely.

When they have a home game on a Saturday, the boys stay in the boarding house on Friday night. They enjoy themselves on the stands and an informal braai is held for boys and parents. (On Saturday mornings, you can spot the habitual sunglass-wearers.)

My car idles for a while to get the heater going for the rest of our little team. By the time we hit the road, my 16-year-old daughter has already made herself look pretty for the “farm boys" (her dad jokingly once said she should marry a farmer someday, and it seems she took him seriously).

Just before eight, we drive up the row of small trees to the sports fields. I always stop between the boarding houses and the A-field. And then, as usual, we go to the snack bar by the main stand for a cup of instant coffee and a breakfast roll. I think the bacon-loaded roll is the main reason I can get my wife up and about so early.

Close-knit community

As we walk, we greet and chat with acquaintances. I'm going to miss this atmosphere of togetherness and the tightly knit community because my son finishes school this year.

Many children from the northern suburbs of Cape Town attend schools in Paarl and Stellenbosch, so there's friendly banter back and forth with the “enemy", as we've been meeting each other on the rugby fields since our children's primary school days. (Today, the opponent is Paarl Gimnasium.) But when the whistle blows, I stand among the Boland men and women. I won't hear the end of my betrayal if I watch the match alongside a Gimnasium dad.

There's shouting and cheering from the sidelines. And of course, there are many instructions as fathers relive their own youth through their sons.

Bubbles is injured. The game is stopped. Bubbles got his nickname from his matric “uncle", and only his parents still call him by his real name. Here, Bubbles is just Bubbles. Bestowing nicknames is an old agricultural school tradition that holds true at Boland too.

While Bubbles gets attention, the opponents socialise with each other again. An anecdote here, a chat and a laugh there.

My son's team loses. When the second teams come on, the stands fill up because everyone wants a spot for when the first team starts playing at 12.00.

Eventually, there's not enough room left for a mouse. Boys from the respective schools have designated places on the stands, and the singing reverberates. The atmosphere still gives me goosebumps every time.

We lose all our matches, but it doesn't matter. It's about the spirit, the camaraderie, and the many lessons that rugby and good sportsmanship teach our children. And once we're back home, my son and I watch the highlights of other school matches on Supersportschools.com. School rugby has a special kind of magic for us.

Boland! Boland! Boland!

Today, my son DW is playing the last home game of his school career at “the farm". Against Paul Roos from Stellenbosch.

The first teams run onto the field. In the 2023 South African School Rugby 1st XV Rankings – NextGenXV, Paul Roos is ranked the fifth-best team in the country and Boland Landbou the sixth. Everyone expects a thrilling match. The stands resonate with excitement. Boland win 28-12.

It's the only match we win that day, but it's the one that matters. For the next year, we have bragging rights over Paul Roos. The atmosphere is heavy with emotion as the respective teams sing their school anthems at the end of the match. Tears well up (even in this dad).


I'm a member of a WhatsApp group of five that we started when our sons were in grade 4 and attended Eversdal Primary School together. When high school started, two went to Boishaai (Hoër Jongenskool Paarl/Boys' High), two to Stellenberg, and my son to Boland.

But every Saturday morning, we still checked in with each other. And throughout the day, we shared scores back and forth. Two Saturdays ago, JD (his son is at Boishaai) shared a photo of himself and his son after his last match at Brugstraat, the school's home field. And this weekend, I shared a photo of me, Ruan, and our two sons.

And an indescribable sadness overcame me. Over the past 10 years, school rugby has been a part of my life, a deeply ingrained ritual and a shared experience with my son. It's now over. And I'm really going to miss it.

♦ VWB ♦

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