What he didn’t account for though, was that playing rugby in England has quite a different texture. Not the actual game, but the terrain. Instead of wonderful solid, newly mowed grass fields, the ground is one big mud-bath. Slushy ground dominates over the sparse grass growing coyly in patches.
There is generally not a lot of desirable spectator ground either. But we’ve learned that rugby day is ‘wear your worst shoes day’. Luckily most of the clubs we’ve been to have been able to accommodate with a great cup of hot chocolate and even a bacon roll.
I mused at a sign hanging proudly on the wall at Farnham Rugby Club, where Johnny Wilkinson strutted his stuff during his early rugby days. At the entrance of the very humble clubhouse, a distinct sign reads ‘No muddy boots – no mud inside clubhouse’. An impossibility.
Interestingly, many clubs show evidence of South African presence: a picture of a South African player, a flag, a plague sponsored by Fanagalo SA. A few players raise eyebrows in approval when they hear that a South African is on the team.
The lack of beautiful playing grounds is made up for by enthusiasm amongst players. My son comments that although the game may not be as rough as in SA, players are equally arrogant and he is quick to mention that South African refs are better. I must say however that I feel the game is to a certain degree more enjoyable to watch as it is played in a more spontaneous mood and both winners and losers end the game in an amicable, gentlemanly fashion. Family dogs are regular attendees at matches, sitting on the sidelines, watching and waiting patiently for the game to end.
Golf is also taken to new heights when playing in winter. My two boys (husband and son) bravely set off one morning in -8°C. Sporting warm jackets, gloves, beanies and golf-bags, they returned much later shivering and shaking from the experience.
The golf balls I was told, bounced several metres off the frozen ground after driving off the tee. Where they bounced to was anybody’s guess. Badly played balls laid scattered on solid lakes and ponds, unable to be retrieved by grumpy players.
In the snow sometimes, white balls are simply swapped for yellow ones, as nothing stops a keen golfer. Halfway House is merely a fable and 18 holes are played in a stretch.
It doesn’t take long though, before sportsmen hailing from South African territory adjust and accommodate a different way of playing. My washing machine on the other hand groans silently at the amount of muddy clothes as it chugs away day in and day out, spewing out will never look the same again clothes.