Pretoria Boys High School (my alma mater) lies just across the railway line from its Afrikaans neighbours Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool (Affies). Theirs has been a bitter but positive rivalry on the sports fields for close on a century. And it was no different last Saturday, when they held their annual derby day. The schools compete in Hockey and Rugby on the day, but the most important (and final) game of the day is the First Team Rugby match – watched by thousands of pupils and alumni from both schools. (Unfortunately) this year Affies came out victorious (again), beating Boys’ High 34-11. (Boys’ High won the main hockey match 1-0 to salvage some pride.)
What impressed me was how hard the Boys’ High’s team played, and how vociferously its supporters cheered, despite going into the game as underdogs. The team was dead and buried by the end of the first half, but came back well in the second. Even when they had a try disallowed late in the second half, the players’ heads didn’t seem to drop. In an age when good sporting behaviour is becoming more and more rare on the field and amongst the spectators – a time where a school rugby player was recently banned for head-butting a referee on the field – I was impressed by how both schools behaved. Affies was humble in victory, Boys’ High brave in defeat.
It reminded me of this poem by George Joseph Moriarty, American third baseman, umpire and manager in Major League Baseball from 1903 to 1940.
A lineout on Affies’ half of the field.
The Road Ahead or The Road Behind
Sometimes I think the Fates must
Grin as we denounce and insist
The only reason we can’t win
Is the Fates themselves that miss
Yet there lives on an ancient claim
We win or lose within ourselves
The shining trophies on our shelves
Can never win tomorrow’s game
You and I know deeper down
There’s always a chance to win the crown
But when we fail to give our best
We simply haven’t met the test
Of giving all, and saving none
Until the game is really won
Of showing what is meant by grit
Of fighting on when others quit
Of playing through, not letting up
It’s bearing down that wins the cup
Of taking it and taking more
Until we gain the winning score
Of dreaming there’s a goal ahead
Of hoping when our dreams are dead
Of praying when our hopes have fled
Yet losing, not afraid to fall
If bravely, we have given all
For who can ask more of a man
Than giving all within his span
Giving all, it seems to me
Is not so far from victory
And so the Fates are seldom wrong
No matter how they twist and wind
It is you and I who make our fates
We open up or close the gates
On the road ahead or the road behind.
Kicking for posts
“Big jump Boys’ High,” the supporters chant as Boys’ High players try to defend their tryline from a lineout.
Boys High repels another Affies attack, going for better field position with a relieving kick.
Boys’ High launches an attack from the back of a ruck.
An Affies player is swamped by Boys’ High players.
Boys’ High’s scrumhalf clears the line with a chip kick from the base of a scrum.
Boys’ High supporters roar in support of their team.