Tribute Series to Ikey Legend, Basil Bey.
Part 1: Introduction
Written by Gavin Fernie
Mulling over a hot stove of plotting and planning, jumbled words and phrases roaming my feverish thoughts, I ran into an impasse early this morning. Struggling manfully to pen an introduction worthy of the great man was proving difficult.
Basil would have said to me; ‘Stop fussing; get on with it.’
Later in the day, two priceless gems appeared on my computer. The first was a message Basil Bey sent to John Le Roux and his accomplices in keeping the Ikey torch burning brightly. The Ikeys had just pulled off ‘The Miracle in Potch’ – the incredible last gasp victory in the 2014 Varsity Cup Final against Pukke. The message read:
“Sadly, I am unable to be there; I thought the lads were terrific – big hearts and adventurous rugby are both part of UCT rugby. I dug out my old, white blues-blazer after the stupendous last minute victory and strutted around my lounge in front of my dog, Charley. He understood!
I decided to sleep in my blazer that night; and had vivid dreams of old Inter-varsities. I was awakened by Charlie early next morning; he pulled me from bed for his usual walk, for which I donned my blazer. We floated through Rondebosch, waving (and barking) at the few who braved early Sunday mornings. To those who gave no response, we proffered two fingers.”
The second little gem was a quote from a piece we have featured in this tribute series, written by Basil on ‘The Essence of Varsity Rugby’. The quote read:
“You live by the sword you die by the sword and have no complaints. We played for the thrill of it, for the excitement of it, for the adventure and so we succeeded. That is the Varsity Spirit!”
– Basil Bey
Basil Bey captains the winning 1961 Intervarsity Ikeys Team
That is how this scribe neatly sidesteps the challenge of adequate words. That great set of backline players in the 1960/1961 UCT 1 ST XV could not dodge the bullet more adroitly. I worked on the Bey Rugby Rule: ‘Pass the ball, man!’
The truth is, the greatest of all the rugby stars I have been privileged to have known was Basil Bey. Not because he was the best rugby player of my era, but because he was RUGBY for so many of us. Basil was the man who transformed the role of captaincy on the field, and off the field. He was a highly articulate on-field psychologist who knew how to push each individual player’s button to delude even the less than gifted player into believing that he could, nay would, be wearing the blue and white hooped jersey before long. Even the gifted players upped the ante when Basil delivered his oratory.
A club journeyman like myself saw visions of a typical Newlands crowd paying homage to ‘Province’, and singling out a lanky, blonde lock from UCTRFC for his daring deeds. Well, they did single me out on occasions when I played for Varsity, at Newlands, against one of the local clubs; but the singling out was more in the vein of ‘Jislaaik, but UCT are bleddy desperate when they play that Mompara!.’ Ah well, we can’t all be John Rushmere, or Kobus Immelman, or Butch Deuchar, can we?
The point is that many of us would not have persevered playing our hearts out if the ‘Gees of Bey and his Boys’ was not a heady drug of delight. Of course, the fabric of club rugby in that era in the Western Cape, the passionate crowds, knowledgeable and witty, the post mortems in the concrete dungeon where you got to rub shoulders with the great and not so great players, was an added incentive. I pity the robotic, full-time professionals of modern rugby. They are the modern embodiment of the gladiators of Roman times – locked up in a cage and brought out once a week for the crowds to watch mayhem, blood, and rolling mauls. Bugger rugby, we want hits, bashing heads in, 3 minute TMO extravaganzas, and Toetie telling us how the players let him down.
There are inspiring exceptions. The Irish, the Argies and the All Blacks are wonderful to watch. False Bay have also recently rolled back the clock of club rugby.
But, the magic of an ordinary man going to work every day, and then sneaking off to practice on sodden, muddy fields, trying to figure out why he endured the bashings, the bruises, the wonderful jibes from the rugby wise spectators, has in the main, gone. Professionalism, as the great man, Syd Millar, said many years ago, took over from rugby, to be replaced by a media driven feeding frenzy.
The game of the future for oval ball addicts, is Sevens; and hopefully we will see a return to club rugby as played by clubs like False Bay and others.
That. I believe, is what Basil Bey would have wished for.
His epitaph might have read, ‘Here lies Bey. If you don’t enjoy the game of life, don’t play.’