We all know Basil Bey was a rugby man extraordinaire, but what always resonated with me was his love of the English language, and poetry in particular. Given the character and humility of the man, he would have embraced the first verse of one of Lord Tennyson’s poems.
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me.
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea.
I got to know Basil well at a bar of a different kind – at the Olympic Sports Club in Rondebosch. It’s a gentlemen’s club, and as a long standing member, Basil – until overcome by ill health – was a frequent visitor, particularly after retiring from teaching at Bishops High School. When I relocated to Cape Town from Johannesburg and retired from fulltime broadcasting, I also had the time to drift down to Olympics; and Monday lunch-time was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with Basil over a few cold ones whilst mulling over the weekend’s sport.
As a sports fanatic, I valued his opinions – especially on rugby. He enjoyed meaningful discussion with people he had mutual respect for on a subject, and yet handled spurious thoughts or questions with a graciousness becoming of the man. He was, however, a thirsty man – and my only problem was keeping up with him!
Basil encouraged and indeed demanded an exciting brand of running rugby. He did not ignore the basics, particularly of forward play; but believed that once you had the physical attributes to play the game, you needed to be given the room to express yourself. So many enjoyed and benefitted from his own playing contribution, and probably more from his coaching and mentorship. The University of Cape Town and Bishops will always be indebted to his direction, and this year when False Bay Rugby Club in Constantia won the Super A League (or Challenge Cup) for the first time since 1972, he was there to celebrate the occasion – having been the coach 44 years ago. It was a special moment for a man revered by all the institutions and individuals he touched in life.
Kristin van den Berg
Victorians Old Boy
I was coached by Basil in 2000, at Maties of all places. This may come as a surprise, and many may not be aware, that Basil took on the coaching role of Victorians for a year (or 2), and I was fortunate to be in that side. As you can imagine, his approach was completely different to what we, and the coaches in the club, were accustomed to. Fortunately, the assistant coach, Shaun Huygen, had a similar mind-set and connected well with Basil, which meant we had a very enjoyable year of running the ball from everywhere, and scoring some sensational tries – even though perhaps we did not win as many games as we should have.
There was very little resistance to his style of play from the payers who embraced it. Thinking back now, I am not surprised by this, as I think inherently that is how most of us want to play the game and when it is most enjoyed. I do recall in one of the early practices Basil explaining that we should handle the ball with love and care, much the same way we play with our girlfriends breasts – much to the delight of the players.
Ikey Old Boy
Basil. Thank you for being a school teacher. Thank you for touching so many lives. Thank you for touching mine. Bless you.