SCHOOL DAYS WERE THE BEST DAYS
My name is Lukhanyo Am, and I am a Vossie. For those who don’t know what that is, it means that I am a product of De Vos Malan Hoerskool in King William’s Town. Though a lot of people know me for my exploits in a Springbok or Sharks jersey, the first ever jersey that I really aspired to wear was my first team school jersey.
Being a Vossie is something that gives me a great sense of pride, because some of the very best days of my life were while I was at school, not knowing what the future held in store.
Obviously, we all remember what we did on the sport field, but you’re at school to learn. One of my favourite teachers was Mr Japie Naude, our Afrikaans teacher.
He would always find a way to make lessons interesting and entertaining, and we used to look forward to his class.
I’m very grateful that I had a sporting talent, because there were some subjects that I really battled with.
Up to grade 9, I had really enjoyed Natural Sciences. But, the next year Physics and Biology were stand alone subjects, and the Physics was a different beast!
It is easy to assume that sportsmen and captains were always well behaved, but I remember having a few run-in with my school masters as a young boy.
Funnily enough, the one that sticks out was for my hair being too long. I had an Afro that was getting out of hand, but I didn’t want to cut it – so I could do something cool with my long hair in the school holidays.
Every morning, before school, I had to try and pay it down as much as possible, because we were supposed to be neat and presentable for school. I knew that the clock was ticking, because a few masters would give me a look, but not say anything.
I eventually got pulled up by one of the senior masters one day, who asked to see how long my hair really was. Of course, I had to cut it, and I was devastated because I had almost made it to the holidays!
As a kid, I could never understand how teachers always had a sense for mischief. It’s like they had an extra pair of eyes, roving the corridors!
De Vos Malan Hoerskool is a massive part of the community, and it is also a combined school. I went to the junior school from Grade Four, so it was inevitable that I would move onto the high school.
A lot of people ask why I didn’t go to another, maybe better known school in the Border area, but going to De Vos Malan Hoerskool was a no-brainer for me.
My friends were there, and there was no anxiety of moving schools, because I was literally staying in the same buildings – but just getting different teachers for high school.
Given just how many awesome schools there are in this country, it’s a source of pride for me to tell people of being a Vossie. Not everyone knows about it, but that then provides an opportunity to share a story that enlightens someone about parts of the country they have no idea about.
There are massive schools with a strong sporting history, but it’s impossible for all of us to go through the same channels. That would be quite boring, and I am extremely proud to have done my bit to put De Vos Malan Hoerskool onto the map in a sense.
Funnily enough, the sport that I played really well in junior school was cricket. I was an all-rounder, and quite fancied myself with the bat, as I was one of the bigger boys in my grade!
The beauty of school sport and the options you have as a youngster is that you always have something to try and, whatever that sport may be, you are still making memories with your friends.
I’m glad that rugby was something that I grew up with over time, because it allowed my childhood experience to be varied and full of memories and laughs that I will always cherish.
I still think I might have felt more nervous facing my first ball on the cricket field than playing professional rugby. Cricket can be a very lonely sport, and I think I’ve chosen the best path with rugby!
We all have coaches who inspire us to be better versions of ourselves, and I am incredibly grateful for the encouragement that I got as a school boy.
Mr Barlow and Mr Van Heerden were massive influences on my early years, because they backed me to play what was in front of me. We were not the biggest side, but I was already tall, so I took a lot of crash-ball, and really relished that responsibility as a youngster in the first team.
When you play first team as a Vossie, you get a first team scarf. The rest of the school respects what it is, and rocking scarves on Friday as a team was such an awesome feeling of pride and camaraderie.
One of my very best memories as a Vossie was beating Winterburg for the first time in quite a while. They were always our big rival, so to beat them on our home ground, in front of the whole school, was just incredible.
The war cry as a school at the end of the day was really emotional, and even on the Monday afterwards, teachers and pupils would come up and offer congratulations. You knew it meant a lot, because you’ve grown up in that environment. So to win a match that mattered for the community was extra special, and I still look back on my time with great pride.
I’ll always be a Vossie, and it might even be fate that there is a fair bit of green and gold in our uniform and our first team jersey!