The carver in me

11/1/2016

During the December holidays I did pretty much no woodwork. I spent some time trying to find old tools (which is the topic of an upcoming post), but that was about it. That is apart from finding my inner carver, for lack of a better term. One day I decided to take this piece of Kaapse Swarthout (also known as Cape Blackwood or Maytenus peduncularis) down from where it was hanging above the little bar. I took a crappy Eclipse chisel and carved out the new name of the bar.

One of my all-time favourite All Blacks is Jerry Collins. He sadly died last year. I decided to name the bar after him as a final tribute, because he personifies lots of values I hold dearly. Translated into English it goes “The Jerry Collins Bar” The Afrikaans word I chose for bar is a tribute to an aunt of mine. “Kantien” is an old word that is not used very much at all anymore. She used to get very upset with her son and I for going out to drinking spots on a regular basis while on holiday from medical school. She would berate us for our immoral behaviour and always added that she and her husband have never even been to a “Kantien”. Today he is a Consultant Urologist and I am a Psychiatrist as you know. Tannie Kowie is a real legend in her own right and exhibits many of the same ethics and values that I admire in Jerry Collins.

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It just so happened that my best mate from school pitched up with his family on the day I finished the carving. It was an ideal way to inaugurate the bar as Gerdie Smook has a lot to do with my former love for the game of rugby. I say former because the way the Springboks play has finally caused a major allergy for the game in my particular case.

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The reason why I have so much respect for Jerry Collins is due to the way he approached the game. He played and approached the game with a set of ethics that reminds of the spirit of the game I fell in love with as a young boy. Unfortunately that spirit has almost completely disappeared from the professional version of it over the past 10 years. If anything remains of it, it is in Aotearoa the Land of the Long White Cloud.

What follows is a short tribute to the late great Jerry Collins.

Here you can see “Topdeck” doing the Haka. Do you see any resemblance.

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Apparently Jerry was told by Sir Greame Henry at some stage that he would struggle to keep his spot in the All Blacks team if he does not improve his distribution skills. Jerry went away, worked very hard at it and became so good at it that the AB’s won two tests in the dying seconds off the back of an exquisite Collins last pass.

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With Richie Mccaw he formed arguably one of the best (if not the best) 6-7 combination in the history of the game.

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One of my favourite Jerry stories is that he (apparently) continued his day job as a rubbish collector well into his very well paid professional rugby career. He did that because he wanted to keep the fitness it gave him. In New Zealand those guys run all day. That is the sign of a man who has his feet firmly on the ground, not allowing fame to change who he is. (The pictures below was take in Wales while he was playing there, not in Wellington NZ where the above story transpired)

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For the next story I will cut and paste from an article in the Telegraph.

Collins was in Devon on holiday after the New Zealand’s surprise quarter-final defeat at the hands of France at the 2007 World Cup. Strolling down the high street, the flanker was spotted by Barnstaple’s then director of rugby Kevin Squire. A photo opportunity turned into a conversation and then an invitation to come down to watch the club in action.

“I said it would be lovely if he could come down to the club and thought nothing of it,” Squire told Telegraph Sport. “Unexpectedly there he was three days later. He watched a first team game and then I introduced him to all the players.

“One of the guys I introduced him to was the Under-13 coach at the club. Consequently in that conversation he was invited to do a training session for the kids, which he astonishingly agreed to do. The following Friday night I went down to watch the training session and the kids obviously were in heaven.”

Then came perhaps the most bizarre debut in rugby history when just a couple of weeks after playing in a World Cup quarter-final, the back-row forward turned out for Barnstaple second XV against Newton Abbott in a Devon Merit Table clash. Collins had asked Squires for run-out but registration regulations prohibited the then Hurricane from appearing for the first XV.

“Again, I never thought he would actually turn up, but there we were waiting for the bus and Jerry shows up after going into town to buy a pair of boots,” Squire said. “By the time we had got to Newton Abbott there had been all sorts of messages between the players and they thought we were bringing a lookalike down with his distinctive white top. It didn’t take long for everyone to realise that it was the real deal. Then their jaws hit the floor.”

As befitting a man with the alternate nicknames of “the Hitman” and “the Terminator”, Collins was renowned for the force of his tackles and even playing at half speed still rattled the bones of a few Newton Abbott players as well as scoring a try.

“He was terrific,” Squire said. “He made everyone in that team feel like they were on the same level as him. The guys from Newton Abbott enjoyed it just as much as our guys did.”

News quickly spread of Collins’ appearance and he would face a disciplinary panel and a fine when he returned to New Zealand for playing without his employers’ permission. He later told Squire that it was worth every dollar.

Nor was the end of the association between Collins and “Barum”. A few weeks later Collins turned out for the Barbarians against South Africa, the world champions, wearing Barnstaple socks. “That was his idea,” Squire said. “Everyone in the club had a lump in their throat when he ran out at Twickenham wearing our socks, particularly when the commentator said ‘there’s Jerry Collins, New Zealand and Barnstable Rugby Football Club.’ ”

On Boxing Day 2007, Collins, now playing for Toulon, returned to watch the annual derby against Bideford. “Jerry said he’d be there for the game,” Squire said. “He was in France at the time but he honoured his promise to come over for the game.

“That led to another great night out. Irrespective of the rugby, he was a fun guy who was so down to earth. The world of rugby has not just lost a great player but a great person. It is as simple as that. What he did for Barnstaple will never be forgotten.”

Here are a few pictures of the Barnstaple tale.

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Proudly wearing his Barnstaple socks, while playing for the Barbarians against the Springboks.

Jerry Collins of the Barbarians. Barbarians v South Africa, Twickenham, Rugby Union, 1/12/2007. © Matthew Impey / Wiredphotos.co.uk . tel: 07789 130 347 e: matt@wiredphotos.co.uk

One night I will never forget was when I took my father-in-law who was visiting from South Africa to a game at the Cake Tin in Wellington NZ. The Hurricanes was playing the Sharks and Jerry was coming back from injury. He therefore only featured for 40 odd minutes before being replaced. The Hurricanes thrashed the Sharks by quite an embarrassing margin. While hanging around the stadium waiting for the worst of the spectator traffic to ease, out came Jerry with the rest of the team back onto the park. It was raining as only Wellington can, but Jerry led a brutal fitness session running his teammates until they dropped.  This is absolutely unheard of in professional rugby.

Jerry also got into trouble on more than one occasion with the All Black management for rocking up and playing club games on a Sunday after playing a test for the All Black on the Saturday. Now that is the spirit the game has lost.

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What would I have given to see him playing in this jersey. I would actually settle for seeing a different player with the same attitude and spirit, but no such thing exists in South Africa anymore.

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So that is why the bar received the name it did. Thanks Bro, your example continues to inspire.

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Thanks for commenting on Je ne sais quoi Woodworking