Jukskei-ing: The dying game

Can you believe the sport of Jukskei is dying out in South Africa? This is appalling!

According to the JSA (Jukskei South Africa, website here) there used to be over 30 000 participants in 1981, there are only around 3000 participants left.

For the ignorant readers, who have never heard of Jukskei, it was a game created in 1734 at Fort de Riet Valley. This fort was created to supply wood to Cape Town for building the Castle. As you can imagine those Dutchmen must have got bored. So they created a game where the throw skeys (spokes from a wagon wheel) at the skey (the skei) from the ox wagon yoke (the juk). Essentially throwing a big stick at a small stick. Closest to the small stick wins. Simple.

Except that it isn’t that simple. To make the game more complicated (and therefore last longer than 30 seconds) over the years, A LOT of rules and regulations have been added to the game. So much so that there are now official, trained referees. I would go into detail, but there is only a very technical Afrikaans rule book, far beyond my soutie level Afrikaans. Suffice to say that you need a sandpit of a certain size, skeys of a certain weight, length and thickness, and a certain shade of khaki for the uniform.

Also, as a player, you need to know all the words to Die Stem. And have beaten a black person to within an inch of his life, or further. Ok, maybe I’ve made this bit up, but you get the picture…

The fact that this game is considered as a Boeresport, and was included in the Indigenous Games Project of 2001, doesn’t detract from the fact that the game is associated with the white Afrikaners who created Apartheid. Now its unfair to say that all Afrikaners are firm believers in Apartheid, but then again not all English-speaking South Africans are “fokken souties”, so lets tar everyone with the same brush, it makes things more interesting. The two-tone khaki wearing brandewyn-swilling Afrikaners who participate in Jukskei probably don’t regularly beat black people anymore because that would be racism. I’m fairly sure that they don’t refer to our black brethren as those delightful dark-skinned people though. In fact they probably say things even worse than “Vose blerrie bleks!”.

Is it that surprising then that since the end of Apartheid that the sport has seen a steady decline? Are the members of JSA that surprised that they can’t encourage any Blerrie Bleks to come join the fun? Do they think the sport is going to see some miraculous revival in the next 30 years? I think not. I think the JSA should be happy that the Namibians play too so that they can say that it’s an international sport.

Besides. who still drives an ox wagon anyway? Where will they find enough skeis to supply any more than the small handful of Broederbond members who still play?