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This was in his own rugby trophy room, in a house elegantly constructed and furnished, a world away economically from the cabins of most of his townsmen. Rugby Union is an amateur game, but, as he says, "Any Springbok who is a businessman is going to do well." He has a construction company employing 20 men. He has made it in the toughest area of South African sport, and sees himself as just a forerunner.
"In five or six years," he says, "the whole Springbok back division will be blacks. They have the speed from the mark, the jinking, the sidesteps. We're not very big, but we have speed and quick hands." Tobias is thinking here of his own colored people, not blacks as such. "There's no reason now why the Springboks shouldn't play in other countries. When they first boycotted us, they said, 'Look, we want you to play mixed teams. Use the blacks.' And that's been done. They can't expect to see eight or nine blacks on the side at this stage, but I think they should give us the chance to play now."
For only a moment he reveals what it must feel like to be a South African sportsman abroad, and his own feelings of isolation on the team. "I was alone with the Springboks in New Zealand," he says, suddenly and simply. That tour, in the summer of 1981, sparked some of the most violent anti-apartheid demonstrations yet, and he had been widely derided as a kind of Uncle Tobias figure. "Some games," he recalls, "we had to sleep in the stands the night before them." That was because the team's safety could not be guaranteed in hotels.
Later, for a workout, he heads up to the field where his colored home team, the Caledonians, plays. At first the visitor assumes that this is just a sort of practice ground, so primitive it is, with the un-painted goalposts obviously lopped down and trimmed in the nearest wood, but it is the club's home. It is a far cry from Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria or Ellis Park in Johannesburg, those magnificent national shrines to white South Africa's worship of rugby, but Tobias doesn't apologize for it.
And, indeed, he can still say, "The coaching for colored boys is better now than the whites get. A lot of young talent is coming along. In the last six or seven years, Danie has done some wonderful things for colored rugby."
You take another drive out of Cape Town, this time to the University of Stellenbosch, idyllically placed in a town of colonial Dutch houses at the heart of the wine-producing region of Western Cape Province. There you meet the redoubtable Dr. Danie Craven.
Craven, a hale man in his 70s, wearing a business suit—he explains he has to attend a cocktail party later—is imparting some wise words to the forwards on the college side, enormous young whites who are practicing the rugby scrum, pushing against a formidable pile of rocks set up on a wood frame.
Since 1956 he has been president of the South African Rugby Board, and thus the most important sports administrator in the nation. He's a man of such gruff charm that even his most outrageous remarks are qualified by the good humor with which they are uttered.
As when, for example, he says, "The Zulus, the Swazis, the Xhosas; it's almost impossible to brine them together. They speak different languages, have different religions, different magic beliefs. The clans fight one another. You know, 'I'm a Lion Man, you're an Ape Man.' "
Then he says just as unequivocally, "In sport there's no apartheid! No! My rugby board is autonomous. The government cannot tell me what to do, as it could at one time. Since 1979, anyone can play with whom he wants."