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Illicit CP - May 1956

Corpun file 7479 at

Sunday Telegraph, Sydney, Australia, 6 May 1956

'Schoolboy' beatings for Springboks training defaulters

It's a borsel for the "dorsal"

From Wally Crouch

CAPETOWN, Sat. -- South Africa's Rugby players arrive in Sydney soon -- with a dark secret.

The thing about which the Springboks hope their Australian hosts won't ask embarrassing questions is called a borsel.

cartoonIt's a heavy clothes-brush, sometimes laid across the rear anatomy of players who are unpunctual or play up at practice.

This medieval form of punishment, plus degrading initiation ceremonies players are often forced to undergo, demonstrates the serious zeal with which South Africans take their "rugger" -- off, as well as on, the field.

The borsel is an old Rugby institution -- it was used on the 1931 and 1951 Springbok tours of England.

Now, however, this disciplinary measure has come under fire from sports writers in South African newspapers.

"Undignified and puerile"

Thundered the Johannesburg Sunday Express: "Has not the time come to abolish 'initiation' ceremonies and the borsel?

"They are unpleasant, they are undignified, and above all they are puerile.

"Our Springboks, after all, are not boys from prep school. They are grown men; and they are doing neither themselves nor other Rugby players any good by constantly resorting to this ridiculous piece of by-play."

But tradition dies hard. When questioned as to whether he would ban the initiations and the borsel, Dr. Danie Craven, who is both president of the South African Rugby Board and manager of the touring team, snapped back: "No decision can be made about this matter unless it comes up officially."

The borsel practice in recent years, say some sports writers here, has been getting out of hand. Some men have been beaten black and blue, others have broken down and wept after beatings.

Likewise, they claim, the threat of the borsel has caused off-the-field horseplay to invade South African Rugby. So-called initiation ceremonies, once innocuous, have now taken a brutal and violent form. Some players have been subjected to scandalous indignities.

One writer quotes the case of three men new to provincial Rugby who were locked in a train compartment while their initiators went to the train's bar and stoked up on liquor.

Later, in another compartment, one of the three, a six-foot forward, was held and beaten viciously with a leather strap torn from one of the train's sleeper bunks. The huge man broke down.


blob See also: 8 November 2000: Initiation rites upset black players

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