There Are Fly(halfs) In The Soup: A Score To Settle

Tristan Charles 02


There is a score to settle in Braamfontein on Saturday. Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool travels to the Johannesburg city centre, far removed from the comfort of their beloved ‘Plaas’ to face Helpmekaar Kollege on their own turf, to continue a battle that raged through the age groups as the 1XV rugby teams meet in the main event for the day.

Taking centre stage will be two 18-year old pivots, the backline generals of the two teams, as Charles Goedhals will cross the Jukskei and meet rival Tristan Oosthuizen in his own back yard. But the story does not begin (or probably ends) there….

The two flyhalves have met one another on several occasions over the years, on the see-saw of one-upmanship.

Back at the under-9 level, two little kicking buggers met for the first time in what was known as ‘Bonde naweek’ in those days. It was an annual event where all the top primary school teams from the various provinces could battle it out for ultimate bragging rights. It was here that a young Charles Goedhals represented Menlopark in the under-9 final against a boitjie with a boot from a team from Alberton, Laerskool Orion. Menlopark won the day 21-5 and little Charles could pack a broad smile with a few teeth missing as they were champs of the Noordvaal region.

A year later the two met again in the Super 12 competition for the under-10 age group. Then again two years later at the provincial tournament for under-12’s in Newcastle, this time a little lion having to deal with a little bull. Primary school passed in a blur with Tristan perhaps having the last laugh as his team Orion won the ultimate prize, becoming the u13 Bonde champions in Centurion.

As the boys started wearing shoes (forcibly) high school arrived and since then it’s been an annual contest of boots and wills. Tristan Oosthuizen, proud Helpie flyhalf, competed against old foe Charles Goedhals of Affies every year through the age groups. At under-14 Charles was the man, but then Tristan got the upper hand and at under-15 and under-16 he was on the winning side. As grade 11 arrived and the matrics ran the show (as it should be), the pair did not meet at school’s level, until they both attended the U19 provincial tournament at PUK where they faced one another again, this time representing the Golden Lions and Blue Bulls respectively. The Blue Bulls won and from the photo, you can see a young man sporting a full set of chompers. Tristan also had reason to smile, being announced as the Backline Player of the Tournament.

The two simply cannot wait for Saturday when they face off again.

Tristan Oosthuizen is the main brain of the Helpie backline this year. At 10 he makes the major decisions at the back, but he says he prepared well during the offseason. He explained that he focussed on developing his skills to match the skills set which the Golden Lions expects from him at U18 level, to prepare him for the provincial trials coming up, because he wants that Lions jersey this year. He explained that Chuiner van Rooyen was the team’s kicker the previous season, but this year the responsibility rests on his shoulders, so he spent a lot of time on his kicking technique these past few months. Tristan is ready, as a senior player in the team, he will be leading the way.

For Tristan rugby is a sport which he enjoys. He also likes the structure of a team environment, the discipline required by each member to achieve one goal. He appreciates the team vibe more than anything and for him, the most important element is the brotherhood rugby created for him and the honour of representing 93 years of tradition and Helpie rugby.He is a jovial guy, and as such has made many friends on and off the rugby field. If there is one thing he wants to do, it is to leave the no.10 jersey in a better condition for the next guy to step in. As the head boy of Helpmekaar Kollege Tristan has a very clear value set, well beyond his years. For him God comes first, then family, the team and then himself. He has a real passion for his school Helpmekaar. It is here that he says he can write his own story, create his own legacy, and he is hard at working doing just that.

For him, the game on Saturday is “just another game of rugby, but it’s a game we plan on winning”. It’s a big game yes, but he knows in order to be successful he will need to focus on his own game. He won’t be getting into the hype, explaining that his preparation for the match will be the same as any other match. For his opponent, and he laughs, he has a lot of respect. He rates Charles as a top player, unpredictable, intelligent and above all a humble character. He then says something I found very sincere when he starts telling me how he has never played against him without learning something. He respects Charles, not only as a competitor but clearly also as a person.

I turn my attention to the well-spoken young man from Pretoria. Charles Goedhals created an immediate positive impression. For such an important cog in the Affies wheel, he was surprisingly soft-spoken and well-mannered as every Affies boy strives to be. 

The comparison between the pre-season preparation of the two lads was actually quite similar. The attention to detail when it comes to ‘the kick’, the mental toughness, the fitness. Charles attended the SARU U17 elite player development camp at the end of last year, and he says that helped him a lot. He knew he had to gain weight, and that he did according to him, but not at the expense of speed and agility. He seems set for the tough season ahead.

Charles has a passion for the sport of rugby rarely seen. He tells me there is no feeling like running onto the rugby field in front of 1300 brothers, and I immediately feel the hair on my forearms rise. I can just imagine that pre-game team talk and that build up to another epic battle in which he takes centre stage. I can hear he craves that, it drives him. He then calmly explains that even before the went to school, rugby was all he wanted to do. Rugby is his passion and his drive. He has never been interested in pursuing anything else. Though a risky mindset, I could relate to the passion the youngster demonstrated. I got the impression he is going to amount to something and he won’t stop working until he does. He talks with great admiration of the special relationship he formed since grade 00 with his wing man, scrumhalf of Affies, Johan Mulder. The pair has been inseparable for as long as he can remember and he confidently says they are a combination that really works well together.

He has a lot of respect for Tristan as a competitor and as a person and he is looking forward to playing against him again. “We all have that one person who knows just how to push your buttons, the right ones and the wrong ones, and getting one up over him will be great”. Asking him about the game between Affies and Helpies on Saturday, he says it’s not about winning the game, it’s about being on that field with your brothers and doing your best for your team. Then that same little laugh I heard from Tristan Oosthuizen sheds light on the reality of the task at hand, as Charles softly says “We owe them one”.