South Africa: Of Tightheads and Loose Leaves - a Peek Into the World of the Rugby Book


Rugby has a mania for books like no other sport.

There are those moments when, having put the finishing touches on your books column early - which affords you not only a pleasing sense of accomplishment, but also the luxury of letting the words rest for a couple of days before sending them off to the editors - the Springboks go and win the Rugby World Cup.

I should've guessed. Webb Ellis bling arrives every 12 years, after all. It's like clockwork.

Scrap the previous column, then, and let's talk about rugby books.

In my salad days, I would reserve Saturday mornings for a stroll up Long Street, Cape Town - a street that was then chock-full of second-hand book dealers. I was on a leisurely hunt for unusual, unlooked-for, underground titles, which South African publishers produce in quantities erratic enough for the occasional discovery of real gold on the shelf. I would do a quick turn-around at Tom's, put my head in at Julie Aitchison's First Edition for a chat, spend an hour on the second floor of Clarke's, dip a toe in the emporium of an Egyptian émigré who, rumour had it, ran a ring of book thieves,...

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