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An all-South African game

It may not be a sport that will make you a millionaire or take you to the Olympics, but youngsters still enjoy a good game of jukskei.

One of eight recognised indigenous sports codes, jukskei is an all-South African game devised by white settlers as far back as 200 years ago. As they travelled across the land, they spent their spare time competing to see who could throw the pins of the yokes of the oxen closest to the target, which was a stick planted in the ground. With time, the rules became formalised, and the popular game of jukskei was born.

Its roots as a white Afrikaans pastime doesnt bother the learners from Lekoa-Shandu Secondary School in Vereeniging, Gauteng. Three enthusiasts are Peter Masilo, Dumisane Semela and Absalom Sithole. When our sports teacher [Xaba Alexander] told us about jukskei, it sounded very strange and weird. But after a few sessions, we have no regrets. We really love the sport, says Sithole.

Semela says they agreed to try jukskei because it was something new and unusual. We are usually limited to playing soccer and this tends to be boring. We wanted to engage in something out of the ordinary, says Sithole.

Says Masilo: I really enjoy this sport and wont swap it for anything. In fact, we have already started to share the little knowledge we have with others in the community. Kids just love it as well. He says at first his parents did not take him seriously and it was not until I invited them to one practice session that they began to appreciate it.

They are clearly clued up on the rules and techniques of the game. Playing on a small field, the boys concentrate on maintaining the correct body posture, saying their mantra as they throw the skeis at the peg a few metres away: First I concentrate on my legs, then make sure the skei [pin] is properly handled, I aim and then throw it at my target. . The teams consist of four players each, and points are scored by landing a skei closest to the pin, or knocking it over. The first team to get 23 points win — and this is where it gets tricky. If they get even one point higher than 23, then they have to start again from zero.

The initial excitement with which the indigenous games were officially launched in 2001 may have fizzled out in many areas, but in Lekoa-Shandu Secondary it is just getting stronger.

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