Who am I to describe Japie Krige, he who I had heard so much about. This fair-haired, blue-eyed rugby boy was my mentor, Mr Markotter's idea of everything a rugby player should be. The prince of centres he called him, and if ever Mr Mark regarded someone as a model, that man was Japie.
Mr Markotter often quoted him: "Japie would say: I look where I don't want to break - if I want to break right I look left and vice versa!"
He was fast and agile, he said, and he held him in such high esteem and painted him in such glowing colours that I thought to myself: "Well, here is rugby's holy man," and it was always my desire to meet Japie Krige.
When I finally met him, I found him to be a wonderful person. "Oom Japie, dis vir my 'n wonderlike voorreg vandag om jou te ontmoet", ("Uncle Japie, it is a great privilege to meet you") I said. Imagine my surprise when he replied: "Danie, dit is vir my 'n groter eer om jou te ontmoet." ("Danie, it is a greater privilege for me".)
I was speechless that this great man could say that to me. It underlines Krige's basic humility. Kind, warm, and without any pretensions. But when he was on the rugby field a metamorphosis took place. He became highly competitive, a ruthless opponent. Billy Millar describes in his book on the 1906 tour, how Japie could virtually demolish the opposition. And this he did, particularly in the game against Wales that year.
The goalposts at Cardiff Arms Park carry the names of Enya Nicholls and R. T. Gabe, two wonderful players, and yet that day in 1906 when they played against Japie Krige and Bob Loubser, they were outclassed in every respect.
The story, while probably not entirely accurate, has been told and retold, how during a match on that 1906 tour Japie, then possibly a bit past his best, was challenged by Pietie le Roux, sitting in the stand.
Pietie had been sitting next to an Englishman who had said that, while he had heard so much about Krige, he had seen nothing particularly outstanding.
The two of them became embroiled in an argument about Japie, and the Englishman said: "All right, my boy, if you're so confident about Krige, I'll have a bet with you that he won't score three tries."
Pietie said: "You're on for five pounds." However, it then dawned on Pietie that they couldn't raise five pounds among the entire team and he had to make a plan.
So at halftime he went to Japie and told him about the trouble his big mouth had landed him in. Japie was reassuring. "Don't worry, Pietie, it's in the bag. Collect the fiver in the meantime."
After scoring the third try he walked past the stand and shouted: "Pietie - did you say three or five?"
That was Japie Krige: a man who could turn on the magic when he wanted to.