From pioneer pastime to international status: Jukskei as South Africa's only white indiginous sport

  • F van der Merwe


Although the South African sporting tradition is predominently British in origin, there is one sport that can lay claim to being invented by Afrikaner nationalists. Jukskei is the gem of Afrikaner folk games, and as such it forms part of the Afrikaner folk character, tradition and customs. Jukskei originated in the pioneering days of South African history and reflects a way of life that is closely intertwined with the Afrikaner's trailblazer spirit. Although the precise origin is vague, it is claimed to have been played by the transport riders in the Cape during the first half of the 18th century. On their long trek to the Cape they would play jukskei whenever they paused to let their oxen rest. On such occasions they would draw the long yoke-skey (“jukskei”) from the foremost yoke and plant it upright in the soft soil. Each player would then try and score a point by hitting this target with one of the smaller skeys. It is similar to the horseshoe pitching played by the Americans.Jukskei became such an everyday activity that one may safely presume it to have been a daily pastime among the Voortrekker pioneers during the period 1838 to 1854 on their lengthy trek east, and later northwards, to escape from British jurisdiction. With the coming of railroads, after the Industrial Revolution, ox-wagons and the concomitant culture gradually died out. The 1930s and 1940s were years when the Afrikaner awakened to sport. Jukskei's evolution from a pioneering pastime to holiday recreation and finally competitive sport culminated in this period. Although the first matches were played in Paarl at the end of 1939, it was during the symbolic ox-wagon trek of 1938, which formed part of the nation-wide commemoration of the centenary of the Great Trek, that this authentic Boer game rapidly won its way back to national popularity. Today it is played not only in South Africa, but also in Zimbabwe, Namibia and the United States of America. In presenting this historic pastime activity, primary sources including souvenir programmes of the South African Jukskei Council, personal memoirs, and newspapers were used. Secondary sources were books and articles.

African Journal for Physical, Health Education, Recreation & Dance Vol. 13 (2) 2007: pp. 162-172

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eISSN: 1117-4315