DAREDEVIL Eastern Province rugby president Cheeky Watson was forced to escape through the sunroof of his four-wheel drive vehicle after it became stuck in floodwater on the Seaview Road in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
Watson, 58, and his family were on their way to a meeting near Lake Farm at about midday to see potential sponsors for the newly promoted Southern Kings Super Rugby franchise when disaster struck.
The burly Watson had to wade through chest-high water to fetch a tow rope so that his wife, Angela, and his nine-year-old twin stepsons, Luke and Dante, could be pulled to dry land.
The former rugby star and anti- apartheid activist described the event as a “nice little adventure” and was pleased it had ended with no one being hurt.
At this stage, it is not known whether the R800000 luxury vehicle is a write-off after it was submerged in water that lapped up against the windows.
“I was on my way to see potential Super Rugby sponsors at the Royalston Echo Estate when all this happened,” Watson said yesterday.
“I was running a bit late and thought I could make it through the water to meet with the sponsors.
“The meeting was being held at the Royalston Echo Estate near Lake Farm because they already have an agreement with the Kings.
“There was a sign saying ‘flood damage’ and I thought the car could get through the water covering the road.
“But the water just got deeper and deeper, and eventually the engine cut out after we had gone about 50m. I did not realise how deep it was.
“Once the engine cut out, I climbed out of the sunroof and waded through the water to get help. It was a nice little adventure,” EP’s cavalier president said.
Watson, who also owns a Harley- Davidson motorcycle, said he had not been travelling fast.
“The car had to be towed away and, at this stage, I do not know whether it is a write-off,” he said.
“It just shows what lengths the Kings will go to get sponsorship ahead of our debut in Super Rugby next year.”
Angela said she had never thought the family had been in any real danger even though the water had been lapping just below the windows at one stage.
“When the engine cut out the water suddenly seemed to be deeper, but Cheeky pushed the car and got a tow rope, so it all ended well.
“As Cheeky said, it was a nice little adventure for all of us,” she said.
Watson has been working flat out to secure sponsors and star players since the Kings were promoted to Super Rugby last month.
It is expected that Watson will release the names of several high- profile international signings later this month as he bids to make the Kings a formidable force on the international stage.
Watson said EP Rugby chief executive Anele Pamba had at first been shocked at the news of him being trapped in the water on the way to the meeting.
“After Anele recovered from the initial surprise, he burst into laughter, saying the incident showed the Kings would leave no stone unturned in their bid to get sponsors for Super Rugby,” Watson said with a smile.
Municipal spokesman Kupido Baron warned residents not to use the provincial road, which has been flooded since June 14.
A section of about 500m is affected and motorists should use the Upper Seaview Road instead.
“We are waiting for the water level to subside before that road can be used again,” he said.
Cacadu district road engineer Marius Keyser said previously that a natural lake formed, covering the road, during heavy rain.
The only way to solve the problem would be to level the road, but it would cost about R5-million, he said.
Public Works spokesman Sisanda George said yesterday the department was looking into the matter. In the interim, motorists were urged to use the alternative road.
Additional reporting by Prudence Mini