My First House - Boy from Benoni - Andre Watson

I placed every brick in that wall myself, I welded the gate and I planted that weeping willow,’ says André, pointing proudly. We are at his first home in Platinum Street in Goedeburg, Benoni; André says he stills drives by the place to reminisce.

He bought the house in 1981, paying R68 000 for the three-bedroom, two-bathroom home. He had just finished his civil engineering degree and was working to repay his Murray & Roberts bursary.

His story is typical of many house-hunting scenarios: ‘The wife went shopping for a home and showed me her final three; I liked this one best,’ says André, adding that the transaction went smoothly. He still loves the area, which is close to major highways and yet retains the character of a quiet suburb.

The house had an open-plan kitchen, dining and lounge area. André did all the renovations and additions himself. It was all very hands-on, he recalls – a real labour of love. ‘It was blood, sweat and tears. I remember my wife, heavily pregnant, shovelling cement while I was paving the driveway…’

An outside verandah area was enclosed to form a sunroom, a pool was added and the area between the garage and the entrance to the house was walled to create a study. André remembers going to the mine dumps and taking mine sand to use as a base for his paving because ‘nothing grows in that sand!’

When it came to gardening, he found it hard and frustrating to grow anything in the rocky terrain. There was no existing lawn or garden to speak of, so this became one of André’s projects. ‘I planted seedlings, and used to water surreptitiously at night because of the water restrictions in place at the time!’

When he was transferred to Swaziland for two years, he rented the property out. In 1985, the couple moved back and lived in the house again until 1988.

By then the family had grown: André and his wife had two daughters and they needed a bit more space. So, in 1988, they paid R198 000 for a home in More Hill, Benoni – André says their new home was a very ‘larney’ house at the time.

The family stayed in their second home for 15 years (from 1988 to 2003), and now he’s building his third home in Ryan Field Estate, near Ebotse Golf & Country Estate, also in Benoni. According to him, Benoni is the only place to live in Gauteng. ‘We have no traffic, we pay 80 per cent less for our homes than you do in Sandton, and we have less crime.’

He continues: ‘Everyone should build their own house.’ By designing your own home, he says, you can create the perfect space to suit your own needs. The Watsons are keen entertainers, so the house was designed to maximise flow between the inside and the outside. ‘And my wife has her own dressing room and plenty of cupboard space.’

Although he has handed over the building project management these days, André remarks that he still mows his own lawn. ‘I enjoy it,’ he shrugs.

He also has a holiday home in Ballito and recently bought a plot of land in Benoni to develop as a business property. ‘It has always been a dream to build a wellness centre, where there are doctors, a gym and massage and beauty therapists.’

André became involved in refereeing while he was living in his first house. He was watching a game at his wife’s school when he became vocal about the referee. When the headmaster asked him whether he thought he could do better, he replied: ‘Of course!’ He had been a provincial rugby player until he sustained an injury, and after this chance remark he landed up back on the rugby field. He began reffing at school matches before working his way up to first league games and then professional. ‘It was never my plan – the job just evolved for me,’ he says.

In 1995 he left his engineering career to pursue reffing full time. Nowadays he is also the SA Rugby referees manager, so that keeps him in the office for some time each day. He trains twice a day to keep fit, as refs are tested a few times a year. His programme involves mostly running, sprinting and agility training, because refs have to be light on their feet, André explains.

So what hooked him? ‘I’m an adrenalin junkie, and I have the best seat in the house. I see and hear everything!’ He regards confidence as his most important asset, and adds that he also has to strike a balance between common sense and logic.

Dealing with criticism comes with the territory, he says, and he rests well at night knowing that he has made the right decisions. ‘I make a call in front of millions of television viewers – and I make the right call, not always the most popular call.’

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