George Campbell’s Noel Ingle has reason for a double celebration. He was recently named as the new Chairman of SA Schools after standing unopposed. However there was a strong possibility that he would have had to forfeit this national position. A requirement of the SA Schools post is that it’s Chairman has to hold office in his own region as well. Although Ingle is currently the Chairman of the KZNRU High Schools’ Association, the KZN Schools’ AGM which takes place on 07 November 2015 is where his fate would have been decided by the local high schools. This created quite a buzz in school rugby related circles around KZN up until last week when the nominations were made official and it was revealed that the highly regarded opponent expected to run against Ingle had decided not to challenge for the leadership position, thereby clearing the way for Ingle to be re-elected.
Considering that among some of the stronger rugby high schools in KZN there is perceived growing dissatisfaction about the way in which Ingle is running the show in the Province, there was more than just a possibility that the vote of no confidence in his ability to lead, would have resulted in him being shown the door once the AGM votes were counted. In the event of Ingle being ousted, and without a backup plan or the sympathy of the high schools to keep him as an Executive for rugby, the Campbell teacher would have found himself out in the cold altogether at both Provincial and SA Schools level.
Maybe not the opinion of all but keeping the status quo could be deemed a lose-lose situation for KZN: a Chairman a under fire to improve his performance, who cannot devote more time to the Province’s needs because of his SA Schools distractions. On this point there is also no evidence to suggest that KZN benefits in any way from having a seat on the SA Schools Rugby Association, even that of Chairman. However with years of service under the belt, one also cannot overlook what Ingle brings to the table in terms of the experience as well as the organisational skills needed to handle what should prove to be quite a taxing task as KZN prepares to become the first in South Africa to host both the under-18 Craven Week and Academy Week simultaneously at Kearsney College during July 2016.
Under more favourable circumstances, Ingle might have identified that he has had his opportunity at the helm in KZN and seen this lack of faith in his ability to lead as a sign that he needs to step down and let someone else see if they can do a better job. Even better for him might have been the option to vacate his KZN post in order to concentrate on delivering on his national appointment. These choices are not there though and one can now see that in order to keep his own SARU related aspirations alive, he was left without an alternative. No doubt that before it became clear that he would stand unopposed, Ingle would have done his own campaigning for re-election at the AGM and it may be a good thing, as he will now arrive well-prepared to answer whatever challenges come his way in the form of tough questions.
One of the things that might have been interesting had there been a proper contest for the KZN Chairman’s position and transparent voting results is where Ingle’s support base really lies. Not to be underestimated are the key component of votes cast by the KZN smaller schools where rugby survival is a short/medium term challenge. This outlook differs a lot from the much broader focus of wealthier schools where due to rugby still flourishing have depth in player numbers, contain the vast majority of the best players and coaches and have very good structures all of which allow them to compete nationally at the top level.
School rugby matters like this Chairmanship decision are never short on politics and should make for an interesting conclusion to the KZN AGM.
Irrespective of the decision made surrounding the Chairmanship, one just hopes that KZN is better off going forward as a result of it. There is no reason why Ingle can’t bounce back and regain the full support of those who are unconvinced that’s he’s the right man for the job.