As things stand, the Dale and Queen’s Class of 2018 won’t get to enjoy two of their usual matric school year highlights – the two big inter-schools derbies between the great rivals. That’s because of this 2017 communication from the Chairman of Queen’s College:
“A decision was made by the Queen’s College School Governing Body to terminate all sporting and cultural activities with Dale College due to numerous and ongoing incidents over the past few years. However, due to representations made by Dale College, the Board has decided to review the decision once further negotiations have taken place between the schools, with a view to addressing certain concerns raised by Queen’s.
All stakeholders will be kept up to date with developments.
C Pieterse – Chairman Governing Body ”
At the 2017 season ending Dale-Queen’s Rugby derby played at the Graveyard, Dale’s home ground in “King”, a pitch invasion by Queen’s College students and what was described as alcohol consumption induced unpleasantries between adults from both support bases, resulted in the game ending 24-24 before the final whistle, with Dale not being afforded the opportunity to convert a relatively easy kick to win the match.
Queen’s didn’t seem to make much attempt to apologise for their scholars’ big part in match not running it’s course. They more or less indicated that the ref’s whistle after what appeared to be a fairly obvious looking knock-on had signalled the final whistle and led to the celebrations including running onto the field by their kids. But as it turned out, that blast of the whistle actually signalled the score equalising try being awarded to Dale, and so the actions of Queen’s boys could just as easily have been interpreted as them taking the law into their own hands. Certainly somewhere along the line there probably needed to be a stronger commitment or statement from Queen’s of what they intend to do to avoid a reoccurrence of a pitch invasion, especially if the result does not appear to be going their way.
Instead Queen’s pointed to a growing dissatisfaction with the way Dale manage their affairs and this has led Queen’s to terminate the relationship. The decision doesn’t seem to be limited to rugby either.
Controversial reffing decisions, alcohol consumption and even claims of alcohol being served during the 2017 match were raised as concerns at the time and believed to be contributors to an unhealthy sporting environment at Dale.
As things stand, it seems like Dale have expressed a responsibility to resolving issues surrounding the use and abuse of alcohol on their premises, which is encouraging. Action in this area might also go some way towards referees feeling less intimidated.
With regards to the perceived biased reffing, in the absence of concrete evidence to support claims of corruption, it’s extremely difficult to know what Dale is expected to do to improve the quality of what are meant to be independent Border Rugby appointed officials in every sense of the word.
Border school rugby has a few pressing issues and some growing challenges as well. A major one is the recruitment of their best players by schools (and even rugby unions) from other provinces. No Dale-Queen’s derbies ultimately results in a downgrade of the region’s rugby and is bound to be used by “poachers” one of the “cons” of staying put in that part of the Eastern Cape.
Cancelling fixtures especially ones against traditional opponents also kind of always points to some sort of stubborn adult dissatisfaction or unwillingness to get along/work things out, often at the expense of the kids and often ignoring the character developing values of interschool activities and other teen learning experience benefits.
That said sometimes extreme actions are needed to make sure that when decision-makers are finally able to put the egos aside and meet at the negotiating table, there is a reality check that the time or place for B.S. or lip-service is in the past.
Queen’s new headmaster Janse van der Ryst starts his tenure in January 2018 with this headache to sort out while Dale probably hopes that by the time their expected new head takes charge in a few months time, that the fallout is a thing of the past.