A concerned KZN parent wrote to me a few weeks ago about his observations of the KZN under-16 Grant Khomo trials process. It was quite interesting. Below I’ve reworded a few of his questions in blue text but tried to keep the original emphasis. In bold red are some of the valued answers I received after doing a follow up with a few of those who have first hand experience of how the process works.
I have been reading your blog and thought maybe you can explain the process that is used to choose the qualifying players as something does not make sense.
I attended all the trials and noticed the following:
1st Round at Westville BHS
Some boys arrived with doctor’s notes that they had injuries, some even on crutches. These boys did not play at all. But that Saturday these boys played games for their schools. It begs the question were they really injured or was this just a tactic so that they did not play trials against boys who could possibly match their skills or even outplay them?
Injured players – policy is a note must be produced by a doctor or physio. Players must play at one trial in order to be ranked and go through to the Final Trial. If a ranked player misses the Final Trial through injury, he may still be considered based on ranking (after discussion between selectors). A case in point was a backline player who was ranked 1 at inside centre (and covers flyhalf) but got concussed and missed the Main and Final Trials but was still selected for KZN.
Main Trials in Pietermaritzburg: 6 teams were scheduled to play
Boys who did not even play in the first round were ranked 1 and 2 in their positions. How was this decided, as these boys did not play in Round 1?
Admittedly one boy played KZN u13 rugby in 2015. He played NO rugby in 2017 due to an injury he picked up in 2016 and in 2018 he was ranked number 1 in his position.
Ranking is not based only on trials. During the season selectors watch the schools play and add comments on players accordingly. A hypothetical example is one selector could have seen DHS, Kearsney, St Charles and Glenwood play. The coaches from Northwood, Westville and College would then have been contacted to discuss their players. The selectors would have come from the other KZN schools not mentioned above.
No notice is taken of u13 KZN selection
Final Trials at Woodburn in Pietermaritzburg: 4 teams excluding the Country Districts played.
Again the same was noticed and very few boys were moved around. It was as if the selectors had made up their minds before the day even started.
Teams are drawn up based on ranking. After each game players are ranked again in each position. There were 10 rounds of ranking in total.
There was supposed to be a Possibles and Probables game at the end, which would have been the ideal time for some boys to also prove themselves. Ideally teams 1 & 3 and 2 & 4 should have played in the earlier games, as there may be boys who were not well-known old KZN players who may have been good enough to compete against the highest ranked boys.
Although scheduled, on the day there was no need for Possibles vs Probables – it was a hot Wednesday in PMB, sandwiched between inter-schools games on both the Saturday before and after Final trials. Playing in those conditions and with that schedule would have just increased the chances of injuries.
I also noticed one well-known boy from a big private school who played in the 4th team during the Main Trials (previous round), was given an opportunity to try out in Team 1 at Final Trials. How did that happen? Was it because everyone knew him? So he got an opportunity to prove himself whilst no one else in Teams 3 and 4 were afforded the same? In the end he didn’t make the KZN team.
Another thing….. Why does the KZN u16 team composition look so unsettled amongst the forwards?
Targets affect selection. 12 players of color are needed. The reality was that there were no provincial quality players of colour in a couple of positions. The selectors opted to find the needed quality players of colour in other positions in order to meet the target, rather than picking weaker players and compromising the overall competitive strength of the team.
Also remember the selectors are looking for provincial level players. An example of this was that the selectors picked no.8’s to play flank.You need to know what you are looking for and you can only do this once you’ve been there and coached at this level. This is an important factor most onlookers fail to recognize.
Personally I think that the system is biased as one could clearly see some the coaches of one of the big state schools hanging around behind the selectors. It made one wonder how much of their ‘chatting’ was heard by the selectors. What a good way to promote your own players!
The coaches close to the selectors had no say on selection. If one looks at the KZN Grant Khomo team, it is evident that the spread of representation is across 7 different schools. The boys from the school of the coaches in question have been outstanding performers in the province and deserved to be selected ahead of others.