Wake up and smell the roses

In the wake of an investigation conducted by New Zealand Rugby which discovered that school rugby is not in as healthy a state as the image portrayed by their top schools, one of the conclusions arrived is the need to appoint a manager to oversee school rugby structures.

There is a tunnel vision mentality which has taken hold of school rugby. It’s concerned with winning at all costs and how best to attract the top players by whatever means available. Anything that gets in the way of this is collateral damage so to speak.

For years this approach was to the liking of an organisation like the NZR. It certainly made their lives easier if more of the better players were concentrated in a few schools that conformed to the standards and level of competition that the NZR desired. By extension, those non-teachers involved at school age level who earned a keep out of poaching players and promoting professionalism were viewed as friends of the establishment. The unhappy headmasters, teachers, coaches, supporters, students that were on the receiving end were viewed as problem childs standing in the way of progress and who needed to get up to speed with modern times. It is working its way to a point where a school educational fundamental principle like ethics is something that needs to be applied in context and that context definitely needs to exclude rugby.

The tunnel vision meant the big picture was being missed.  School rugby participation is declining at an alarming rate. Part of the decline can be attributed to the metamorphosis that rugby has undergone in the last couple of decades which has made it harder for a teenager to rely on his natural build to compete and changes in society brought about technological advancement which has caused distractions.

In the face of this decline in school player numbers, the last thing needed is adding extra fuel to the fire. Fewer schools playing rugby equals an increased chance of quality individuals being lost to rugby. That is a worry but it’s not the bigger picture.

The bigger picture is that when a youngster be he an A, B, C, D or lower rugby team player is lost from the sport, the worst case scenario is he develops an interest in a rival sport or activity that eliminates rugby as a focal point in his life. The new interest has the chance to develop into a lifelong passion and along the way potentially draws in the boy’s personal sponsors and support structures in the form of parents, extended family, close friends, maybe his girlfriend and even her friends. These are people that might otherwise have been part of a school rugby culture for several years and in those years developed, renewed or maintained a close bond with rugby. A bond that encourages them to maybe sign up for or renew a satellite TV subscription, buy ground tickets for pro rugby matches, kit themselves in rugby team merchandise and pass that love for the game onto the next generation over whom they have influence.

In a world where money has become the evil that drives rugby and determines the quality of the local professional game, yes it’s important to have good players and good coaches but without a fan base to financially sustain it through their willingness to spend or the appeal they create for big spending sponsors, it’s dead in the water.

Leaving school rugby to its own devices is not a good idea. The overall unhappiness produced by the type of characters who want to dominate its short direction course to benefit their desires and pockets could prove fatal in the long run.  In New Zealand, the report said the “lack of an overarching governance body” was a repeated message they received from stakeholders during the review. A body that sits in the middle and works for the prioritised benefit of looking after the big picture, which not surprisingly fits in with the values ethos many schools had built their reputations around.


  1. I’ve said it before and will say it again.The situation in SA is quite unique and differ considerably to say from a country like NZ.

    Before ’94 the above mentioned problems didn’t exist in SA rugby because of obvious reasons.As soon as the suburbs boundaries which dictated where one was to go to which school was taken away, the monster was born.

    This was of course done to accomodate the previously disadvantage to go to any school of choice and not be limited to the previous rule of address dictation.

    If we go back to that scenario in PTA and break down all the koshuise the following will happen.Kloof will be nr 1 followed closely by Garsies at nr 2.The Southern suburbs schools, will round of the top 5 with Oos-Moot and Montana challenging strongly for top 5 places.

    Affies will be gone and will probably change its name to Sunnyside High or something like that.Menlo will be a top 10 but will be demoted to Skild in Verseker.

    NZ doesn’t have or face nearly the same challenges as SA.A simple new or changing of one or 2 laws in a first world country where it can be implemented and police will solve the problem quickly.Not so in SA.

    So to blame certain schools who have absolutely nothing,ZERO,to do with policy,law making ext,as the culprits is to say the least… laughable.

    This situation where a couple of schools is seen as the enemy and the reason fits ofcource the incompetent administrators and law makers.As long as attention is diverted from the real issue, which in plain language comes down to incompetence and lack of accountability,it’s far more easy to blame and shame individual schools.

  2. @Grizzly: it seems
    That we will disagree on this toppic. I dont understand how you want to justify certain schools behavior, due to a lack of legislation. Shouldn’t your school ( and my school) act with integrity and good morals , even with a lack of clear legislation. Morals is universal and not based on legislation??

  3. Jis, die New Zeeland ouens is dom.Hoekom breek jy nie n gesonde stelsel met se dertig top skole wat eenige jaar die kans staan om die liga tewen met se ses skole wat agv werwing na gr7 die top skole vorm nie.Isdit nie maar een van die simptome wat klub rugby gekelder het nie.En ja dan is daar die onbeholpte gevoel om kinders wat sogenaamd benadeeld is te akkomedeer terwyl in jou eie backyard daar net soveel behoeftige kinders is.Ek het die naweek by my jongste gehhoor dat hoerskool hercueles 15 pare toks in die skool het wat uit geruil word op n saterdag.Kloof het n projek geloots om vir die skool te help met die problem so ek bevraag teken lle skole se werklike motiewe met opheffing.

  4. @Grizzly: Definitely the circumstances are in SA and NZ different and there is possibly merit to a suggestion that they will find it easier to try and fix what is wrong over there.

    For the first time NZR put aside what they thought was good for the sport and listened to input from their people on the ground. It was a wake up call. They were so focused on developing players they forget they needed to look after the fan base as well. That fan base is not limited to A team players or mainstream schools. And it’s not helped by fewer and fewer kids playing rugby.

    SARU should have the same concerns as NZR. On Monday morning thousands of employees will go to their respective high schools jobs. For the motivated ones, they know their jobs are to contribute to a sustained or improved overall performance of their schools. A percentage of those employees are involved in rugby. They are also there to look after the school they work for. No one is paying them to spend time looking after rugby in the rest of their community, their city, province or the country. It gives rise to a dog eats dog culture.

    IMO an independent someone or an independent committee should take responsibility for trying to make sure everything possible is done to keep the school rugby vibrant at more than just A-team level and at more than just a few top schools.

    Take input from people close to rugby who share your concerns, from a day school like Transvalia who’s just lost some players, from an Affies that’s about twice the size of the co-eds in terms of number of boys but churns out between 3 and 4 times as many teams. The intel gives a starting point and its better than doing nothing. From there they can decide if its not feasible to stop the shrinking fan base, how can they at least slow it down as much as possible.

  5. @BlouLou: Firstly I didn’t justify any actions from any schools.I merely stated that I’m buffeled that the deterioration of SBR can be laid in front of individual schools.If that is true then surely we have a far greater problem at hand than anticipated.

    I’m with you on the moral and integrity issues.Im also glad you mentioned your school as well.That for me is the real question, how does one decide which schools lay where on the moral and integrity scale.Is it determend by age,ranking, location…ext??I’m asking because for me the lines is very blerly when the same set of moral and integrity standards is passed on different schools.

  6. For 2019 Glenwood explored the possibility of twinning the Monnas fixture. Twinning is where in order to give all a school’s teams a game, they invite a second school to play them on an interschools Saturday. It often goes hand-in-hand with staggered fixtures, meaning the big schools A-team plays school 1’s A-team and the big schools B-team play’s school 2’s A-team. Then C vs 1B and D vs 2B etc.

    Glenwood is an all boys school. It is advanced in terms of transformation and it offers competitive hockey as an alternative main winter school. Yet their rugby participation remains very high. Monument does not have competitive boys hockey and only caters for a few rugby teams.

    This model is working for Monnas. But for SARU they should be concerned that there are boys at Monnas with other interests on a Saturday and therefore a risk of losing them as long term supporters of the sport.

    For Glenwood, SARU should want to know what makes them tick so successfully when it come to getting the commitment from all students but perhaps also what has the impact of having such a strong Glenwood had on the other smaller high schools in the region. How much ground has the game lost at these smaller schools and can it be recovered in some form that helps the rugby retain that school community as supporters.

  7. Morality does not mix well with Mamon and Mrs Greed.
    A few good rugby schools, and quite a few “not so good” rugby schools manage their sport programs to support education. Due to excellence, some have very good results and this attracts prospective scholars. Some other schools, not only in Pta, but also elsewhere in the province and country, use politics and money to bolster their sport performance. Very little sign of morality. Yes, some talent gets ID’d and may get an opportunity for higher laurels. Unfortunately this perpetuates a certain culture and many keen young players are regularly overlooked and shunned by the system. This happens when people with own interests run the show.
    Note: just because Garsies openly buys, does not mean they do not have good intentions towards the rest of their players.
    All schools should ask if they actually educating ALL their scholars and promoting the right culture – even Helpmekaar (for that matter).

  8. @beet: I do not believe that SARU has the interest of rugby in general, at heart. They are running the show through a capitalistic approach. Their only interest being a sustainable group ( groups) of Springbok players. They believe that if that objective is reached, the rest of the system will look after itself. They also belive that because the rest of the world competes with money, they can do the same. Yes, for the chosen few, there is an attempt to create an internal esprit-decor. But they losing the masses, and believe it is OK.
    Why are there so few people left that labour and do difficult things; “just because it is the right thing to do”?

  9. Oorhoofse beheer is n goeie plan…… Solank dit net nie SARU is wat dit wil probeer toepas nie… Hulle is die doodsteek in ons rugby, hou hulle asb ver weg van skole rugby

  10. @BrotherBear: I worry that they might not have a medium or long term plan. Just like the live match audience dropped to disappointing lows, one day SARU will wake and ask what happened to our TV viewership because its gone the same way.

    It might be unrealistic for them to grow interest in rugby in SA but they should be doing their utmost to hold the existing supporters. For that they cannot afford to be out of touch with what really drives interest in SA rugby and were the core support bases lie.

  11. @beet: “It might be unrealistic to expect SARU to expand rugby interest” – definitely so with their present approach and executive skillset.
    South Africa needs a different value proposition to retain top players and ensure rugby is healthy and growing at grassroots. Rugby and cricket are the only sports where the government can leverage some excellence (not that anyone wants their involvement). The largest sport code; football (soccer), has somehow been unable to perform in an African context, we shall not even try and compare in international terms.
    For rugby administrators to try and directly compete with euros, dollars, pound and even drachma is silly. It can only be done for the really top dogs, and then there is really nothing left for the rest and development. So they must consider alternative incomes for players AND try and build the interest, culture and support for promising juniors as well as grassroots (club players).
    We are starting to lose the rugby culture at all levels in the country.
    Or should we say; “Too bad, so sad, goodbye!”
    I agree; total lack of vision. Or maybe they just hiding it very well.

  12. @BrotherBear: Agree,once you loose the plot at grassroots level,rugby is a dead man walking.Only a question of time.The opposite apply if you want to establish and develope something…. start at the bottom, grassroots level.Primary school level.Ofcourse someone must still explain this to soccer administrators.

    Sell the franchises.It will bring in massive amount of revenue.Tax the living daylights out of unions,say 30% of TV revenue for SARUS pockets from Super rugby,so much to SARU for CC rights etc.Let them pay royalties on a yearly basis for continue income. SARU still get the big bucks for Springbok rights.Now the milking cows is not their problem any more.EP,Border and the big unions all have private owners.

    Once SARU pockets are full,they can allocate money to development and where it’s much needed.They don’t need silly laws like you won’t be eligible for selection if you based oversees ext.Theyve except that rugby is a global sport.Atleast they have a base to be competitive now.Euros and dollars are coming in while expense is paid in rand,ask Sasol how it’s working for them?

  13. It’s just a question of time before the following scenario playes out.Company ABC which is based in Europe,is looking to be a title or main sponsor for one of the Top 14 sides.

    It’s a young and upcoming company which manafucter sport apparel.The problem is they looking for a 3 year deal but only have 15,20 and 25 mil pounds for year 1,2 and 3 available.

    That’s ofcource to small for sides based in Europe.Not for Free state and Kings.Afther negotiations they struck a deal with FS.Suddenly the coffers is filed and FS start contracting the likes of Pollard,Papier,Pieter-Stef and other A+ rate players who doesn’t want to go and play overseas.

    Now suddenly FS find themselves in semi and finals.Imagene winning the compo and now gets the attention from blue chip companies like Barclays, McDonalds,etc who is willing to up the sponsorship to 100 mil pounds per year plus.

    How will the other unions compete.Other Unions will follow or die and so will the Super rugby compo.The point,if you can’t beat the system,join it and use your assets (our rugby players)to make it yours.

  14. @Grizzly: When I started reading your second paragraph, I thought you were going to bring up the matter of professionalism. I fail to see how you tie the ‘deterioration’ of SA rugby structures with the opening up of suburban boundaries. Neither do I see how this is obvious. Maybe you can educate me.

    Meanwhile, I would say that these problems didn’t exist before 1995 (as opposed to 1994 as per your post), because rugby was amateur, and there was no money involved. As Keith Andrews once said: “We played rugby to build up a thirst, nowadays guys play the game to pay their bonds.” The effects of this are bound to trickle down to schoolboy level. Where boys who do not make the A team, would rather find an alternative sport because “they don’t see a future in rugby anymore”. In the past boys representing the F team wore their jerseys as proudly as the 1st XV players. Now schools with F teams are few and far between.

    Point is, to steal from Keith Andrews as quoted above:”We played rugby for enjoyment and to build camaraderie, boys nowadays play the game to build a future.” The decline in participation is inevitable, as more and more B,C & D team players feel discouraged and would rather find an alternative sport (with less pressures linked to future prospects) to take part in. We might find ourselves facing a situation where schools only have A Teams & the 1sts, with everyone else playing in a “Cake League”.

  15. @Grizzly: Yes, a commercial solution may be needed, but we need to put heart, soul and passion back into the game.
    These days it is hard, sole/sold and sex.
    Young ones and not so young ones must play for other reasons than money.
    Agents have a role to play, but they are thoroughly f…..g up the pictures aspiring provincial players have of what success means.

  16. @Playa: I thought I did but let me clarify.Pre ’94, every school in PTA was a rugby school(except the obvious, girls HS).Yes every school.Didnt mind the league,rugby was healthy and representation in CW sides come from all schools.

    Once the boundaries went,the hunting began.Pre ’94 only Affies had a koshuis but they targeted more Platelandse boys.there were a couple of PTA boys from outside the borders but this was done very clandestine, because the education department back in the day will have none of a koshuis in PTA,filed with boys staying in PTA.

    So post ’94 other schools bought Combis to transport boys from other suburbs to their respective schools, lawfully.

    Once the nrs justify it,Koshuisse went up.Most of the boys comming from Pta 8-O My boy was one.You see how the Monster was fed,it didn’t happend overnight.

    The rest is history.Pretty soon it was apparant that you must be in certain schools to stand a chance for higher honours.So the schools were drained of talent taking with them the coaches and all the other stuff which made the rugby strong.

    I don’t say it is the only factor,one of many maybe,the others I mention law makers ext. Professionalism,I don’t think so,why doesn’t the rest of the rugby playing world complain how it effects their schooling system.I also don’t say we at a critical point yet.Theres enough time and resources to stop the bleeding,but we must wake up and smell the coffee…..

  17. @Grizzly: What’s so exciting is seeing how many private’s and model C schools are now very actively recruiting PDA (for want of a better phrase) scholars from the EC and WP to improve their schools rugby and matric results. What a turn up for the books….

  18. @McCulleys Workshop: Yes,the irony.My frustrating leis in the fact that there’s so many talent going to waste.

    They’re,big, strong,fast willing to learn and play with nobody willing to teach and coach them.Everybody with know-how moved on to greener grass.

    Specially at grassroots level where the love and passion must first be established for the game before moving on to the technical side of things.Like said before,it’s here where you need good mentors and unsung heroes who’s there for the kids and the love of the game

  19. I received an email from a KZN Country Districts school parent earlier this year. Out of primary school his son, a good rugby player was offered a high school bursary by several well-known schools in KZN. Reading between the lines of his email, he must have turned these schools down. Now that his boy is a high school senior, the parent is concerned that when it comes to CW selections, his son will be at a major disadvantage because he just has not benefited from the exposure to selectors that boys from the leading rugby schools in the Durban/Midlands area enjoy. Unfortunately as much as the process appears to be an independent one, the fact is that only 3 CD players have represented KZN at CW during this decade.

    Last year during the Bulls vs Sharks u21 match, I chatted to a parent of a player who is doing very well in the Bulls setup. He also hailed from the KZN CD region. His boy had lost out on CW selection and had to go to Academy Week with the KZN CD team. He had concerns about the exposure his son’s school received which I’m sure he felt along with other circumstances didn’t work in his favour. As a result he has decided to rather send his younger son to school in Pretoria at a school where he is bound to get a lot more recognition than his older brother did if he’s an A-team player performing well.

    I realise that not every CD player who was overlooked was CW worthy but there is a concern that more should be done to keep CD / Platteland parents optimistic about backing their local schools instead of feeling the absolutely have to move their kids to the city in the hopes of getting better chances.

  20. @Smallies: They should do something like naming an u18 CD/Platteland XV who can play the international series curtain raisers against the likes of a WP XV, Boland XV and an SWD XV.

    Recognition as part of an effort to keep rugby as healthy as possible in all parts.

    In 2009 an Academy Week XV was selected and played at Craven Week. A good initiative that could have been expanded on. Obviously with AW and CW being on at the same time now, that’s out of the question now.

  21. In KZN , mothers and hockey are destroying playing numbers … Mum sees rugby , big hits , injuries and aggression…. Mum bans son from the rough game and promotes hockey sticks …. new age dad allows mother to have an opinion…. this coupled with some schools having two astros encouraging boys to make the switch …. and before you know it boy ends up in therapy as an adult because he is a weed and never had the chance to extend himself out of his comfort zone ….. hockey sticks and paranoid mothers are the death of the hunting fishing rugby playing men !

  22. @oldschool: Huh???? WTF???? You can still hunt and fish with a hockey stick, actually far better than with a rugby ball, boots and gum guard

  23. @oldschool: luckily my wife mostly grants me permission, as long as I can prove there is a benefit to her. Hehehehe
    They say it is not those that control, but those that can make others believe that they are in control, that really controls. ;-)

  24. @Grizzly: You still need to be enrolled in certain schools for higher honours. Just have a look at the compilation of the BB CW teams over the past 5 years. You will find that most backs hail from Garsies and Forwards from Affies.

  25. @4×4: Ou grapgat. Jy bedoel seker ” most scrumhalves and some wings and one centre hail from Garsies…”

  26. @4×4: Higher honours at school maybe. Different picture when one looks at the make up of the Super Rugby teams and the Springboks. If, God forbid, I was to sell rugby as a career to my son, I would focus on the bigger picture rather than high school achievements. The conversion stats that Beet has posted from time to time make for some very interesting reading.

  27. @4×4: Yes, except maybe for last year.Its no state secret that you have a better chance for higher honours if you attend one of 4 schools in PTA.Garsies, Kloof,Menlo and Affies.Whats news about your headmaster appointment?

  28. @oldschool – Is your concussion playing up?
    I bet you there is no causal link between the number of boys playing hockey and the performance of rugby teams.

  29. @Tang: I love hockey , the Dutch women’s side is my favorite sports team …. that Physio has the best job Eva ! The hobby shouldn’t be offered at boys schools though , it’s far to dangerous having over mothered insecure psychopaths running around with sticks …

  30. This is a lot like the man who threw a boomerang which returned to hit him on the head, so he sue’d himself and won….

  31. @oldschool: @oldschool: Thank God you obviously aren’t being serious, (that would be tragic) with an argument that’s moved from the sublime to the ridiculous. I’m sure KC are relieved you aren’t their spokes person and they don’t have to explain your humor to the gullible.


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