The KZNRU President Graham Mackenzie made interesting contributions at the KZN High Schools Rugby AGM.
Included in his speech was mention of the end of duplication at the Union caused by having two bodies in the form of the KZNRU and the Sharks (Pty) Ltd. This change would give rise the Youth Week representative teams being called The Sharks in opposed to KwaZulu-Natal from 2016 onwards. There was also a promise of better service to schools from a more streamlined Union.
Later he touched on how frustrating it was for the Union when talented boys came through the ranks at school level and then left the province to continue their rugby elsewhere.
He mentioned that the Union had to relook at the Sharks Academy as it to a large extent no longer served the needs for which it was designed.
Mackenzie said that in order to keep talented local players after school, the Sharks have to look at how they can accommodate these boys’ tertiary requirements parallel to their rugby development, regardless of the subjects they wanted to study. Engineering was used as an example. To achieve this goal, the Sharks are currently taking to three different Academic Institutions.
The Union has also decided to purchase a very upmarket hotel in Florida Road, Morningside which will now become the “Rugby Institute”. Contracted junior players have stayed in different Bed and Breakfasts’ etc up until now. The “Institute” will be along the lines of what the WPRI and University of Stellenbosch have to offer: a top class facility to house all players with a swimming pool and proper nutrition provided amongst other benefits.
Mackenzie identified the Varsity Cup as a problem. UKZN won the Varsity Shield in 2015 but it was a non-promotion year. Getting into the Varsity Cup is crucial for the Union. A setback is that as a result of recent protests, the sports funding at UKZN and Durban University of Technology (DUT) have been reduced by close to 85%.
Proposed new government policies regarding university admission rules could mean that it becomes a lot more difficult for KZN school leavers to get into top universities like UCT and Maties as well others around South Africa in the not too distant future. Although Mackenzie said these changes would not necessarily imply that KZN kids would stay put in KZN, he did suggest that it was an opportunity that the Sharks had to take advantage of if they could.
Mackenzie also detailed a Sharks initiative to fund projects in the Pietermaritzburg area involving the top schools there lending their rugby coaches to assist some of the many schools in that region that still had the rugby facilities in an effort to reignite the game.
Other things that the President touched on were: The need for the Sharks to start a rugby style of play revolution in South Africa: a change in mentality that would see KZN based teams playing the old “Banana Boys” flowing attacking the spaces type rugby, and moving away from the brain-dead one dimensional stuff that has become too prominent in SA pro rugby.
The huge challenge of transformation and how sport in SA is being held to a different standard was stated. Mackenzie said something along the lines that the transformation process should be a condition of the heart as opposed to strict quota guidelines etc. On that note the KZN High Schools RA is believed to be the only body in SA that still receives funding from Government (later on a figure of R3 million per annum was brought up by another official). Even still, a lot more is expected by the Minister of Sport. The Sharks did however have some ideas on transformation to propose to SARU.
Mackenzie also stated that on Wednesday, 11 December a decision would be made about Heyneke Meyer as Bok coach.