KZN headmasters cannot afford to let this 2018 meeting opportunity slip away

Update: Apologies, before the 14/11/2018 meeting, the headmasters met a week before and nothing much came of it unfortunately. I know no one likes to upset the apple cart but IMO it would be worth their while to do something bring matters under control before it’s too late.

KZN are approaching a fork in the road.

The sensitive topic is once again recruitment.

Overall the leading KZN sports high schools don’t have much of a moral high ground to fall back on in this regard because they haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory outside their provincial borders when it comes to acquiring talented sportsmen from other high schools. However for the most part within KZN, they have managed to respect each other’s nurtured sports talent albeit via agreements in place.

Now even those agreements appear to be under threat, meaning that in the not too distant future some of the richer KZN schools could up the greed level to targeting the best players from their longstanding annual fixture rivals, without having too much of a conscience.

There is a way to stop a free-for-all that could potentially send the province back ten years and more to a time when it was common practice to pinch players from fellow local schools without recourse. Back then the main culprits were the big three private schools of the province.

The solution to getting things under control is twofold: get schools to recommit to a written agreement and introduce a joint course of action / punishment towards a school that does not tow the line.

Come the KZN headmaster on Wednesday, 14 November 2018, it’s expected that the Maritzburg College headmaster Chris Luman will have something to say about the delicate topic and it would probably be worth St Charles head Allen van Blerk’s while to jump in as well. At this stage the comments will in all likelihood be directed towards the leader of one particular school.

It’s vital that these two headmaster’s receive the necessary support if they make a stand.

The concern for other schools in attendance who might think this is a matter that doesn’t concern them, should be what will happen if Kearsney and Michaelhouse, who are due to welcome new headmasters in the not too distant future, have similar outlooks on using their respective College’s prestige and resources to boost their sports teams, at the expense of local state schools who have put in the effort to identify and develop the sort after players? In the absence of enforced regulations, those players are potentially easy pickings, just like the kids from out of province tend to be.



  1. Will be keen to hear if this was discussed today? The Headmasters Agreement is certainly helping in some way to prevent poaching between the KZN schools as far as I know…although from what I hear it still seems that many approaches are still made by KZN School A to current star players at KZN School B.

  2. @Skywalker: Yes I eagerly await the outcome of the meeting. To me Northwood is one of the schools that stands to gain the most by having a firmed up arrangement in place. For example there is a lot of effort being put into NW rugby. The last thing they need is some local vultures to prey off the success their efforts bring. Same applies for numerous other schools in top tier KZN.

  3. It would appear that this soapie continues. Watch this space as a particular school near Balgowan is certainly waiving their cheque book around. I know of two boys from Gauteng who will be running out for their 15 age group next year who did not play for their 14’s this year. And no, neither family has the ware with all to afford the fees. The war chest has been opened and the battle is on between the two Midlands schools to see who has the biggest!!

  4. What is the general view point on boys who are not head hunted/approached….but rather approach a new school as they aren’t happy at their current school for whatever reason?

  5. @BlackWhite: As a fun thing I can up with a recruitment scorecard a few years ago. Every case iS different and deserves to be looked at in isolation but the scorecard does make sense in general.

    I also say that the wishes of the parents/guardians are paramount and should not be undermined but the actions of the schools often can be and should be.

    I also find that with it being an evolving process, the acquiring school officials becoming smarter (more streetwise). They now prep the parents and kids on what to say and what not to say as an attempt to legitimise the move from an ethical stand point. So I’ve noticed a trend where schools play down their role in the move and parents who move their kids make it out to be entirely their own initiative all along. As deecee points out in the example above, the financing side of the recruitment often tells the version that’s closest to the truth. But I say again circumstances differ from one recruitment to the next and these have to be taken into account.

  6. @Beet: that makes sense beet… view is that the parents/boy must want to attend that specific school and parents mustn’t use there sons talents to “shop” their boy around.
    The rules between the Natal headmasters are clear…if they receive an approach from a boy they must inform the other schools headmaster immediately and until they receive consent they may not engage with the parent/boy….as long as the boys reason for wanting to move are legitimate and not under handed in any way then they must be free to move.

  7. @Far Meadows: there are quite a few rugby players joining House next year in grades 9 and 10 …. I know of 3 into next years u15 group and an un confirmed 3 into the u16 group …. I’m not sure if they will be full fee paying kids or sponsored ? Time will tell when next years team sheets are up …… no judgement from me , I think it’s a good thing as you have to fill empty beds …..

  8. I don’t know if we will ever reach a point where all SBR followers are fully accepting of recruitment after gr8 but I think it is gradually becoming the norm. The so-called arms race. Or domino effect.
    Schools for a number of reasons, some that reach far beyond the sports fields, are either trying to improve their competitiveness or maintain it. They see acquiring talented players, particularly in positions of weakness, as a viable means to addressing perceived “problems”. Recruitment from Gr.10 onwards is also cost effective with a far better ROI than Gr.8 sports bursary enrolment.
    So the school’s focus is very much on itself.
    The worry comes about when a school is so dead set on maximising on their own potential, that they are prepared to do it at the expense of the system as a whole. By system I’m referring to the local interschools league.
    To maintain a healthy system, there has to be someone or some organisation committed to looking after the system as a whole. This means regulating it so that individual schools cannot just do whatever they please. The regulating isn’t designed to punish or hold back a school; it should be there to enhance the overall benefit to all.
    To a large extent, KZN is reliant on the headmasters of the top rugby schools to provide this framework. Their job is to try make a mutually beneficial environment in an area where many things point to parasitic type existence as a good way to get ahead.
    Even though we now have several schools in KZN that don’t play each other, the system is still something worth looking after. There is opportunity to retain a league where the local schools can feel satisfied that they are able to organise 8 or so local matches against decent opposition. If schools could let go of some of the fear and insecurity of losing, it can translate to an even better system in my opinion.
    An issue that also deserves attention though, is how best to stay competitive on the interprovincial front as well. There has to be enough room to allow local schools to reach for the stars if that is their ambition. So this has to be part of the model as well.

  9. This is a great topic and I love rolling polony over it. Bring out the cheque book and buy all the players or sportsmen you want. Tie the kids and family into heavy contracts. Just remember to have a fleet of buses as nobody in your province will want to play you. It’s such a dead horse thing.

  10. @Bush: I’m not sure Bush, I think at R1.2 mill for 5 years at House, we can afford about 42.5 new players on scholarships and bursaries a year. Our E teams will be strong again. Make House Strong Again…

  11. @McCulleys Workshop: House will be strong again. 2 3 House. House taking plenty okes away from our cousins up the road. GW and okes aren’t going to want to play against again.

  12. @beet: Hi Beet, I think you have well summed up KZN. Any deviation will just increase the gap between schools, those who will or won’t play each other to the detriment of KZN SBR. I’m not sure of the end result of the HM meetings, do you know the outcome? WRT post grade 8 signings, I see the benefit of both the cost factor and getting a player who you know should perform well for the next 2/3 years, as they have had time to develope during grade 8/9. It’s not hit and miss which is often the case in grade 8. I think Bishops do a great job of recruiting in grade 10, where they are involved in developement and coaching in local communities and ID talented players and then advertise rugby bursaries for grade 10 learners. It’s really a win win.

  13. I think the whole problem started centuries ago. KZN is populated by descendants of the “burgers” of Natalia, who buggered of to the Vrystaat and Transvaal after the Rooinekke annexed their republic. And it is no co-incidence that schools in KZN, Vrystaat and Transvaal do NOT want to play against each other, whereas there are no such problems in areas where the “burgers” never settled.

  14. @McCulleys Workshop: Howzit MW. I thnink that the gaps will be there. From my own experience the best seasons are the ones in which they are small gaps. 2019 has the potential to be a season like that.

    I just hate the thought that KZN schools may become preoccupied with acquiring their neighbour’s talent as a means to boost their own teams. IMO it’s bad enough that they are weakening other schools from out of province by acquiring boys from gr10 onwards.

    I think KZN schools still acknowledge the benefit of having the agreement and on the surface via their respective headmasters they appear to be committed to it.

    The agreement itself is heavily dependent on integrity because there are ways around it for those who have little intention of honoring it.

    And lets face it, school rugby continues to challenge the morals of all involved. It’s kind of like a Star Wars force that continually wants to draw a Jedi to the dark side and he/she has to do everything in their power to resist it.

    Some of the ways to get around the agreement:
    1. Either find an unhappy sportsman at a local school or help create a situation where that sportsman can make it seem like he’s unhappy at his current school.
    2. Don’t fund that recruited sportsman through the school books, use a business partner, rich parent, old boy or whatever to pay his costs.

    A more elaborate way is get the said sportsman to transfer to a school in another province for a short period and then return and enroll at the school that’s after him.

    I tend to agree that there is a cut-off point where one has to accept that a sportsman is better off at a bigger school in terms of his own development path particularly if he hopes to continue playing after school. However drawing that line is difficult. It certainly does not seem like it is within the Top 100-150 schools in SA. For rugby there is a tendency to want to underestimate what little schools can do for a player and overestimate what bigger schools can do for the same player. The latest example being Springbok Marco van Staden who went to HS Bekker. What Bekker may have lacked in a rugby programme or fixture list comparable to a big school, they possibly made up for being helping to forge a character with the confidence and self-belief to succeed and a body that was developed at a more natural rate with fewer injuries coming out of school. Who knows? But he made it all the way to the top at age 23 while many more prominent school players his age from so-called better opportunity schools are nowhere today.

  15. @Rainier: Haha! Some of those “burgers” might have drifted in the EC and WC as well. If you probe you will find a few cases of schools not wanting to play each other there as well.

    Interesting now many of those cases nationwide relate directly to school rugby in some form or another.


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