Passing the character test

One of the questions I have been asking is should a schoolboy rugby player’s character be part of his qualification for selection to the next level, namely provincial representation for a youth week during the July school holidays?

We all know that different schools subscribe to different ethoes. Over and above this, some feel so much pressure to succeed at rugby that they are prepared to bend their own rules a bit. So from this we can deduct that a player would not be on the field if his own school did not in some manner approve of his day-to-day conduct.

So if a player has something undesirable in his past, his present, a personality issue which could affect teamwork or is idle and has a tendency to rely on being gifted, can or should this come into the assessment of his worthiness for selection?

If you enjoy and watch 1st XV schoolboy rugby with any level of passion, one thing that is normally easily identifiable is a talented player on the field. At some point during a match or over a series of matches, his superior playing ability comes to the fore. However just about anyone who works in the professional arena as a talent scout / recruiter / coach will tell you, what you are witnessing on the field from a boy with the kind of potential to succeed in pro rugby is only half what’s actually needed. This is because character plays a massive role in the dog-eats-dog world of climbing up the pro ranks after school. Simply put, the player with the self-determination to succeed stands a far-far better chance than one solely reliant on talent. This realisation along with budget restrictions are defining who unions sign up to junior contracts.

However we know pro rugby is a business run and played by adults. School rugby is not. That said the gap between the two models feels like it is narrowing every season now.



  1. Character is vital. I think the schools rugby ethos keeps players grounded, disciplined, helps them play sacrificially for the team and the glory of their school…I think the SA junior rugby landscape would be a lot different if the highest form of u13 – u18 rugby competition was only Club based. We would have an entirely different universe and pathway to the top.


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