School rugby lost the plot a while back. The national rankings are the icing on the cake, but throw in the Saturday morning TV games, sponsored tight fit jerseys, and the completely out of control contracting of players at U16 level, and what we have on our hands is the stuffing up of what used to be the country’s greatest rugby asset.
Instead of being a factory delivering bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, highly-skilled youngsters in need of some polishing before even contemplating the pro ranks, the system now delivers over-hyped young men who think they piss eau de cologne, are coached to win instead of entertain, and believe the rugby world owes them a favour.
But this little conundrum pales into insignificance when compared to what is going down in Bloemfontein!
French Top 14 club Montpellier have launched a scholarship programme at world-renowned rugby school, Grey College. Basically, thinly-disguised as a scholarship, Montpellier are hijacking the school that has produced the second-most Springboks of all time, in order to set up their own feeder system of young, talented players.
A businessman with links to the French club, who wishes to remain anonymous, has set up the Badawi Legacy Scholarship Programme at the school, and has committed to make the following contributions over the next five years:
- Fund the appointment of a French language teacher for a period of five years.
- Provide funding to support at least 50 scholarship holders.
- Secure a commitment from Montpellier Rugby Club to make available certain resources including a commitment to sharing coaching methods and a coach exchange programme.
The school says the scholarship programme will be awarded on a means-tested basis to scholars who lack similar or readily available alternatives. Scholarship holders will need to demonstrate potential in leadership and/or academia, and particularly the sport of rugby.
Note the last part of that sentence!
“As a modern society,” reads the statement from the school, “it is our duty to provide our students with an environment within which they can create the best possible tomorrow for everyone. A tomorrow in which South Africans will succeed in the context of unprecedented levels of globalisation and technological advance.”
How traumatically and disturbingly unpatriotic! Well that was my initial reaction, but then I gave the subject further thought…
Rugby at school should be about building a skills base and being encouraged to utilise said skills while having a complete jol. There is plenty of time after school for those skills to be coached out of them and replaced with ‘Wen rugby’!
The role of a school like Grey in our young sons’ lives is to make them into better people, in fact the best people they can possibly be. And if that includes being a good – or even a great – rugby player as part of an unbeaten 1st XV, excellent. If not, the sun will still come up tomorrow.
Produce an arrogant ponce who has not the time for a teammate’s younger brother after a game, though, or a spoilt brat who shakes not the hand of the opposition after a loss, and they have failed.
But with rugby now a proper career choice, and given the ‘pull factor’ of foreign currency and the ‘push factor’ of local politics, perhaps schools should be playing a more proactive role in the creation of “The best possible tomorrow for everyone”?
The tragically sad part of it is that the best possible tomorrow for kids in school today might not lie in South Africa.