What to do with schoolboy rugby…

With spectators and commercial interest flocking to schoolboy rugby, big decisions about the amateur game are imminent. The AOR team debates the best way forward.

Tank Lanning – Bin it!
Extreme? Yes! Tragic? Perhaps, especially initially. Logical? You decide …

The amateur game is quite clearly on the up. To my mind, at the expense of the professional one.

Both school and club rugby have their issues, though. Mostly because they are trying to become more professional instead of embracing all that is good about the amateur game.

So why burden the people tasked with educating our children with this ever growing, and hugely complex issue?

Is one of the reasons that we are battling to come to terms with professional rugby in South Africa not because we made that error in 1995? This by tasking the amateur-era blazer brigade with taking us into the pro era sans the tools or skills to make it work.

Would you ask a rapper to perform your root canal treatment? Yes, a little extreme, as teachers often make for great coaches. But that need not change.

In an extension of the current club rugby systems, the amateur infrastructure would simply grow to include age group rugby from under 9.

So instead of St Johns vs KES, it would be Pirates vs Wanderers. Leaving schools to focus on what they were put there to do – educate our kids.

And just imagine what this could do for transformation! Currently, the level of age group coaching you receive is determined by the school you can attend. As such, for obvious reasons, it’s a huge roadblock for rugby.

Growing the amateur game outside of the school infrastructure – an infrastructure that sits outside of SA Rugby’s gambit at the moment – would certainly come with it’s own issues and challenges, but in the long run, might this be the best route for the game?

Zelím Nel – Get serious!
My high school principal never said: “Boys, don’t take your classes too seriously. The whole point of the subjects we offer is to provide you with an opportunity to enjoy participating in the classroom environment, and to develop your social skills as you jog through the annual curriculum at whatever pace suits you. We won’t be grading you; at the end of the year you will graduate with a class photo to commemorate your participation.”

Though this would be utopia in the eyes of some segments of modern society, the reality is that each of the professionals that fix your teeth or your tax return, lean heavily on their knowledge of facts related to their professions – a knowledge that was ratified by stringent and discriminatory examinations.

Professional sport is a ginormous industry in the world today. Cristiano Ronaldo is said to have earned $93m in 2017. According to some surveys, the average Geography professor in the USA earns $85k per annum.

And? Well, I’m trying to point out that, for the schoolboy rugby player who has the potential to play pro rugby – but not the potential to distinguish between contour lines on a map – Saturday’s clash against a rival school’s 1st XV is far more important than, say, Monday’s geography class.

Extra-mural sport most certainly should be seen primarily as a character-building opportunity for most kids, but those who have pro aspirations should be encouraged to take their sport very, very, seriously.

And for this reason, schoolboy rugby’s existing district and provincial structure should be aligned with a structure of national competitions that produces South African schoolboy champions across multiple divisions.

Group schoolboy 1st XVs and U16As into pools based on geography and rugby quality and have the top contenders advance to provincial and then national knockout competitions to begin examining tomorrow’s Bok flyhalf.

You’ve read what they think, now drop a comment to let us know where you stand in The Big Debate!

- Big Debate

Let's chat

  • Anita

    At present its the only motivation for my son attending school, however, entering senior years he was basically kicked off from u16A to 3rd team! If it becomes national recognized then ome will hope for trials being held and players rated by professionals who doesnt affiliate themselves at all with the school! So many times I have seen kids played at trials having a bad day on the field and you knoe they are better than that then the schoolboy who is participating more in other fields at school enjoying preference. I would also like for trials being held twice for incase that someone has had a bad day on the field.

    • Camel

      Anita, it is a good lesson for some boys who were part of “die Manne” club who had it easy and was always in the A teams. This builds character and will show if he is really interested by sticking to it and work harder to be noticed.

      Many boys only start to bloom at this age and some of the A team players fade. I have seen it over the years at my club in a community where schools rugby is very limited.

      Watch the interview with Diyanti the Lions wing, he was not selected for his schools first team and nearly stopped playing rugby.

      I am also a parent who lives these realities…..

  • Carl

    Currently schools is the breading ground and players get selected on talent and not quota. The top schools will give the South African u/19 side a hard time.
    We have nothing better currently. It also bring in top teachers , sponsors and fasility’s that the goverment can’t provide.
    Biggest problem is buying of pupils , maybe there could be looked at radius from home .?
    Some of these top school also do a lot of extra work to make sure the grades of sportsman an woman is up to standard.
    More good than bad.

  • Mike

    As a former teacher/rugby coach I would like to urge Tank and Zelim to do a little bit more intensive research into the culture link between schools rugby and bok rugby.

    School rugby IS Springboks rugby! let me expand:

    Former teachers who were Springboks coaches include-Jake White ,Nick Mallet,Pieter Devillers
    Doc Craven.
    The first Springbok Jerseys if I’m not mistaken were old Bishops school rugby jerseys borrowed for the tour.
    Paarl boys, Grey, Kes to name a few produce numerous provincial and national players.
    From a history, culture and feeder system perspectice. Schools are the first point of entry for future boks. School boy rugby players are built on strong values, family involvement and school infrastructure.

    The quality of talent produced by our top schools is on par if not better than New Zealand. The question we need to ask, why does this translate into success at senior level if we have all the talent and infrastructure?
    the Answer we need a review of our coaching structures and how we share rugby intelligence with the wider rugby community.
    The All blacks share all their knowledge and coaching resources, S.A. rugby and it’s coaches tend not to have a rugby community focused programme.

    In short School rugby needs to be invested in without compromising it’s focus on values. Invest in.beyyer coaching structures and don’t make it too competitive as this will lead to to.much emphasis on winning. Focus on traditions, skills and values to breed the right type of player.

  • Rav

    My son is in a All boys school ,and before I spend a single Cent on any ticket to a Pro game I will rather spend the day at the School supporting the Boys. The quality of rugby being played at 1st XV is great ,the atmosphere is great and the first XV sides are always well attended. Before I fork out a cent for a Super Rugby or Bok Jersey I will rather buy a School supporters shirt and Cap.
    – The sides are selected on merit and best side will take the field.
    -I dont think some of these schools will give the U19 SA side a hard time, THEY WILL BEAT THEM!
    -Buying will never stop and there is ways around radius in terms of Boarding Houses. I don’t think to stop buying or implementing radius will help , It will only spread the talent even more and subsequently lower the standard of the top schools which are producing the Top players into the Senior Systems at the moment.
    Why even fiddle with something thats not broken. Rather begin a discussion on how we can Improve and strengthen the current Junior Provincial system and have fair trials. Surely each Union\SARU can supply qualified people to attend U13 to U19 trials and select the best. Each teacher(Selector) is going to do everything in his power to have players selected from his school as the amount of players making the provincial side reflects on him(his colleagues) as a coach and the school can use this as marketing and they do!
    Love the idea of having pools and the play offs untill you crown the best school in the country. That would be something ,but do you really want to put these boys trough such a rugby schedule and pressure now?
    If I see a corporate supporting school sports , well they have my support all the way!

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