WP deny they are slow off the mark

Prov­ince rugby comes out fight­ing over claims the Cape is los­ing schools play­ers

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - MIKE DE BRUYN

THE West­ern Prov­ince Rugby Union’s self-im­posed pro­to­col of ap­proach­ing tal­ented school­boy play­ers only once they had fin­ished school, needs a re­think.

Bank­ing on player loy­alty seems their gen­tle­manly way of do­ing busi­ness. The Sharks and Blue Bulls aren’t play­ing the wait­ing game. They have, and will con­tinue to en­croach on en­emy ter­ri­tory, in­clud­ing WP, and of­fer con­tracts to school­boys on the spot.

Rugby, to them, is big busi­ness. WP, in re­turn, needs a more vig­or­ous re­cruit­ment drive strat­egy to stave off los­ing po­ten­tial stars of the fu­ture.

WP rugby of­fi­cials have hit back at re­ports sug­gest­ing its tal­ent iden­ti­fi­ca­tion struc­tures in the Wester n Cape are flawed. “That’s a lot of bull,” said Hen­nie Bekker, who heads up WP’s School of Ex­cel­lence and Elite Squads.

“Our sys­tems in place are de­signed to tar­get youngsters from as early as Un­der-10 level. Any kid who shows prom­ise is brought into the fold in the form of elite squads.

“This process con­tin­ues through­out the boys’ school­ing. Once they’ve ma­tric­u­lated, we ap­proach those we deem to be the best of the best and of­fer op­por­tu­ni­ties for them to con­tinue their ca­reers in the West­ern Cape”

Bekker added that a proac­tive search was on­go­ing.

“We are in close con­tact with all the rel­e­vant role play- ers to en­sure ev­ery ef­fort is made to grow and har­vest the best young tal­ent.”

WP man­ager of ju­nior rugby Jac­ques Hanekom had stern words for a cou­ple of the tra­di­tional south­ern sub­urbs boys’ schools who claim they are be­ing side-swiped when it came to se­lect­ing pro­vin­cial teams.

“Just how ded­i­cated and com­mit­ted are th­ese schools in mar­ket­ing the game com­pared to their four in­land ri­vals,” asked Hanekom? “I think Bish­ops is the only one of the four who com­pares favourably with the likes of Paarl Gym, Paul Roos, Paarl Boys’ High and Boland Land­bou, who were us­ing ev­ery pos­si­ble av­enue to pro­duce tal­ented play­ers, start­ing at ju­nior school level.

“Just how im­por­tant is rugby to SACS, Ron­de­bosch and Wyn­berg. Are they mak­ing ev­ery ef­fort to send their play­ers to the zonal tri­als?

“It’s easy to point the blame in our di­rec­tion when things don’t go their way. We had a sit­u­a­tion of a SACS boy be­ing se­lected for the Prov­ince Acad- emy pulling out at the last minute be­cause he pre­ferred to turn out for his school at Cape Schools Week. The be­lief that se­lec­tors favour in­land schools over city teams is laugh­able and un­true.”

As for re­ports of WP play­ing sec­ond fid­dle to ri­val unions in the player-gain stakes, Hanekom wanted to know how many youngsters poached away from West­ern Prov­ince made it as pro­fes­sional rugby play­ers.

“I can’t think of one off­hand,” he said. “Yes, we may lose a qual­ity player here and there, but I can as­sure you we keep the best here in the Cape.

“WP rugby is alive and well with a big fu­ture to come. Our Un­der-19 team con­tains a qual­ity group of play­ers not far off from stak­ing a claim for higher duty.”

Since 2007, 17 boys from the tra­di­tional south­ern sub­urbs schools had been signed up to the WP Rugby In­sti­tute based in Stel­len­bosch.

Some in­clude boys who had not made Craven Week or the Academy team.

“That shows that any young­ster who is pas­sion­ate about the game and maybe a late de­vel­oper is al­ways given a chance,” added Hanekom.

And al­most half the Paarl Gym team (nine played Craven Week) from last year’s un­de­feated team had also been con­tracted.

“This is a clear in­di­ca­tion that WP rugby is a step ahead in find­ing, de­vel­op­ing and fast­track­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of play­ers,” said Bekker

Gym play­ers signed are Ruan Smith, who has been capped at Un­der-18 level for Aus­tralia, his bother JB, fly­half JH Pot­gi­eter, Louis Shreuder (scrumhalf), Jac­qiun Rogers (flank) and tal­ented No 8 Hel­mut Lehman.

It can be con­firmed that William van Wyk has just signed a WP con­tract.

A re­port last week stated that Gym’s SA Schools fly­half had been snapped up by the Blue Bulls.

Ron­de­bosch cen­tre Dar­ryn Berry had been in talks with the Blue Bulls, with noth­ing yet con­firmed.

PROUDLY PROV­INCE: Matt Turner

ALSO STAY­ING: Nic Groom

pic­tures: pe­ter­heeger.com

PAARL GYM TO WP: Ruan Smith (left) and Hel­mut Lehmann

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