Great to hear WP plan to hold on to pick of Craven Week stand­outs

Satur­day Comment

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - GAVIN RICH

O what do you do when an iconic and com­pletely en­thralling se­ries in­volv­ing the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions is over?

Well, if you’re lucky enough to work from home and have time enough to be distracted by the tele­vi­sion while ev­ery­one else is slav­ing in an of­fice, then watch­ing a 19-year-old kid score 98 as No 11 while bat­ting like a lefthanded Kevin Pi­etersen is a pretty good way to fill that empty space.

But I did drag my­self away from the Ashes just long enough to watch the sport that pays for my big-screen tele­vi­sion and the food and drink that keeps my heart beat­ing.

Western Prov­ince played the Blue Bulls in the Craven Week in Polok­wane, and it was a match well worth watch­ing.

It wasn’t just that WP won, and won big, that made it worth­while to spend 70 min­utes of my life watch­ing the game, but the sheer qual­ity of the Prov­ince per­for­mance.

It’s hard to re­call when last a team dished up con­sis­tently ex­cel­lent counter-ruck­ing such as the Cape for­wards did on Wed­nes­day, and there was also plenty of tal­ent on show at the back.

I’m not as crazy about schools rugby as some peo­ple are and have trou­ble some­times with the win-at-all-costs at­ti­tude that th­ese days seems to per­me­ate that level of the game.

Craven Week is dif­fer­ent be­cause it pits provin­cial teams, and po­ten­tial fu­ture pro­fes­sional play­ers, against one an­other, but the tele­vis­ing of ranked matches be­tween schools teams is some­thing I am un­com­fort­able with.

There are only so many places avail­able in pro­fes­sional rugby at the var­i­ous unions, so apart from cre­at­ing young prima-don­nas, the tele­vised games also make it hard for the school­boys who don’t make it im­me­di­ately to the pro­fes­sional ranks to ad­just to the type of rugby they get to play im­me­di­ately af­ter school.

In other words, for an un­der-21 team that plays on a chilly Wed­nes­day night with only your girl­friend, if you’re lucky enough to have one, there to watch you.

I was also on Rassie Eras­mus’ side when, as ef­fec­tively the WP di­rec­tor of rugby, he pointed out that too much of a fuss was be­ing made of school­boys leav­ing the Cape.

Prov­ince doesn’t have a right to ev­ery school­boy that com­pletes his ed­u­ca­tion in the re­gion.

Just as prospec­tive young lawyers, doc­tors and vet­eri­nar­i­ans have a right to broaden their hori­zons by study­ing and prac­tis­ing else­where af­ter school, so do young rugby play­ers.

But when I was watch­ing the game on Wed­nes­day I did keep won­der­ing how many of the WP play­ers were go­ing to be wear­ing the colours of the Bulls next year, so it was pleas­ing to learn that Prov­ince ap­pear to have got it right by re­cruit­ing the cream of the cur­rent crop for next year.

Daniel du Plessis, son of

SMichael, pos­si­bly the finest rugby player I ever saw play, is, ac­cord­ing to the re­ports I have read, stay­ing in the Cape next year.

And so are Jac­ques Ver­meulen, a flank with for­mi­da­ble prom­ise, and No 8 Rikus Bothma. The in­jured SA Schools lock JD Schick­er­ling is also go­ing to be stick­ing around, while some of the best of the young play­ers from else­where, such as the highly re­garded Lions prop Frans van Wyk, are headed this way in 2014.

And yes, it’s good to see WP tar­get­ing front-rankers!

Of course there will be some­one out there who can list a cou­ple of play­ers who are leav­ing, and sure enough there will be a re­port some­where in the com­ing weeks that some player from a lo­cal school who is ex­tremely highly rated by his first team coach and his mother and un­cle is head­ing off to the Sharks Acad­emy or some­where of its ilk.

But you can’t hold on to ev­ery­one as there are only so many spots avail­able in pro­fes­sional rugby squads and at the bet­ter rugby in­sti­tutes and academies, and fam­ily mem­bers aren’t al­ways good tal­ent iden­ti­fiers.

What to do with the tal­ented play­ers who aren’t play­ing is one of the big ques­tions faced by the peo­ple charged with the task of charting the suc­ces­sion plan­ning pro­grammes in each re­gion, and I am not sure it helps a young­ster to be con­tracted to a union where there are so many other tal­ented young­sters that he doesn’t get to play.

If a player that is re­ally good comes through else­where, then the way of the pro­fes­sional era is that you get a chance to buy him back.

It may cost you more in the long run once that young­ster is es­tab­lished, and bud­gets are limited, which is why re­cruit­ment is be­com­ing more and more cru­cial.

But then shouldn’t the ex­tra money payed out for a prodi­gal son to re­turn home not be weighed up against the fin­ish­ing touches that may have been ap­plied else­where if that player by mov­ing has ben­e­fited from op­por­tu­ni­ties he wouldn’t have had at home?

Demetri Ca­trak­ilis, who we hear is re­turn­ing to WP for the com­ing Cur­rie Cup sea­son, is a case in point.

Had Peter Grant been fit Ca­trak­ilis would not have been in line for a game at the Storm­ers this sea­son.

By mov­ing to the Kings, he was guar­an­teed a start in Su­per Rugby, and the ex­pe­ri­ence he picked up at that fran­chise must surely ben­e­fit this re­gion now that he is re­turn­ing.

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