King’s trip truly unforgettable
KING’S School rugby players got to the heart of Africa on a rugby tour none of the 52 players will ever forget.
Accompanied by six staff and a retinue of travelling parents, King’s played some of the toughest rugby schools in South Africa, as well as township sides making the most of their meagre resources.
Though they saw the magnificent landscapes of the Veld, experienced the high life of the cities and encountered incredible wildlife in Kariega game reserve, the lasting impressions were made making new friends in the townships and teaching in local primary schools.
Their first game was in the wilderness against a Leopards RUFC District development side, effectively a select township side. In a hard battle on rock-hard ground the first XV won 24-7 with the seconds producing a 24-0 victory.
However the true highlights – as in any great rugby tour – came after the game when their hosts held a braii with some traditional drumming.
The young men donated kit and ties to the township lads, many of whom had never sat down and shared a meal with a white man before, as King’s rugby coach Guy Mason revealed: “That’s incredible, given the last 20 years of change.”
The tour then moved on to tough uncompromising challenges on the field, playing the cream of South African youth rugby.
King’s fielded three sides against Jeppe High School for Boys side, the oldest state school in Johannesburg and one of the top 10 schools in South African rugby.
Indeed, the previous weekend had seen their derby clash televised on the South African version of Sky Sports. King’s came agonisingly close in all three games with the third XV losing 12-3, the seconds 22-10 and the first XV losing by a single point 13-12.
Battle weary, they then played Muir College in Port Elizabeth. However, it was being asked to help in the local primary schools and work with marginalised children on literacy and numeracy projects that most inspired the young men.
From there the party moved along the coast to Port Alfred and then inland to the Kariega game reserve.
It was another rare experience with the students based in lodges seeing elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo, giraffe, zebra and hippo on a series of safari drives.
They played their best rugby at Point High School in the idyllic setting of Mossel Bay.
The first XV won 33-17, the second XV drew 7-7 and the third team won 13-8. They held their awards dinner in the world-famous wine making capital of Stellenbosch.
Next they spent two days in Cape Town and visited the test rugby and cricket grounds at Newlands, and the South Africa Rugby Experience and Museum with a memorable day trip to Robben Island to see Nelson Mandela’s prison cell.
In the final set of fixtures they were pitted against the redoubtable Paul Roos High School, who put out 26 teams every weekend.
The second XV lost 41-13 and, in 70 minutes of ferocious rugby at the first XV level, King’s defended superbly stopping the South African muscle men crossing their line but went down 3 – 0 to a solitary successful penalty.
Guy Mason added: “The tour was exceptional and a great experience for boys and staff, both on and off the field.
“Everyone made memories that will last a lifetime.
“The rugby was brutal and bruising, but I am extremely proud of the boys and how exceptionally well they conducted themselves.
“We can all be very proud of our final scores in a land where rugby is almost a religion.”
●● Johnny Hammill makes new friends in a South African primary school