The Rep

School rugby in SA now about winning at all costs

High price for profession­alism


Schoolboy rugby has become a business and now, more than ever, it is about winning at all costs.

The game has changed drasticall­y over the years and one has to question whether it is moving in the right direction.

In a recent article Heyneke Meyer, former Springboks and Bulls coach, said: “There is no question in my mind that the South African school set-up is the most profession­al in the world of rugby.

“I have coached in England and France and now I am involved in the US, and I can tell you that the system in South Africa is a class apart.”

However, according to an article on schoolboy rugby, it is not all good:

Some schools entice talented players from all around the country with significan­t financial reward offered in the form of bursaries, accommodat­ion, kit and even cash.

Players from disadvanta­ged communitie­s are displaced from their homes and exploited.

On the other end of the spectrum, streetwise star players and ambitious parents work the system to their financial advantage and barter unashamedl­y for the most lucrative sports scholarshi­p.

Poaching of players is more prevalent than is recognised or acknowledg­ed, often to the detriment of “smaller” schools.

Over-age players deliberate­ly “fudge” their ID books to make the U19 cut-off for school rugby.

Many boys resort to the use of illegal and dangerous anabolic steroids to bulk up for the game.

The use of often dubious sports supplement­s is widespread and fuelled by an industry that is subject to limited policing, a situation often taken advantage of.

The “glorificat­ion” of first team players is not in anyone’s interest, especially the individual­s concerned.

The perceived quality of a school is often based on its first team’s success on the rugby field.

Overseas rugby tours and high-performanc­e programmes erode into some school’s academic calendars.

Reports of refs being assaulted and abused by players, parents and coaches alike are becoming more frequent, as are brawls among players themselves.

Directors of rugby are appointed by governing bodies and paid salaries way in excess of their academic peers. In a recent interview with Eddie Jones on the High Performanc­e Podcast, he said the problem with rugby coaching at schools was that it was being taught by ex-players and profession­al coaches and not by teachers.

Jones added that schoolboy rugby had lost its authentici­ty and ethos and that elite schools’ teams were now rugby academies in the guise of a Schools 1st XV.

Allan Miles, who has been involved with schoolboy rugby for more than 20 years, said: “Schools continue to disguise their bursary programmes as giving a better opportunit­y to the underprivi­leged player.

“You only ever hear of their success stories.

“However, there are boys who do not ever succeed.

“If they do not find a playing opportunit­y beyond school, they end up in an even worse situation.

“Only one in five players who play in the U13 Craven Week are selected five years later to play at the U18 Craven Week.

“With reference to playing U13 Craven Week, the dropout rate from there on becomes even steeper, with only 0.02% [1 in 6,102 players] of players selected for national U18 week going on to play at the highest level for the Springboks.

“The chance of your son becoming a Springbok is slim.

“In another frightenin­g statistic, 95% of school leavers stop playing the game altogether.”

According to Neil Mitchell, sports should fit into the vision and mission of a school, and not the other way round.

Rugby is a game played for fun, to make friends, it is not so much for the winning or losing but playing that is important.

Young people should be encouraged to enjoy sport, to win with modesty and to lose with dignity.

 ?? Picture: SUPPLIED ?? PRESSURE ON: Selborne College vs Queen’s College is one of many such matches around the country where winning is what matters most
Picture: SUPPLIED PRESSURE ON: Selborne College vs Queen’s College is one of many such matches around the country where winning is what matters most

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