The resumption of schools rugby is a welcome relief for all who love the game, writes former Springbok STEFAN TERBLANCHE.
Schoolboy rugby is back and I am not 100% sure who is more excited; the school boys or their dads. One thing looks certain: we will have some action on schools rugby pitches this year, but no spectators will be allowed at this stage.
Administrators and rugby directors are working in all earnest to put together a rugby season after the directive was passed by the department of basic education for rugby to resume at schoolboy level.
The directive came with a plan to implement return to play, adhering to protocol and safety measures, for a kick-off date of 23 April.
In 2020, Covid-19 destroyed many a Grade 12 learner’s dream of playing for his 1st XV and the potential of representing his province at Craven Week. At one point we could almost see 2020 repeating itself and we were all worried that the 2021 season could be over before it even began.
School sport has always been a wonderful celebration of the game that has led to many good-natured conversations, particularly among parents. Whether we were next to the rugby pitch, around the braai, or even at business meetings, the ice is so often broken with the question of ‘which school did you go to?’
Schoolboy rugby is more than just rugby. We have had the heated debates on what exactly is happening to the schoolboy game and what state of affairs the game is really in. I would rather not go into that debate right now (I will most certainly do that again later this year), but for now I would just like to enjoy this moment for a while and dream of schoolboys roaming the beautiful rugby pitches across the country.
As mentioned so many times before, and one thing every South African will agree on, is that South Africa has the most untapped and most naturally gifted rugby players on this planet. For us as a rugby-playing nation it is crucial that we get this hotbed of natural talent back to the playing fields for the survival and continuity of rugby.
People often ask me what I think of schoolboy rugby and am I excited about the future. I can’t wait to be honest, but I do believe a few things might change and that the gap between certain schools will open up a bit more and that more schools will be able to compete at the top level.
Why do I say this? Traditionally old Model C schools like Grey College, Paul Roos, Glenwood, Monument and Affies ruled the roost with regards to schoolboy rugby results, with many of their players representing their provinces at Craven Week, while a host of Bok players have come out of these schools. Lately, though, a few private schools had good results and even a few players representing the Boks at national level.
With Covid regulations as they stand, no spectators will be allowed at any games, but what does that do for the game at schoolboy level? Many of us will still remember the buildup to a Saturday game with war cries all week and the seemingly never-ending tunnels formed by schoolboys and girls for the teams running on to the field. For many schoolboys, this was often the highlight of the day, never mind the result.
I believe we will lose many of these kids playing rugby for fun and that the absence of spectators at schoolboy rugby games will have an effect on the quality of the game and interest shown by other schoolboys to attend.
Please bear in mind that a Michaelhouse vs Hilton game can draw crowds of up to 7 000 and that Paarl Gim vs Paarl Boys can take that number up to 25 000. That’s more than most Currie Cup games before Covid.
In closing, I am over the moon to have schools rugby back and will take it for now, but let’s hope we can open the gates soon!
Photo: Frikkie Kapp/Gallo Images