Rugby is a school in Warwickshire, England. It gave its name to a game they played, a game that, to many, is best played at schools. But why did they play it?
At Rugby School the game was played for three reasons - to curb the riotous tendencies of boys in the burgeoning public schools by tapping off their surplus energies, by giving boys the chance to exercise leadership for the games were run by boys, and to develop tough, muscular men who could govern an empire with all the physical demands of an age well before cars and air travel, telephones and e-mail.
In essence those three reasons still exist. The legendary Bishops coach, Piley Rees likened the start of the rugby season to the lancing of a boil. Life in a school was much easier in rugby season. There are chances for leadership and prestige through playing rugby and it does give boys a great opportunity for physical development in a school of hard knocks.
In fact if we could get more youngsters in South Africa to embrace rugby and to play it the right way, we should solve so many social problems.
We could look at reasons for playing rugby at schools. That could lead us to the way we play rugby in schools. We shall start by putting down some reasons.
1. It is part of the development of the whole boy.
Rugby at schools is not an end in itself. It is part of the development of a balanced boy who can take success and disappointment, who can take hard knocks, and do it all within the interdependence of a team. Not to suffer the disappointments of sport - losing, injury and being dropped above all - would do a disfavour. In the same way disappointments do a favour in developing a sympathetic human being.
The greater the pressure the more important the discipline; so what better way to teach a boy self-control, teamwork, leadership, courtesy, self-respect, respect for others than a pressure game like rugby. It teaches valuable lessons that sometimes even parents cannot teach.
In an age becoming increasingly sedentary and obese a game like rugby is great for physical development and control. It is the sano corpore part of mens sana in corpore sano.
Running, jumping, catching, passing, tackling, kicking, grabbing, stretching - all develop muscles and motor skills.
And it is a game that gives opportunities for all shapes and sizes and expects a full contribution, regardless of shape and size.
2. It is an adventure.
There are fewer adventures for the modern boy - no chance to run away to sea or roam wide lands. Rugby is a chance for a boy to take risks.
3. It knocks off the edges.
In a team sport such as rugby, players have to depend on each other. They learn the massive loyalty that will cling onto the needs of the team.
Players do not have secrets from team-mates and that great camaraderie builds confidence.
4. It provides leadership opportunities.
Each team has a captain and each player is the captain of his position, needing to make clear-cut decisions quickly and take responsibility for them.
5. It can provide job opportunities.
Not soccer, tennis or golf, rugby nonetheless can provide serious job opportunities for players, administrators, referees and media people.
6. It can enhance the profile of the player.
He can become an hero and a role model even while he is at school. It is good for societies - and a school is a society - to have a in their midst those who can draw others on to be better.
7. It enhances the profile of the school.
Schools are proud of their achievers. You have only to see the squabbles and boasting at how many Springboks a school has to know that having players who do well - from Under-13 Craven Week to Springboks - bring kudos to the school.
Who would bring more kudos - a cabinet minister, a millionaire, an archbishop, a pop star, the man who climbed Everest or a rugby Springbok?
There is the simplistic belief: We beat you; therefore we are better than you.
8. It is a marketing tool.
In recent times, schools with high standards have sought to keep their high standards at a cost. They have improved facilities and, above all, employed additional staff. To do this they need money. That gave birth to a 'marketing department'. without a doubt the most marketable aspect of a South African school is the 1st XV. Exam results, choirs, plays, cricket, athletics and so on are all fine but rugby is what grabs the attention.