A Luta Continua

Thu, 15 May 2014 11:33
Large schoolboy spectators

The battle for schoolboy rugby players continues and like many internecine battles it produces anger and bitter resentment.

The battle for schoolboy rugby players continues and like many internecine battles it produces anger and bitter resentment.

Despite the statements and promises of ceasing the practice, it goes on with sad results. Very often the process of poaching is the work of the unions who want young players and particularly young black players so that they can conform to the quotas that SARU (and the government) require for teams in their competitions. The Western Cape and the Border area are fruitful hunting grounds for players, it seems.

This year there has been poaching and rumours of poaching. Rumours abound and so do protests of denial but it still leaves unhappy schools.

This year started with the accusations of more than just poaching when two players went from the koshuis at Vereeniging Gimnasium to Dr EG Jansen of Boksburg. Because the boys were removed from the koshuis without permission there was even an accusation of kidnapping. The players were in the Vereeniging Gim Under-14 side last year after being 'recruited' by Gim in Stellenbosch.

Result: Vereeniging Gimnasium don't like Dr EG Jansen

Two Hudson Park players who had been in the highly successful Border team at the Grant Khomo Week in 2013 went to Westville. When there were rumours of the move, Hudson Park claim they contacted Westville who assured them that they would not take the boys. They took the boys.

Result: Hudson Park do not like Westville. In fact they said: 'We have no respect for them and particularly their Deputy-Head who reneged  on his word to our Head. Initially he said that under no circumstances would Westville take them as all applications had to cross his office - afraid it is a “white man talk with forked tongue” situation.'

Two boys, both promising centres, went from Muir in Uitenhage to Noord-Kaap in Kimberley on 'rugby bursaries'. They were unhappy and contacted Lyntin Gouws, the Muir coach, to tell him that they wanted to go back home. He told them how to get the bus back but they were, so the story goes, not allowed out of the koshuis. They phoned Gouws and another plan was hatched. They crawled out of the koshuis through the kitchen and got to a waiting car, organised by Gouws, and then to the bus and a journey home to Uitenhage.

Result: Muir don't like Noord-Kaap.

Jan van Riebeeck played at the Tony Stoops Rugby Festival where awards are made. The best forward award went to Johan King of Jan van Riebeeck, an eighthman. The next thing King was flown to Durban and soon went off to the Kearsney Easter Festival as a Glenwood player. (Glenwood's eighthman Marco Palvie was injured.) King came off the bench in two matches and started in the third. Soon he was winging it back to Cape Town and Jan van Riebeeck.

Result: Jan van Riebeeck don't like Glenwood - or any of the player-grabbing 'big' schools.

SACS, who are not having the best of years, played at the St Stithians Easter Tournament. One of their players was approached by Chulumanco Macingwane, a non-schoolmaster who offered the boy a bursary place at KES or St John's. The SACS headmaster, former Eastern Province scrumhalf Ken Ball, phoned the Johannesburg headmasters who knew Macingwane but said he had no mandate from them to recruit. The boy's mother wrote to Ball to tell him that the boy had been accepted at KES. The new KES headmaster, David Lovatt, told Ball that he had not accepted the boy, who was playing in the SACS 2nd XV, but was interviewing him. There was clearly some 'confusion' of a duplicitous kind. The upshot is that the boys is at KES.

Results: SACS don't like KES. In fact their feelings are more than dislike. SACS will not again play any sport against KES, not even waterpolo.

Those are the most obvious of the rumours, but there are others that include paying a parent or parents to move the son, selectors telling players that they can get them to Craven Week and so forth if only they change schools, provincial agents/employees recruiting at festivals, thereby making festivals less attractive to small schools and big payments by big unions  to move players to schools willing to co-operate with the union.

It is not only from South to North but within northern and southern areas as well. The result is that the strong schools are getting stronger, the weaker schools weaker still.

One of the problems is a disregard for the player's needs. He is just a playing machine. Johan King, a boy from an almost solely Afrikaans environment, was transported to a foreign city and plonked into an 'English' environment. Not academically strong, he was further required to change subjects. It is no wonder that he wanted to go back to Jan van Riebeeck.

A rugby player is not just a playing machine. His rugby experience at school should ideally be part of his educational experience, not the whole experience, not even the most important experience.