“... and away she goes !”  Paul Roos scrumhalf Antonie Kock, who is available again
this year, clears the ball from a ruck during his side’s 9-21 defeat to Paarl Boys’
High at Brug Street on Saturday 27 May 2017. (photo: Poppie Terblanche)


Water is life.  There is absolutely no getting away from the fact.  Therefore, it stands to reason that a lack of that crucial commodity is bound to force communities to resort to making fundamental adjustments to their lifestyle to cope with it. 

By now you’re probably wondering why I’m indulging in moist-eyed philosophising.  After all, this is a schools rugby website.  Well, I’m sorry to say it, but the drought and schoolboy rugby are about to cross paths and, to all intents and purposes – and I don’t mean campers and dolphins – there can ultimately only be one winner.

The water situation is so bad that no-one is even making jokes about new cars being sold with windscreen wipers as optional extras any more. 

All schools and club cricket in the area that falls under the Cape Town municipality was suspended barely a week into the first term and, at an information meeting for all Western Province rugby clubs on Saturday 11 February, all rugby, even practices, was forbidden until 1 June 2018.

Surprisingly, at the time of writing, the schools have inexplicably yet to be summoned to such a meeting.  A schools meeting scheduled for Thursday 8 February – and which might conceivably have at least touched on the subject – had to be cancelled because there were insufficient attendees to form a quorum, ironically maybe because of all the interschools athletics (one sport which has not been affected by any sanctions to date) meetings.

It seems a given that the schools, which provide considerably more rugby players than the local clubs, will be summoned in the very near future.

While some may try to rationalize the situation by saying that cricket requires far more water than rugby as pitches need to be prepared, unfortunately that is counterbalanced by the observation that, without proper maintenance, rugby fields can quickly become relatively dangerous places, an observation borne out by the increased incidence of injuries at the Cape Town 10’s two weeks ago. 

It comes as no consolation that the 10s’ venue, the Hamiltons field in Green  Point, was already in a pretty indifferent state to start with, thanks to the drought.  In fact, it just emphasizes the perils of playing of an under- or unprepared field, where even the sparsest covering of grass might conceal a slight crack.   

The bottom line, then, is that the fields need to be spared physical traffic so that they don’t suffer the irreparable damage, particularly when they will watered less than usual.

But to hold the need to maintain one’s fields solely responsible for the ban on playing and practising the two most popular school sporting codes would be to miss several major points.

In fact, as one well-placed – but, he admitted, not well qualified – acquaintance pointed out, 5 % percent of the water feeds the grass, 5% evaporates into the atmosphere (hence the admonition to water after dark and 90% ends up back in the aquifer.

The usage with which the authorities are so concerned is the associated ones (refreshment, toilets and showers), be that at the sports ground or at home afterwards.

My observation is that schoolboys very seldom shower at the venue after they have played, preferring to slip on their tracksuit and shower at home or the boarding house is thus virtually irrelevant unless all the visiting school’s sides live outside the metropole. 

However, drinking water from the taps and using the toilets are unavoidable.  Chemical toilets cost plenty and one can’t simply inform the visiting school (and one’s own learners) that all the taps will be turned off.

So, one can safely say that everyone is convinced that conservation is paramount.

It is with this holistic consideration in mind that Wynberg cancelled their Winter Sports Festival, scheduled for the last weekend of April, almost immediately after the announcement of the first Day Zero (12 April), decision which earned them widespread praise. It was precisely the reaction one has come to associate with a school that does not simply respond via knee-jerk reactions.

A large part of their altruistic reasoning was that they couldn’t expect the hostels (at other schools) to absorb the water usage incurred by accommodating so many visiting sides.

We at the Tony Stoops Rugby Festival  have not as yet done the same because it is our intention to run a virtually zero-footprint event: grey-water or chemical toilets, supplied water and no shower facilities, all of which has been communicated to the participating schools. 

And before you point out that the players will still be using Cape Town water top shower at home, twenty of the thirty eight teams taking part will be showering outside the Cape Town municipal area, these being Boland sides that commute in and out each day.

As a fall-back, arrangements are well under way to stage the event at a venue in the Boland, which, ironically enough, which will actually mean a reduction in the overall distances travelled by the sides !

If the all the above can be taken as the unstoppable force, then the mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body) dictum is the immovable object.

No right-thinking educator, particularly principals, will deny that sport plays a crucial part in the development of a rounded young person. 

It is all but unthinkable to simply cancel all sport in an instant and not because of the obvious question of what the now-idle pupils will turn their hands to, given no other viable replacement.

Sport has become far more important than just something to do two afternoons a week for an hour and a bit and on Saturday, if the coach likes you. 

In any society there are intelligent pupils and less gifted ones.  In many cases, the latters’ only validation for their self-esteem is found on the sports field.

Those that don’t excel at sport see their flagship team as an extension of themselves, basking in its success and hurting as much as the players, should they lose.

Then, of course, there is the invaluable unifying quality of the 1st XV.  The build-up to the weekly game brings every member of the school body together in support of their heroes.  Win, lose or draw, the game itself is the crucial unifying factor.

This situation is particularly true of South Africa, since the matric exams have become such a watered-down affair that the vast majority of the populace has come to regard a school’s first rugby team’s success as a truer measure of the institution’s actual worth.

Thus, if one cancels sport – and most particularly, rugby – the negative effects are threefold : nothing to do after school in the afternoon, nothing to unite the school on a weekly basis and no way to establish a pecking order among schools.

Nowhere are the first and second points above more perfectly illustrated than in the case of Schoonspruit Secondary in Malmesbury.

Despite it being barely two weeks into the first school term, deputy principal and rugby organizer Vos de Jager agreed to play an Argentinian touring team on Friday 2 February 2018. 

That his lads lost 12-36 – despite a brilliant try in the second minute by nuggety centre Caylo Markus – was unimportant in the greater scheme of things.  All the school’s rugby players formed a guard of honour for the visitors on their arrival before providing them with refreshment.  As usual, the whole community then turned out for the game, with no-one leaving even when it became clear the locals would lose.

You really don’t have to be a guy who puts one of his cars in a rocket to work out that those schools, which unsurprisingly include the WP Premier A schools, with their own independent water supply are going to be well within their rights to carry on unhindered.

South Africans have long since grown tired of the “no normal x in an abnormal y” situation, where “x” is something you have the means to do, but others haven’t, and “y” is deliberately vague, but sounds impressively philosophical.

When it comes down to it, those who cry “It’s immoral” probably just don’t have the water.

As this is written, the WP Schools Rugby Executive is scheduled to meet on Saturday 17 February and are bound to discuss the issue, so some so-called certainty is likely to be known very soon.

Local schools rugby’s Day Zero is a whole lot sooner than June !


Date Team Score
2017-08-26 BOSMANSDAM
2017-08-26 OAKDALE
2017-08-26 WYNBERG