Nine years ago Stokkies Truter (then Sports Organizer at HS President, now at HS Tygerberg) approached me about our combining forces to resurrect a festival (the Pat Ambrose Festival) that he had run and I had sponsored at HS Bosmansdam a few years earlier.
In 2008 the first Tony Stoops Rugby Festival, comprising just eight teams, took place at HS President. It was such fun we decided to expand our net. 2009 saw us with ten teams, 2010 brought us 24, which became 34 in 2011 and, believe it or not, 42 in 2012 !
The festival is aimed primarily at sides below the top tier in the Western Province plus anybody else, which seems to be mostly Bolanders, who wants to pitch in. The 2012 crop included a team from KZN, six from the Eastern Cape, six from the South Western Districts and even Noord-Kaap, who graciously agreed to play in the flagship game on the Saturday.
We were able to accommodate so many teams because (a) HS President could offer us four fields (b) Ben Theron, the refereeing equivalent of powdered milk, took personal charge of all the match officials and (c) all the WP and Boland sides simply drove in and out each day. This meant that just some thirteen teams had to find their own accommodation and food – our not providing these enables us to keep the budget manageable.
The 2013 Festival, the first at Tygerberg, involved 34 schools and was an outstanding success, thanks in no small part to the generosity of our sponsors and the accommodating nature of our host school.
C2M came on board as our major sponsors in 2014, a festival which included large doses of Noord-Kaap, Paarl Boys' High, Wynberg and Rondebosch among a field of 44 teams !
With one field, the Welpiekamp, being decommissioned we had to slightly shorten our guest list for 2015. On the plus side, generous sponsorship from Spur Steak Ranches and Profin financial consultants eased our financial burden considerably. Don't forget to visit the dedicated Festival facebook page, set by up by C2M.
In 2016 36 teams attended what proved to be the last festival to be hosted by Tygerberg. We extend our sincere thanks to Dr Wikus Herselman and all concerned at Tygerberg, not only for giving us such a lovely home for four years, but also for being so understanding when subject of the future had to be addressed.
Particularly encouraging was the enrolment of four teams from the northern part of the country: Pietersburg, the team of the festival, Ligbron Academy, Jeugland and Piet Retief.
The transition to Brackenfell in 2017 was as smooth as only Stokkies could make it. 33 schools participated, with Rondebosch and SACS joining us on the first day. First time entries included Groenberg from Grabouw, Pionier from Vryheid, Knysna and Louwville from Vredenburg.
Invitations to the 2018 festival, which takes place at Brackenfell from Thursday 29 March to Monday 2 April, went out on Wednesday 16 August 2017.
Don't forget that the Renosters, chosen at TSRF 2017, are off to tour England and Scotland next week. Forty vibrant ambassadors for the festival ! OK, forty, but I'm sure that Stokkies, Kuyper and Louis will also behave themselves ! Their results (6/6, no less) appear on the last article.
By Thursday 19 October 2017, Brackenfell, York, Schoonspruit, Porterville, Otto du Plessis, Aliwal North, Bellville South, Tygerberg, Piketberg, HTS Bellville, Knysna, Victoria Park, DF Malan, Klein Nederburg, Groendal, Oudtshoorn, Swartland, Bridgton, Hopefield, Fairmont, Monument Park and Sutherland had all signed up, while Alexander Road and Lutzville and a few others have indicated that they intend to be there. Great to be welcoming Groendal (from Franschhoek), Hopefield, Sutherland (from Eldoraigne) and Swartland back after short breaks and DF Malan and Fairmont after longer ones ! Oudtshoorn's Bridgton and Monument Park are the only debutantes so far.