In with a shout ?
  Even players from small Boland schools like Barrydale (in green),
seen here playing Edgemead at TSRF 2014, will fancy their chances of impressing
the selectors, thanks to the new trials formula. (photo: Eleanor Muller)

To their immense credit the high schools rugby executive committees in the Boland and Western Province have adopted significantly revamped selection systems which should ensure that no learner eligible for selection for an Under 18 (or U16) side in the two provinces will be able to hide behind the blanket accusations of bias in the selection process.

Up to now the only manageable way to cover the huge expanse that is the Boland has been through a less than equable system of trials involving teams representing each of the regions.

This has on occasion given rise to mutterings about certain schools’ trialists being favoured ahead of other equally worthy candidates due to selectorial bias.

Let’s use Augsburg Gym as an example.

Through no fault of their own, the Clanwilliam lads always seem to dominate proceedings in the North West zone.

Unsurprisingly, the trials result in a preponderance of their players in that zone’s team, meaning, in turn, that the school tends to produce proportionately more Boland schools caps than one might expect simply due to the numbers of their players appearing at the inter-district trials.

So any solution to this and any other perceived issues needed to be one that subjected all the available talent to the same sifting process. In other words, the selectors had to see absolutely everybody for themselves.

And so it is that, in the space of one week at the end of April, the wise men have arranged three days at separate venues at which a total of no fewer than 80 schools will have a chance to impress.

Nor are these events – provisionally penciled in for Labori (Saturday 25 April), Worcester Gym (Monday 27 April) and Dirkie Uys (Friday 1 May) – going to be remotely region-specific.

Much thought has gone into ensuring that the programmes do not include a single match between teams scheduled to meet during the regular season.  The final arrangements and all fixtures involving teams covered on this site will be posted as soon as they become available.

No matter how daunting it looks, it is quite feasible. All three days are holidays for learners. If a school offers the excuse that they are unwilling to buy into the system, that’s their loss.

Almost on cue the often much-maligned Western Province selectors have adopted a very similar strategy, which is going to go some way towards defusing the annual mistrust, come trials time.

The basis for the southern suburbs schools’ justifiable dissatisfaction with the old set-up is best explained by looking at the simple facts.

Three regions – Country, Central and Southern – each divided into four zones catered for the 152 teams.

Each zone had one, shall we say, seeded team: the eight Premier A sides plus Strand, De Kuilen, Tygerberg and Stellenberg.

So far, so good.

The Southern region’s four zones consisted of Bishops (+25 schools), Rondebosch (+14), SACS (+14) and Wynberg (+13), but the other two regions bypassed logical explanation.

The Country region’s teams were divided as follows : Paul Roos (+5), Paarl Boys’ High (+8), Strand (+5) and De Kuilen (+7).

The Central region featured Paarl Gym (+7), Boland Landbou (+8), Tygerberg (+8) and Stellenberg (+16).

Problems. Big ones. In spades.

The uncomfortably large numbers of schools in each of the southern zones were a minor issue when compared to the inexplicable inclusion of Boland Landbou and Paarl Gym in the central region.

Since each of the three regions were evenly represented (one squad each) at the first round of trials proper, the disgruntled suburbanites quite reasonably concluded that the splitting into different regions of the Winelands Four had been effected with the dual purposes of doubling those schools’ chances of provincial selection while simultaneously halving the opportunities for their Southern region counterparts.

Even worse, this plot all but put paid to the aspirations of players from the Premier B teams, most of whom were situated in and around Bellville, the Central region. These sides all desperately needed the carrot of potential provincial selection to dangle in front of promising youngsters who might otherwise head for greener, possibly wine-producing, pastures.

The result, the aggrieved majority felt, would be a worst-case scenario like the following: the Country regions trials squad consisting of fifteen Maroons and a similar number of Boishaaiers; the Central one, similarly divided between the Gimmies and the Farmers, and the Southern selection including eight each from Bishops and Wynberg and seven from Bosch and SACS. From there on, I’ll leave the maths up to you.

So, not only would justice not be done, but no effort would even be made to try to disguise the fact !

The icing on the top of the volcano (OK, not for long) was – and still is, believe me – the festering deep-seated dissatisfaction surrounding the very inclusion of these out-of-town institutions in Western Province schools rugby in the first place, when, in every other sport, they represent Boland.

Now, however, WP have announced a workable well-balanced trial format, to be overseen by the experienced 2014 WP and SA Schools coach Hein Kriek, one that, while still leaving the door open for talented players in any of its 152 schools, not only lends more weight to the Premier A and B outfits, but does so fairly.

But life is going to be hectic for the various participants. The initial nomination and trial phase has to be completed between 13 and 20 April 2015, by which time the eight Premier A sides will have to produce four teams and the Premier B teams, three.

The relevant circular makes it quite clear that all the elite squad members (fifty of them) must be included in the four Premier A selections. This means that there will only be forty or so places up for grabs for those top-tier players who missed selection for the elite squad, and then only if each of the squads comprises 23 players !

In the next stage these seven sides and nine others made up of players from the lower tiers will play trials at HS Bellville on Saturday 2 May.

In the course of the following three weeks three sides will be chosen to take on their Boland counterparts in the traditional final trial fixtures at Boland Park in Wellington on Wednesday 27 May 2015.

There is bound to be the occasional teething problem, but one backward glance at the perceived injustices of the past should motivate the doubters to give these new initiatives a chance.




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