WHAT HAPPENED TO “STRONGER TOGETHER” ?

Tony plus award v3

A classy ending to the year !  The star of the 2019 Schoonspruit Rugby Awards Evening late
last year, which I attended as guest speaker, was 1st  XV captain, Keanan Solomons, a lad
who showed exceptional rugby and leadership skills, and who is pictured here
receiving one of his many awards.  (photograph supplied)


In case you haven’t noticed, we live in a highly competitive society, probably one of the most competitive in the world.  In everything we do, be it playing a sport, any sport, or just travelling between robots on a double-lane road, it’s all about coming first.

The flighting of the high schools rugby challenge should therefore have come as a divine gift to arguably the most competitive group of all South Africans : the schoolboy rugby community.

Even more so, if one bears in mind the very real possibility of Craven Week and the other mid-year age-group festivals falling by the wayside unless adequate sponsorship is forthcoming.

Against this dual backdrop, you would think that everyone would be borderline ecstatic that the ultimate answer to all arguments about which school is the best at rugby seems set to be revealed, but, no, even in this moment of heady anticipation, conflict rears its ugly head.

Lots of schools were doubtless consulted when the first feelers were put out as to which schools might be interested.  It seems that this process arrived at six schools (in alphabetical order) : Garsfontein, Grey College, Monument, Paarl Boys’ High, Paarl Gym and Paul Roos.

They have now been joined by Outeniqua, a laudable move, but one that is going to take a lot of teething troubles.  I can’t remember the Quaggas ever fielding thirteen teams on a visit to Cape Town and I know that the likes of York and Knysna are frequently called in to help provide opposition for the otherwise unopposed junior sides from, for instance, the Paarl schools.

I have no doubt that others were unable to accept on the grounds that fielding four Under 19, three U16, three U15 and three U14 sides would pose a problem. 

The prime example of would be Boland Landbou with their non-negotiable learner numbers.  This is a huge pity as the Farmers 1st XV traditionally has amongst the most difficult programmes in the country in terms of the ranking of their opposition.

It is somewhat surprising that neither Oakdale nor HTS Drostdy, who now boast Jake White and Sylvester Booysen on their brains trust, were interested: both have easily the numbers.

However, I digress.

Just when there is feverish speculation about which other teams might make up the Elite Eight, the worst aspects of the competitive/combative nature in some of the supporters of those schools mentioned has focussed instead on the presence of one school : Garsfontein.

Perhaps this animosity stems from the fact that Garsfontein - and their recently confirmed partner school, Parel Vallei - are relative newcomers on the high school rugby landscape, having opened their doors as recently as 1988 (and 1986, respectively). 

An additional reason may be the sometimes-suspect player recruitment methods allegedly employed by the Tshwane school. 

You can safely bet your Christmas bonus on two things : firstly, that the Garsies would have used their end-of-year trip to the Peninsula, ostensibly for a meeting with Parel Vallei, as a smokescreen for a little player shopping and, secondly, that they will never partner with  Swartland !

Just because the other schools mentioned - and significantly, whose supporters have been quick to pour scorn on Garsfontein  - trace their lineage back almost a century or further -  ooh, the Quaggas are a few short of their ton, too ! - can hardly be a sound reason.

It smacks of sheer bloodymindedness, especially when the fires are stoked by supporters of  schools that are fortunate enough to be involved. 

Grow up, damn it !  What entitles you to accept - or turn down - an invitation to an event and then start mouthing off about who else might be attending ?  You can be grateful that the competition doesn’t include academic performance !

Chelsea (1954/55) and Manchester City (1936/37 and 67/68) and boasted exactly three first league crowns between them prior to their receiving huge cash injections over the last fifteen years.  No-one complains about having to play them !  If Garsies can put up, perhaps you should shut up !

Anyway, longevity can hardly be put forward as an important motivation for you as the big four Southern Suburbs schools, all elder statesmen on the map, were never going to be remotely interested for reasons that barely touch on the number of players required to compete. 

I’d say the reason is that they all nurture ambition, a very subjective approach, in which each learner is encouraged to realise his personal potential, albeit in a team context, with the individual’s progress being the ultimate yardstick for success rather than the team result. 

At the end of the day, rugby - or hockey or any other sport for that matter, even at first team level - only contributes to one quarter of the rounded academic/cultural/pastoral/sporting make-up of each learner. 

This contrasts starkly to the staunchly objective attitude of Afrikaans schools in which there is an unquenchable competitive spirit with the learners obsessed with proving that they are the best.

Perhaps these testosterone-fuelled so-called supporters should calm down and take a leaf out of the souties’ book !

Concentrate instead on some of the fascinating hurdles that the organizers of this roadshow will be facing, not least of which is the movement of players between teams, especially between matches.

Let’s say School A’s Under 14 A side is performing so poorly they don’t stand a chance against School B at that level, so they field their A side against School B’s C team, at least picking up something in the process.

Who’ll be around to check the team returns and verify the names ?  Remember : this is going to be a competition, which means that the win-at-all-cost principle reigns supreme.

Birth certificates will have to be in every player’s possession at every game.  Half the kids can’t remember to bring all their kit to a home match, good luck with the paperwork !



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