In the mid-2000s Stokkies Truter (then Sports Organizer at HS Bosmansdam) and I combined our resources to present, for two years, the Pat Ambrose Festival, named after a much-loved governing body member whose legendary generosity made him an outstanding member of the Botrhasig community.
In 2007 Stokkies, now at HS President, suggested we get together again to start a new - and hopefully - more permanent festival.
And so, 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 with ten teams attend, 2010 brought us 24, which became 34 in 2011 and, believe it or not, 42 in 2012 !
The festival is deliberately aimed at sides below the top tier in the Western Province plus anybody else, which seems to be mostly Bolanders, who wants to pitch in.
We were originally 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, making accommodation simple.
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 of Tygerberg's fields, 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.
In 2015 another of Stokkies' dreams - to send a festival selection overseas - was realised when the Tony Stoops Rhinos visited Ireland. In 2016 the team toured Portugal and in 2017 two teams took to Scotland and the north of England. Their exploits have appeared on the end of season posts on this site. More details can be found on the Renosters facebook page so lovingly created and cared for by Stokkies' wife, Sanette.
We celebrated our tenth birthday at Easter 2018 and were extremely grateful and proud that both Brito's Meat Centres and Greens Plattekloof, the coffee and breakfast destination of choice on the border of the Boerewors Curtain, were both there toasting our partnership over the years. Brito's Meat Centres generously agreed to be the title sponsors, while another major sponsor, Domino's Pizzas, sponsored each Man of the Match (all 63 of them) with a voucher for their scrumptious products, which were also on sale at the ground.
Despite a scare provided by the water shortage, the 2018 festival went off as smoothly as ever. There was lots of rugby, lots of camaraderie and as much pizza as you're ever likely to see in one place. The teams chosen at this event travelled to France in the September holidays. Fortunately, that country's youth rugby teams weren't quite as strong as their World Cup soccer side.
The 2019 Festival, with Seeff Estates as flagship sponsor, was another rousing success, especially in that we managed to uphold our commitment to giving new teams an opportunity to participate. Melkbosstrand, Bergvliet, Namaqualand and Vanrhynsdorp all had the time of their lives, as did the delightful Paarl Gym Eagles side. Well, it sure looked like they did ! Dominos provided pizza to the Men of the Matches, Greens generously forked out for the medals and trophies and Vredenburg were the Team of the Festival, since they won all three games. That's all they won all season ! The terrible trio (Stokkies, Kuyper and Louis) took the select teams overseas again in September to Wales and England, winning three of their five matches and lots of English hearts !
We were delighted to announce that Centurion Academy, based near Tyger Valley, had come on board as main sponsors of our 2020 event. While relatively new to the Western Cape, this tertiary-level institution, offering a wide range of courses, is well known up north. Regrettably the coronavirus struck a week before the scheduled kick-off, causing the festival to be cancelled.
It's now mid-October 2020 and hope springs eternal that we will be able to have a festival over Easter 2021. This most nomadic of events is moving to its fourth home, De Kuilen in Kuils River, after Brackenfell felt, quite understandably, that, what with the Brakkies Sportnaweek just a week before TSRF, the fields, idle for so long because of the virus, would find it difficult to recover from the intense battering of more than a hundred games in four and a half days.
Invitations went out on 7 October 2020 and twenty nine teams - Alexander Road, Ashton Secondary, Bridgton, Cederberg Academy, Cillié, De Kuilen, Fairbairn College, Groenberg, Groendal, HTS Bellville, Jakes Gerwel Tech, Klein Nederburg, Knysna, Langenhoven High, Lutzville, Monument Park, Namaqualand, Noorder Paarl, Otto du Plessis, Paulus Joubert, Piketberg, Porterville, Schoonspruit, Scottsdene, Stellenbosch, Sutherland, Vredenburg, WP LSEN and Weston - have confirmed that they will be attending.