Future rugby stars let down

28 June 2013 - 03:57 By SCHALK MOUTON
Griffon Primary School's star player Boitumelo Tsatsane tries to evade tackles from Koppie Alleen School players during a Coca-Cola Craven Week Under-13 rugby match at Riebeeckstad in Polokwane yesterday
Griffon Primary School's star player Boitumelo Tsatsane tries to evade tackles from Koppie Alleen School players during a Coca-Cola Craven Week Under-13 rugby match at Riebeeckstad in Polokwane yesterday

Almost 20 years into democracy and with R500-million already spent on transformation, efforts by the SA Rugby Union to change the face of the sport are floundering as the government also fails to come to the party.

At the school rugby level, where most rugby development should take place, large unions such as the Blue Bulls are accused of poaching players from the Western Cape to bolster their quotas.

Players' school fees are paid by the schools themselves and players can hope for a possible contract with the rugby union after finishing school. Western Cape principals complain they spend a lot of money on development only for the Bulls to poach the players.

In the Craven Week for high schools - to be staged in Polokwane, Limpopo, from July 8 to 13 - nine out of 22 players in a team should be "players of colour".

"Everybody does it," says Johan Schoeman, manager of rugby development at the Blue Bulls, talking about recruitments from other provinces.

"If the circumstances are such that you walk into a brick wall when you try to get the talent you need in your own communities, then you go and search for it in the Cape," he said.

This year, five players for the Blue Bulls' Craven Week side are from Pretoria's Hoërskool Garsfontein, and all come from the Western Cape.

Dirk Marais, principal of Hoërskool Swartland in Malmesbury, says the Bulls make frequent forays into Western Cape to engage in "wholesale recruitment".

"I have lost my whole 'backline'," said Marais about the Bulls' most recent recruitment drive.

"I spent R35000 to develop one of my top players, Duncan Matthews, and Heyneke Meyer personally came and recruited him."

Garsfontein has even set up a Section 21 company to fund the recruitment and development of players.

Schoeman says though the Bulls are spending "millions" to develop the game in underprivileged areas, they are getting no support from the departments of basic education and sports and recreation.

"There are no facilities; the teachers are not willing to participate in extramural activities and there are no funds," he says.

The Department of Sports and Recreation, which last year spent R46-million on a sports awards gala dinner, has signed an agreement with the Department of Education to take over all responsibilities around sports development at school level.

Itlaunched the school sports programme with the intention to "facilitate the establishment and operation of a national school sport governance and coordinating structure, financially contribute towards hosting national school sport competitions, build the capacity of school sport volunteers, financially support participation in international school sport competitions and monitor and evaluate the delivery of school sport in South Africa".

However, except for a series of national tournaments for the "top schools", Schoeman says the department has not contributed a "single cent" to rugby development.

"We are the guys that drive transformation," he said.

The department could not be reached for comment.

The Blue Bulls have grown the number of "underdeveloped" schools playing rugby by 40%, and now have up to 3000 children competing in games in townships.

"But our Springboks come from private and city schools," says Schoeman, adding that he believes development should be encouraged in schools closer to cities.


THE SA Rugby Union last year carried out a study on transformation in schools and rugby clubs.

The following were some of the key findings of the Saru study:

Of the 570 000 boys who enter Grade 1 each year, only 5% (28358) play first XV rugby in Grade 12;

About 60% of all rugby-playing high schools are in Western Cape and Eastern Cape;

The 251 Springboks capped since unity in 1992 have been drawn from 143 high schools;

About 40% of themcome from only 21 schools - that is 40% from just 1.6% of rugby-playing high schools (or a third of 1% of all high schools).

Breakdown by province of the percentage of rugby-playing schools:

  • Limpopo - 2%
  • North West - 4%
  • Gauteng - 16%
  • Mpumalanga - 3%
  • Free State - 15%
  • KwaZulu Natal - 3%
  • Northern Cape - 18%
  • Eastern Cape - 14%
  • Western Cape - 48%.- Schalk Mouton