SA schoolboy rugby ‘among the best’

2014-07-15 00:00

YESTERDAY saw the cream of South Africa’s U18 schoolboy rugby players take to the field in the first round of fixtures at the 51st Coca Cola Craven Week in Middelburg.

In recent weeks, there has been some discussion in the media regarding schoolboy rugby — the size of the players, the win-at-all-costs attitude, the intensity of it all and players bulking up to enable them to take the knocks week after week — but ahead of the week, leading South African Super 15 coaches Jake White (Sharks), Johan Ackermann (Lions), Naka Drotske (Cheetahs) and Allister Coetzee (Stormers) all agreed that schoolboy rugby is an essential building block to producing future players and keeping the game alive in South Africa.

“Schoolboy rugby represents a critical building block in the development of fine young men,” said White. “It is important to produce outstanding young rugby players who can represent their province and hopefully their country.

“Junior rugby in our country has an enviable record around the world and this is due in no small manner to the high quality of coaching and the outstanding school systems in place, which enable us to deliver players of quality, able to perform on any stage.”

Coetzee was in agreement, saying: “Our schoolboy rugby is the breeding ground of our future stars. If rugby is strong at that level, it carries on through the various channels, right to the top. It teaches valuable life lessons such as discipline, teamwork and the realisation that nothing comes easy in life.”

Schoolboy rugby is a tough world these days, yet these coaches are satisfied that as a whole, rugby at this level is more than healthy in South Africa and of a high international standard.

“Our schoolboy structures are robust and we must have the best structures in the world, which is essential for the development of players,” said Drotske.

Ackermann has sons playing schoolboy rugby and he reckons we have a high level, with some schools very professional in how they approach the game.

“If there was a world schools’ league, South Africa would win every year with the likes of Grey College, Paarl Gym and Affies, to name a few,” said Coetzee. “We have some big youngsters at this level and are blessed with serious talent. This is what keeps our rugby strong and competitive at international level.”

With the week still to unfold, the coaches displayed their loyalty by supporting the teams from their regions to be crowned the unofficial Craven Week champions. “Western Province without a doubt,” said Coetzee.

“We have a strong league in the Western Cape, which is diverse and always competitive. The Eastern Cape, where I come from, also always has talent.”

Drotske, who played for the Cheetahs at schoolboy and provincial level, has remained loyal. “I will always back the Cheetahs. Having played all my rugby for them, that is where my loyalty is” he said.

White backed the Sharks and commented on the valuable role played by the province’s school coaches, “who all contribute to the strength of rugby in the country”.

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