Rugby school has its eye on talent

2012-05-12 19:05

Last year marked the 20th anniversary of SA rugby being unified, but Viwe Qegu was not impressed with how rugby had transformed. So she set about doing something about it.

“The idea of the Eye of the Tiger academy came about because of the visible lack of black rugby players in our country,” she says.

“Unification was about the amalgamation of different boards to ensure that there were deep talent pools of all colours. Since then, though, we have not seen black players coming through, but there have been plenty of white players coming through and playing until they retire. That cycle has been continuous.”

The academy was founded last year and has talent catchment areas in Gauteng, the Western Province, Boland, the Eastern Province,

Border and Limpopo. Border and the Eastern Province are black rugby strongholds.

Eye of the Tiger consists of about 400 players ranging from Under-14s to Under-21s.

The first team is picked from the best players in the regions and is based at Queens High School in De Wetshof, Johannesburg.

Qegu hopes the academy will be able to bridge the talent-harnessing gap and get rid of the notion that rugby is a whites-only sport.

“Rugby is still seen as a white sport,” Qegu says. “The minute you talk about blacks in rugby, you get less interest, particularly from sponsors who promote white rugby

in the country, because black rugby still needs to be fast-tracked in the same way white rugby has been catered for.

“Black rugby has been failed at school level and at a talent-pool level. Anybody can play rugby, but you still need a mechanism to pull that talent, embrace it separately and nurture it. That is what is happening with white rugby.”

Qegu, who hails from Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, says her dream for the academy is to see its players representing their provinces in their respective age groups, with those who are exceptionally talented going on to represent the country.

She cites examples of academy players such as lock Victor Seketekete, flyhalf Oliver Zono and centre Ryan Julies, who impressed at the recent Soweto Rugby Tournament.

Seketekete was named the forward of the tournament, Zono the player of the tournament and Julies backline player of the tournament, as well as the top try scorer.

The academy has scouts in its feeder areas, but according to Qegu players heard about the academy through word of mouth and sought it out, saying that it made their recruitment process easier.

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