In my first year of High School, we were told it is compulsory to play a winter sport. Our choice was Hockey or Rugby. The majority of the lads chose to play rugby. The day we had our trials I was absent so when I went to the next training I found myself in the under 13f team. That is six teams for that age group.
My school was by no means one of the top rugby schools in the area never mind in Johannesburg. This may give you an idea of the culture of rugby there was and still is in South Africa.
One of the biggest fixtures in school rugby in Johannesburg is Jeppe boys v K.E.S it has been known that close on 15 thousand spectators turn up for this match. Both schools are relatively close to Ellis Park and the Lions during the mid 2000’s struggled even to get 10 thousand spectators at their games.
The culture of rugby in schools in South Africa has long been established and to a large degree is self perpetuating. I don’t recall any SARU involvement in my school coaching. My point is the culture of rugby in SA schools is so good without any help from SARU. The first time that SARU seems to be involved is at Craven week.
As I have been coaching youth rugby in England for the last seven years I would say I am in a position to compare school rugby in England to that of South Africa. The intensity, the physicality, the speed , the aggression of the South Africans is so much higher than the English. Then how come English rugby improves so much from school level through all the next levels until national level by so much.
In South Africa there does not seem to be a system in place that maintains the upward trend of improvement from when a player leaves school until he reaches Currie Cup or Superrugby level.
Why is this? Plain laziness from adminstrators that should be working hard to ever improve the game in SA.Coaches that are not getting the results are kept in their positions maybe because it is an ‘old boys club’ or maybe it is because the administrators don’t care.
Dawie Theron has repeatedly failed to win the u20 championship and as each year has passed the u20’s have finished further and further behind teams that have been proactive in their development of their youth rugby. Yet Dawie Theron was kept on until he got an offer in Japan and left of his own accord.
After a dreadful season for the Bulls where they finished 9th on the overall log. Fans of the former champions were distraught at the fall of this once powerful franchise. Frans Ludeke felt so unwanted he decided to resign.
After being in charge of the Springboks for four years and doing nothing to develop the game in South Africa, doing nothing for transformation and …oh yes!!!!! …..losing to Japan and losing to Argentina for the first time. Heyneke Meyer felt the sting of a discontented public and resigned as coach.
When coaches are not getting the results their employers are allowing them to continue in their positions using the media as a weapon to defend their failings as coaches. In what other business could you get away with consistantly failing to reach targets and still hang onto your job?
There seems to be a lack of desire in SARU to improve rugby standards whether this be due to laziness, stupidity or corruption probably all three we as a rugby public deserve better. The Lions rugby union has seemed to have it’s house in order and this did not come about easily. John Mitchell confronted administrators head on whilst coaching a team and mentoring current succesful Lions coach Johan Ackermann. John was eventually pushed out but the legacy he left behind has had a positive effect on Lions rugby.
I’d love to know the merchandise figures over the last few years for the Lions because the Lions brand is increasing in popularity. The Lions should be used as a template for all the franchise’s and the Springbok’s
There is a major void between the fantastic school rugby culture and what happens thereafter in South Africa. Administrators appointed the latest coach of the Springboks who is totally out of his depth and has not had the decency to resign yet.