Posts Tagged ‘Dale College’

SACS takes on KES

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SIMMERING hostility over the poaching of schoolboy rugby talent has finally broken out into open warfare. The South African College School (Sacs), one of the oldest and best boys state schools in the country, has cut all ties with another venerable educational institution, King Edward High School (KES) in Johannesburg. Sacs’ rugby, water polo, cricket and hockey teams will no longer play against KES teams. What precipitated this dramatic gesture was the fact that Sacs arrived at the St Stithians Easter Rugby Festival last month with a squad of 23 boys and left with 22. One of their grade 10 black pupils is now a KES boy. It is suspected that the boy was offered a scholarship to persuade him to switch schools.

The top 24 state boys schools agreed just a few months ago on a sports charter “born of the concern that some of the high-profile sports at our schools are increasingly being driven by noneducational imperatives and affected by questionable (unethical) practices”. The charter rejected the practice of “approaching and offering money to boys to allow or encourage them to switch schools”.

It was agreed that scholarships and bursaries should be offered for academic achievement and financial need respectively, and should ideally be offered only in grade 8.

The charter follows a much angrier response on www.saschoolsports.co.za from Eastern Cape headmasters after last year’s Grant Khomo Week trials for under-16s, a popular hunting ground for talent scouts. At least Sacs and KES are fairly equal. This is not the case for Eastern Cape state schools, the country’s chief incubators of black rugby talent and largely based in much poorer communities.

The headmasters of Dale College, Queens College, Selborne and Hudson Park High School weighed in. Roy Hewett, headmaster of the last-mentioned school, was the most scathing: “Young men are approached in a clandestine way either at, or shortly after, the Grant Khomo Week. They are made financial offers which include free schooling, all expenses paid, clothing and a significant monthly payment, for a contractual commitment to the franchise in question. They are strongly encouraged to keep the knowledge of these negotiations from their schools and often disappear during the third-term break.”

These headmasters argue that the practice impoverishes their schools — they and their coaches have nurtured these boys for many years.

The boys have developed strong loyalties to the school: they are part of a healthy ecosystem in which sporting prowess is only part of their development. Academic achievement and character building are equally important. As rugby stars, these boys are regarded as heroes by their peers and provide inspiration and mentorship to younger boys.

Usually it is the Super Rugby franchises that initiate and fund the transfers. They place boys in stronger rugby schools in Pretoria or Durban. Sometimes, rich schools by promising players to boost their first teams or their quota of black players.

One could argue that these boys are being given a chance to move up in life: a life-changing opportunity for a better education and new networks that could enhance their career prospects.

Too often, though, it does not work out this way.

Frequently the transfer happens in grade 11 because schools don’t want to be saddled with a boy who then doesn’t perform, so they snaffle him to provide the X factor for their first teams in the last two years of school. The boys face hostility from other pupils because they are given a place in the team over others who have worked for it throughout their school career.

Being catapulted into a new school, particularly a largely white, much richer school, for the last two years of one’s school career is bound to be disorienting. The pupil will have been separated from family, community and culture.

And because he has been admitted to this institution purely to boost the rugby team, if he doesn’t perform, he is made to feel a failure.

This cynical use of young boys speaks to the power of rugby. A school whose first team performs well at rugby is considered a good school, regardless of other weaknesses. Parents with resources flock to such schools. Old boys open their wallets more eagerly. Greater resources mean schools can employ more teachers than the government will pay for, which means smaller classes and more individual attention. They can afford playing fields, libraries, computer labs and swimming pools.

Even if a black boy achieves his dream with an under-19 contract at one of the franchises, how far will he get? The racial composition of our elite teams does not bode well.

There is only one black South African Springbok with a regular starting position — Siya Kolisi. Super Rugby teams are overwhelmingly white. This year’s introduction of racial quotas for the lower rung of professional rugby, the Vodacom Cup, shows how many Saru unions have to be forced into giving their black players a proper opportunity.

The increase in tension between schools is regrettable but hopefully will result in the issue being properly addressed.

 

*This column first appeared in Business Day

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SIMMERING hostility over the poaching of schoolboy rugby talent has finally broken out into open warfare. The South African College School (Sacs), one of the oldest and best boys state schools in the country, has cut all ties with another venerable educational institution, King Edward High School (KES) in Johannesburg. Sacs’ rugby, water polo, cricket […]

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We should look at the real rugby factories

News | Non Fiction | South Africa 0 No Comments

 

A couple of months ago, in the final fixture of the school year, Dale Junior School’s Under 13A team beat Bishops 13A by 50 points to 5.  It was not the first time. In 2010, a touring Bishops Under 13A team got beaten 50-nil by Dale. This so intrigued me, given that Bishops is one of the richest schools in the country and Dale a struggling state school in one of our worst run provinces, that I headed to KingWilliamstown to investigate.

I found a veritable little rugby factory:  there are 500 boys and almost all of them play rugby. The 10 male teachers all double as rugby coaches.  They coach for four hours a week and the boys put in two hours of practice every day.  Obviously this produces great rugby. But it was the by-product that I found most interesting: two thirds of these boys come from single parent families so the coaches double as father figure.  It is from the coaches that these boys absorb what it is to be a man. And it’s all good, from what I could see: they learn discipline, team spirit, respect, confidence, emotional resilience and how to channel aggression into a measured fearlessness.

A little further up the hill is the senior school,  another grand, colonial era  building.  Here the picture is less rosy.  Despite its best efforts, Dale College suffers from the eco-system in which it operates.  Here the boys reach that adolescent growth phase where protein is crucial to building muscle and strong bones. Instead, poverty dictates that the boys eat bread three times a day.  Because the school has a 98% matric pass rate in a sea of failing schools, it attracts pupils from as far as Mdantsane, 50 kilometres away. Getting to practice and matches means hustling for extra taxi money.

Dale has a small, basic gym. Their rugby coach doubles as buildings administrator because they can’t afford a full-time coach.  The only help they get from their local SARU union, Border, is some part-time coaching from one of their coaches, which the school has to pay for.

This is in sharp contrast to schools like Bishops, Paarl Gym or Grey College who have entire departments devoted to rugby:  specialist coaches, biokineticists, physiotherapists and state-of-the-art training equipment.  What Dale has in abundance is talent, passion and culture. In the lofty corridors at Dale,  I encountered the same sort of courtesy  as I get from the boys at St Johns or Bishops. As the coach, Grant Griffiths, pointed out: “You couldn’t ask for a better bunch of boys. They are so polite, so humble, so hard-working.’

I stayed on for their annual derby against their traditional rival: Queens College from nearby Queenstown, another 90% black school still steeped in the traditions of British public schools. Aside from the game itself, – which Dale won 21-8 – what I found fascinating was how both schools had integrated the various traditions.  At the start of the game, the boys massed in stands at the edge of the field – Queens all in yellow; Dale in red and black – sang their traditional school songs. Initially these were in English and  Latin. As the game progressed, the drums got louder and the songs switched to isiXhosa. The boys told me that, at home,  they tap their elders for ancient war songs and apartheid-era struggle songs and integrate them into a repertoire.

The point of all this is that this is where we should be looking if we want more black Springboks.  It is schools that produce Springboks. Since 1992,  some 21 schools have produced 40% of all the Boks capped since then.  All these schools are either private schools or former Model C schools, which means that most of their pupils are white. This is why we produce so few black Springboks.  The obvious solution is to strengthen former Model C schools which are now mostly black. Like Dale College. Bishops – which Dale consistently beats the hell out of in the junior years – goes on to produce twice as many Springboks. Six to Dale’s three.  And that is simply a case of better resources. The most productive is Grey College in Bloemfontein, with 22 Boks. Second is Paarl Gymnasium with 10.  Both these schools have highly organized and committed old boys’ organisations who pump funds into the schools.

By contrast, Dale, which has in the two decades since apartheid ended, transformed from a wholly white school to a predominantly black one, gets very little help from its old boys.  The only sponsorship it gets is R40,000 from FNB every alternate year for the hosting of its Classic Clash against Queens.

If we want the Springboks to become consistent world-beaters, we need to be nurturing talent wherever it is to be found.  And it is to be found in abundance at Dale. It seems to me an opportunity waiting to be seized: it costs only around R30,000 a year for tuition and boarding fees. Putting a boy in the hostel means he will be properly fed and won’t have to beg for taxi money to get to practice.   Invest in the same coaches, mentors and training equipment that Bishops and Grey Bloem enjoy and you’d soon find yourself with another Springbok factory.

 

McGregor is author of Springbok Factory: What it Takes to be  Bok (Jonathan Ball Publishers R195)

This column first appeared in Business Day

 

 

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  A couple of months ago, in the final fixture of the school year, Dale Junior School’s Under 13A team beat Bishops 13A by 50 points to 5.  It was not the first time. In 2010, a touring Bishops Under 13A team got beaten 50-nil by Dale. This so intrigued me, given that Bishops is […]

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