The schoolboy rugby season is always preceded by mud slinging between schools, parents and supporters regarding the sudden movement of players during the December holidays. This process is popularly referred to as "poaching" of players.
Rugby claims to be professional for the past 21 years but unfortunately, that "professionalism" is only visible to a few. SARU confirmed that their only involvement in schoolboy rugby is the organising and hosting of the various under age national school weeks and the national schools' side. The day to day management of schoolboy rugby is the duty of the South African Schools Rugby Association.
Unfortunately, efforts to contact the South African Schools Rugby Association proved to be fruitless. Two emails sent to the newly elected president, Mr Noel Ingle requesting the Association's view on "poaching" of schoolboy rugby players and the rugby unions involvement in the selecting of the national week's teams was read by him but unfortunately no response as of yet. The previous president, Mr Thys Bezuidenhout, acknowledged that the problem of poaching is not a "new" occurrence in an interview by News24 on the 1st of March 2015. It seems that the South African Schools Rugby Association either do not have a problem with "poaching" or do not have the will and/or integrity to clarify "acceptable behaviour" when "poaching".
Various schools attempted to regulate poaching but with limited success. Agreements not to "poach" from schools who co-signed this agreement did not last very long and one cannot help to wonder if these agreements signed only protects the schools who was included and does the poaching from omitted schools carry the stamp of approval from the participants of these agreements?
Several schools have stopped competing against known "culprits" but one can not help to wonder if these actions are not just aimed to exclude schools, who is working hard to improve their rugby from competing at the highest levels. Losing to an up and coming rugby school could be damaging to the established school's pride and public image as a top rugby school. So rather discredit and exclude a worthy opponent than losing to them.
It is obvious that the elected representatives of the South African Schools Rugby Association have a lot of work to do if they want to create a level playing field for all schools involved. "Pouching" is done by the majority of schools in various ingenious ways to camouflage their real intent, "poaching" but is also criticised by most of the schoolboy rugby fraternity. At this stage, it is clear that the complete absence of the will/integrity to regulate the "poaching" of schoolboy rugby players and several other serious issues, resulted that the environment in which it operates reminds more and more of a Wild West movie where the smoking gun is seen as the only accepted form of justice.
Finally, I want to state in no uncertain terms that I do not think that the "poaching" of rugby players is in the interest of the child. I must admit that I am aware of children that were "poached" who's living conditions and future improved significantly and serves as proof if done correctly it could be beneficial to the child. My apology to Garsfontein must not be seen as an approval of "poaching" but rather stating and correcting facts in specific cases.
Poaching remains a very emotional issue but as there is no rules and regulations all I can say is Happy Poaching.