Graeme Stewart – Penryn College Head of Rugby & 1st XV Coach
I grew up in Middelburg Mpumalanga, having played rugby for my school’s 1st XV and Middelburg Rugby Club. After school I studied at Tukkies doing a B.Comm (Accounting) degree and playing hostel rugby. It was then that my path ventured away from rugby and I became a spectator. I completed my Articles with the auditing firm KPMG and practised as an accountant. After two year of this, I had the hunger to not only be a “taker”, but to also become a “giver”. I decided to enter the school environment and became a teacher and rugby coach. That was 6 years ago and I have never looked back. I have subsequently obtained my PGCE; B.Ed (Hons) Education Management & am currently doing my M.Ed (Education Management)
Working with these boys and playing a part in not only developing them into rugby players, but also into quality young men is awesome! These days as more and more top schools appoint professional coaches and ex-players it is rewarding to see that teachers are still involved in most schools 1st XV’s.
Part of my coaching philosophy is that a quality rugby player will also be a quality individual off the field, at school and at home. This is touched on in our weekly team meetings and there is a measure of accountability, as the players know I follow their progress off the field as well, be it in terms of social aspects, behavior or academic performance at school.
Penryn College is co-ed school with 213 boys of which 130 play rugby. We have 5 rugby full-time rugby teams.
Many of our boys who enter Grade 8 have never played rugby before, so we not only coach them, but have to educate them and create a passion for the game as well.
I have been the Head of Rugby for 3 years and 1st XV coach for 2 years. In that time what has stood out for me is not only our results, but also the number of boys who play rugby at Penryn has increased dramatically and there is an increasing rugby culture at the school. In 2015 our 1st XV were crowned Mpumalanga Medium Schools Champions for the first time and we successfully defended this title in 2016 being undefeated in the league. What added to this success was our 2nd XV were also undefeated in 2016 and league winners. This was another first for our school.
One of the highlights of the season was the effect the 1st XV had on some of our non-rugby playing boys. An example of this is on our annual derby day where we normally only have a 1st and 2nd XV in the open age category, we had 28 players in the 3rd XV – the sight of 13 reserves fighting for a space on the 3rd XV bench was highly rewarding for me. This definitely caused the 2nd XV to improve and ultimately improved the performances of our 1st XV as well.
From a coaching perspective I have immersed myself in the game and am learning at every opportunity I can. I have completed my IRB Level 1 & 2 as well as attended the Investec Rugby Academy Advanced Coaches Course. I was privileged enough to be selected as one of the Assistant Technical Analysts for the Steval Pumas during their 2015 Currie Cup campaign. This insight into professional rugby and analysing a match to produce relevant data and statistics as well as constructive player feedback, has benefitted my coaching immensely. Watching the professionals was highly motivating and it was re-assuring to know that many of the principles they use are similar to what I also implement at school level.
Being a smaller school with multiple sports on offer to a limited number of boys has its challenges. Part of my role is to make the sport of rugby attractive and ensure that we have competent enthusiastic coaches to ensure each and every practice is constructive and fun for the boys.
Being a rugby coach is really fantastic, we get to spend our time working with great young men and transforming their lives whilst doing the sport we all love – you can’t call this work!
In addition to being the 1st XV coach & Head of Rugby at Penryn College, I am also a House master and Accounting & EMS teacher