The first rugby game in the new season is but two weeks away and already the accusations of "poaching" of players are doing the rounds. I made an effort to establish the true extent of "poaching" and called four friends.
And I must state that the following is untested and definitely not verified accusations. I will do my best to hide the school's identities that are claimed to be involved. Here we go.
A well-known school who wears white rugby jerseys "poached" a player from a school which is named after an apartheids era president late last year. Apparently, this player was purchased by a rugby union and borrowed to this white jersey school. Two backline players of another school, who appointed the number one recruiting agency in the country to save its rugby, situated in Ekurhuleni also followed a coach to the white jersey school. This new number one school however also acquired players previously "owned" by an old number one school in Pretoria. Then a school from the "Panne" was angered at the white jersey school for "poaching" their tallest boy, eventually losing him to the school in Uncle Stoops' article "We Sow They Reap" and not the white jersey school. Big was the school from the "Panne"'s surprise when the "We Sow They Reap" school "poached" a few other players too. Then the old number one school from Pretoria acquired a few, five, players in order to beef up their under fifteen sides. One of these boys "poached" is attending his third school since 2016. The school from the "Panne" is very unhappy after their 1stXV was raided, forgetting their own efforts in order to upgrade their rugby in previous years. Finally late last year the "We Sow They Reap" school lost their SA Schools player to a school in the Colony due to an early acquirement of a liquidated rugby union in the Colony.
Then the Academic and Athletic College of Gauteng lost several juniors players of high value to a school on a hill in KZN. This school on the hill also "poached" several players from other Gauteng's schools including an English school that does not allow girls close to Hillbrow, the new number one school in Ekurhuleni as well as the Academic and Athletic School of Gauteng. It must be noted that this school on the hill refused to play another school from a surfing city because the surfing school openly admitted to "poaching" rugby players in order to become one of the top rugby playing schools in our beloved South Africa. If you can not beat them join them attitude?
Meanwhile, in a province where a certain colour was incorporated in its name but after freedom, it was decided that this colour connects this province to a history that the newly freed people do not want to be reminded of and "free" is now not preceded by this colour in the new name. In this province where colour seems to be used a lot in naming institutions a certain school who's name does not remind us as of a colour but rather to the almost complete absence of colour decided that a certain school in the Colony's u/16 team of 2016 is overstocked of talent. This almost colourless school's old "pupils", who are not of the female kind tried to convince some parents that moving to this school does not involve Ossewaens anymore and moving will be effortless with the help of these old "pupils". It has to be noted that this school of the Colony where technical skills are more important than academic skills, and the T in its name not negotiable, was previously used as an incubator to a province in Gauteng whose scouts permanent residence should be in the Colony rather than in Pretoria.
Meanwhile, in the Colony, a certain school who's rugby jerseys is very similar to the "We Sow They Reap" school from Pretoria is accused of "poaching" players from school's who does not condone poaching at all, that is publicly at least.
Then we have the "establishment" schools who denies any participation in the "poaching" of players but do admit that parents and old "pupils" may be involved in this "immoral" behaviour. They will also claim that they can not tell parents and old "pupils" how to behave. They treat every application to enrol the same whether a rugby player is involved or not.
All this "skinner" gathered with only four phone calls. Can you imagine the amount of "skinner" we can gather by installing a "help" line?
This brings us to the reason behind the preceding verbal diarrhoea. Is this practice of "poaching" of children acceptable and if not acceptable when does it become acceptable or who is to blame for this unacceptable behaviour.
Is the practice of "poaching" acceptable?
Myself believes that high schools may/must recruit players at grade 7 levels but must thereafter develop their own players to ensure success on the rugby fields. "Natural" migration is also acceptable where parents have to relocate due to several circumstances.
Many schools will, however, argue that due to their struggle to "survive" these methods is necessary as schools that excel in the sporting arena is known to be successful in attracting more than enough pupils to ensure survival. A school like "We Sow They Reap" school is an excellent example of a school who struggled to attract enough pupils and after their successes on the rugby field suddenly can not accommodate all applicants.
A lot of people involved will also denounce this "evil" practise but actively participate in the shadows of rugby dressing rooms and rugby stands.
So to answer this question - there is no answer.
So when does the practice of "poaching" become acceptable?
I presume when it is accepted by the majority of the schoolboy rugby fraternity it becomes acceptable OR when the majority participates in this "activity" whether they publicly agree to it or not.
Who is to blame for this unacceptable behaviour?
It must be stated that children is and never will be the property of any school or parent. A child is a gift entrusted to a parent to love and cherish. South African law, however, gives custody to the parents of the child. If a parent does not agree to the trading of his child this practice will stop immediately. Surely we then may call the parents who are actively involved in the trading of his child the real Devil?
Does this take the partial blame away from the rugby coach, rugby union, rugby agent, old "pupil" and or money? The excuse "the devil made me do it" was not accepted as an excuse in a much-publicised event in the South African sporting world previously and I do not think it will/should be accepted in 2017.
Both parties identified here exhibited the same flaw - GREED. You decide who the real devil is.