The Craven Week is an annual rugby union tournament organised for schoolboys. The tournament started in July 1964 and is named after the legendary Springbok player and coach Dr Danie Craven. The tournament has its humble beginnings in an idea by Piet Malan, then Springbok flanker, in 1949, around the time of the SARU's 75th anniversary. He wanted schools to feature in the celebrations and approached Danie Craven on how this could be done.
This tournament was held to celebrate schoolboy rugby and the "final" was played between the two teams who played the "best" rugby during the week. The meaning of "best" was never stipulated and was seen by many to be manipulated so that the management's favourite provinces could play in the final.
In 1974 the first national schools' team was chosen, albeit against Danie Craven's wishes as he believed Craven Week should remain a festival and not a competition or form of trials. He was over-ruled and since 1974 a national team has been selected on the back of Craven Week.
Since then the noble idea of the Craven Week is long forgotten. Parents are using this opportunity to start trading with their children. During the u/13 Craven Week, last week, I was absolutely astonished at what lengths parents will go to get the best "deal" for their children. Anyone seen with a pen and notepad was immediately approached by parents, bombarded with their kid's achievements and what the parent thinks their child is worth. Many a time I overheard someone saying that this school offered that boy that package and their boy was a better player and they won't settle for less.
Even myself was made an offer by a beautiful lady, apparently a single mom, that was willing to do anything to get the right contract for her 13-year-old. Obviously, I declined the offer with as much tact that I could. But must admit after a few seconds of soul searching I started to write my groceries list over and over again.
A lot of talk was done on the WP u/13 side, who apparently lost against SWD last year at an u/12 week. This year three of the SWD boys were entered in a school in the Paarl and subsequently chosen for WP. One of these boys disappointed to such an extent I questioned the representative of the WP why this boy is playing, as I am sure that WP does not need token players. The healthy attitude of winning at all costs? And yes everybody heard the excuses why boys transfer from one school to another, even from one province to another, really.
During the u/16 tournament, the favourites lost a very tight and exciting game on the first day. Beaten by passion and passion alone. The second day it was remarkable that the support for this team has vanished together with their flair and attitude towards the game. Winning at all cost and if you fail rather stay at home? Maybe this attitude came from the parents as they exhibited exactly that by stopping their support after the first day's lost.
Today I visited Kearsney ahead of the opening day tomorrow. The excitement is everywhere to see and hear. Boys practising the Anthem. Exhibitors setting up their stalls. Groundsman, tv crews and security all hard at work. Everybody was excited. Except for some of the main stars. One boy reckons that he will just go through the motions as he already signed with a province and Craven Week will not affect his future. He is not willing to risk serious injury. A representative of a big union informing his coach to play a certain player ahead of the first choice player as the no 1 player signed with another province so &^% him. One boy angry as he will only play one and a half game as a player signed by their province will play in all three games, even one not in his usual position.
Then we read reports in newspapers where journalists are promoting his favourites for the SA side. Well knowing these favourites' opposition will not have a fair chance to promote themselves. Everybody today is a rugby guru. We read of boys of 18 & 19 earning more than your average graduates with ten years working experience. We read of unions running out of money, fewer children playing rugby and spectators staying away. More or less the same reaction that one would expect from concert-goers when catching Sonja Herholdt lip-synching during one of her concerts.
"Doc I want to apologise for what we are doing to your tournament and sport. Doc myself part of this mad circus, I apologise. But Doc I want to invite you to a game at 08h00 tomorrow Doc. Doc the LSEN national team is playing the Blue Valke. Doc this LSEN boytjies is still playing the game your way. Doc they do not play rugby Doc, hulle jol ruggas. Hope to see you there Doc."