Sealing a memorable victory. A fine action shot, totally unrelated to the article below,
from Robertson’s hard-fought 18-17 away win over Montagu, where few visitors
beat the home side, on Saturday 6 April 2019. The Robbe are in
the blue and white strip. (photo: HS Robertson)
Just when one thought that things really couldn’t get worse - and I’m referring here to the global pandemic - it really worries me to find out that someone has found a way to raise the bar when it comes to debatable practice as far as schools rugby is concerned.
As background to this sorry saga, let me set the scene by citing my age-old story of a private school in Grahamstown, which decided in the late 1980s to boost their profile by buying an entire rugby team of Craven Week representatives from the preceding year plus a provincial-class hockey side, just to balance things out. In fact, the only reason that they didn’t splash out on a netball outfit was that they were still a boys-only institution at that stage.
They allowed their, um, mature students to pursue courses via a local university when they had time off from their primary business of flying the school’s flag high on the sportsfield.
To show off their newly-acquired finery, they hosted a rugby tournament at Easter, planning it so carefully that they played - and beat - Paul Roos barely four hours after the Young Maties had landed in Port Elizabeth, around 120 kilometres away.
On the Monday they played a Kimberley Boys’ High side of which I was the tour manager, the game being called off when they reached the late sixties.
To abridge a long story, most reputable rugby schools simply cancelled their fixtures against them and their wonderful hockey side ended up playing in the Rhodes inter-residence competition on Sunday mornings.
If they no longer recruit post-Matrics, it is a fairly recent development. I can name one EP rugby player who turned out for them after matriculating at Rondebosch in 2009.
Given the recent hullabaloo about the apparent depredation (a diplomatic euphemism for “brazen plundering”) of a particular part of the Boland by certain up-country schools, the story I’m about to tell you is so brazen that it calls to mind a well-known joke involving a psychiatrist, a patient with an unhealthy affinity for canines and a dachshund.
Since last year Curro in Durbanville, the first of the chain in the Western Cape if I’m not mistaken, has been poaching sportsmen from local schools.
The situation got serious enough for Brackenfell to sit down, express their extreme displeasure and try to reach an agreement face-to-face. Unfortunately, the practice continued, leaving the Brakke to politely (I have a copy of the communication) inform said school that they were severing all sporting relations between the schools with immediate effect (18 February 2020).
If you think that’s the worst of it, you’re mistaken.
A 2019 Stellenberg matriculant - who played 1st XV rugby, achieved an adequate pass in his final exams and turns 19 this year - has been enrolled at Curro, where he is doing two subjects and has signed a contract to play for the school. Don’t ask whether he is being paid for his services.
Let’s see how many basic “post-Matric rules” that move transgresses.
Firstly, he already possesses a respectable level of Matric certificate. Secondly, he has not enrolled to complete his entire year’s subjects. Thirdly, school children, even if they are 18 years old, don’t sign contracts to play sport for their school. I’ll leave number four to your imagination.
Imagine the Jade Brigade’s astonishment when Curro - who also just happen to be their close neighbours - subsequently asked for a game against their 1sts !
The name of the person who is apparently bankrolling the whole process is, by all accounts, a reputable businessman, so it’s not a shady, underhanded affair by any means.
While this is not a nice story, it does have a distinct upside.
Bearing in mind that very little (if any) schools rugby will take place this year, this youngster will be Under 20, come 2021.
Ironically, I can sympathise with the defendants, against whom a complaint has been lodged with the WPRU. Three weeks ago, I bought three smart golf-shirts and had them embroidered with the Stoopstats logo.
Now we are both all dressed up with nowhere to go.
Around 1960 Pete Seeger penned the song “Where Have All The Flowers Gone ?” The chorus contains a line that provides an apt conclusion to this whole affair:
“When will they ever learn ?”