A lot has been said lately regarding the quality of play at the World Schools Festival and rightly so. The results are horrible and leaving the South African teams with the illusion that South African schoolboy rugby is by far the best. Statistics are available everywhere to validate the arguments to can this tournament. Here are my views.
The beers are very expensive and the brands which are sold that I have never heard of before, but after the third beer, it tasted ok. The security is overeager and it is impossible to get normal spectators to come and visit me in the media tent in order to pass the time during some boring games. The food and drinks made available to the media are not even remotely that what we are used to at the recent Noord Suid Festival not to even mention St Johns.
And yes I would also have preferred a local company to stream the event but will not boycott them as the arguments made to boycott them would pretty much force me to sell my Volla for a donkey cart which is pretty much the only locally owned "motor manufacturing" company in South Africa.
And yes, money is made otherwise who will run this enormous tournament. This is a stupid agreement even for me?
But let's start comparing apples with apples:
- Napier Boys High lost to Boland Landbou 30-25. Napier is the highest ranked New Zealand school present at number 9 lost in a game which could have gone to either side. Boland should also rank between 8-12 at the end of South Africa.
- Christchurch currently ranked number 9 in New Zealand got hammered by Grey College 73-26. Grey College whipped Menlopark (59-28) and Garsfontein (53-30) at the Noord Suid festival a week before. Both Menlopark and Garsfontein should rank top 10 at the end of the year.
- Southlands was demolished with 95-5 by a Paul Roos team that played their first match of the season. Paul Roos will do almost the same to Transvalia, ranked 19 in South Africa if they have to play each other today.
- Glenwood won 32-17 against John Macglashan who is ranked 44th in New Zealand, therefore, a great achievement against a probable top 10 school from South Africa.
- Hartpury which is without 11 players currently doing national duty in the u/18 Six Nations Tournament is definately not at full strength but when they were they won the AASE league in England for a ninth time out of ten attempts. They lost 21-32 to Monnas on Tuesday.
The Invitational teams invited cannot be expected to compete against the established South African teams after most of the players only met on Sunday / stupid.
But is all of the above enough reason to cancel this tournament? Let's use the Noord Suid Festival as the yardstick. 2014 the tournament started with four teams including Harrismith who concede almost 100 points in both their matches. In 2015 Garsfontein, Outeniqua and Grey Cherries joined. Kempton Park, Boland Landbou and Stellenberg joined in 2016 with EG Jansen joining in 2017. 2018 Grey College and Monnas joined and in 2019 Affies and Boishaai made their appearance and already everybody asks for Paul Roos to be included. So from humble beginnings in 2014 the Noord Suid grew into the top schoolboy rugby festival in South Africa if not in the world.
To summarise, and this is only my personal feeling - Give them a chance, with the inaugural tournament at Boishaai's 150th celebrations it had to be big and spectacular and mistakes were made. 2020 will be hosted at Affies and hopefully more of the top teams from New Zealand and the rest of the world will join as it happened at the Noord Suid Festival.
Unfortunately, Hartpury College will always be hampered with the loss of their top players to International Tournaments this time of the year and maybe the organisers must look at other rugby academies from England as the English 15 man schoolboy rugby season more or less ends in the first week of December.
The invitational sides must be canned and patience must be shown by the organisers to let this tournament grow into what it deserved, a truly international tournament of quality. But give them a chance it is special to talk and walk among boys loving rugby from all over the world.