The Garsfontein Issue Revisited

ScaleWidthWyI3OTUiXQ-TSRF-SWAW-58One for Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.  In this photograph you will see three Swartland 

players of colour, all of whom actually finished or are finishing their careers
at the school !  (photo courtesy of Brakkies Sport Fotos)

Over the past week I have been involved in an intensive debate with a gentleman closely connected to Garsfontein regarding my recent article about their poaching of rugby players from Swartland.

While his initial communication was, perhaps understandably, fairly hostile, we soon found common ground and, I dare say, ended up understanding each other and our respective standpoints very clearly.  Our most recent exchanges have been most cordial. 

I have taken his correspondence as being in good faith, largely because he did not rely on continued usage of the dreaded l-word “lie” unlike another fan of the school who pelted me with a teddy bear, a bottle, a broken mobile toy and what smelled suspiciously like a soiled nappy as it flew past.

I am now simply putting the issue to bed (or back in its cot, whichever is applicable).

The gist of my correspondent’s initial attack was that, since I was incorrect in my assertions about their having poached Embrose Papier, my whole article was totally flawed.

He also claimed that I had lied when I stated that the mysterious Mr G had been in Malmesbury when the Humphreys family claimed he was.

Since these two issues were merely incidental to the article, their direct relevance, for want of a better expression, constituting about 10% of the argument, I argued that they should not be afforded too much prominence.

I am happy to retract the former accusation.  After reading the following course of events, you may feel magnanimous enough to forgive my misinterpretation.

Papier attended Swartland until the end of the school year before he moved up north.  He then spent the first week or so of the following year at Schoonspruit, without ever enrolling, as he waited for his move to Die Wilgers in Pretoria to materialize. 

The reason for this appears to be his concern that Swartland would be incensed when he  suddenly up and left them.  He is a very polite youngster and, years later, even sent his girlfriend, a learner at Swartland, to the deputy principal to ask whether he would be allowed to accompany her to the Matric Farewell.  By the strangest of coincidences, I was actually there when she did so !

He duly moved north, but found his way to Garsfontein soon afterwards because they offered a chance at competition at the highest – macro-school – level.  It is irrelevant who arranged his initial move, but it wasn’t Garsfontein.  Case closed.

I have been informed that Keagan Johannes was initially approached at the Under 13 Craven Week some years ago, but postponed his decision to move until very late last year because his mother felt he was too young to leave home. 

This doesn’t alter the fact that late last year someone – I’m not going to name names – met with the boy and at least his father at the Wimpy in Malmesbury to conclude his transfer at that stage: after all, a Swartland staff member, aware that the meeting was going to take place, walked in on them.  Unfortunately I can’t tell you what they ate or who paid the bill.

If you think that turning down an offer until a more suitable time – without keeping the school that has invested its time (and thus money) in you apprised – is acceptable behaviour, you probably thinks it’s fine to waterboard your neighbours over where their cats relieve themselves.

Would he have been followed up on if he hadn’t suddenly become more attractive after gaining Academy Week colours ?  No comment.

Whether or not Mr G was in Malmesbury on the day the Humphreys claimed he was is  problematic.  I will, however, agree that my inference that Mr G was lying was incorrectly phrased and that I should have stated that either he was lying or the Humphreys were.  

Mr J claims that Garsies is in possession of forensic evidence that Mr G was in Pretoria over the whole period.  Quite correctly, they are legally prohibited from furnishing me with the details. 

Nonetheless, the Humphreys’ case remains compelling in that there was no apparent reason for the youngster or his mother to make up the story, which came as a bombshell when the boy reported it to the principal the following day. 

Why on earth would he have made this yarn up ?  My correspondent says that this smacks of a conspiracy by people who are trying to portray Garsies in a bad light.  Supporting this is the fact that Garsies never make use of agents so  the “agent” may well have been trying to make sure that the name sunk in (1) so that Garsies could neatly deny culpability and/or (2) presumably to discredit the agency.  If this is the case, they went to an enormous amount of trouble to prove what just about everybody already knows.

Besides, Garsies have been doing a fine job of putting themselves in a bad light down south without resorting to outside help.

When the agency was approached by Swartland, they went stratospheric (ie exponentially angrier than ballistic), claiming, in no particular order, that the “agent” wasn’t representing them, wasn’t in their employ and the agency didn’t work with Garsies anyway.  Coincidentally, their agents’ photographs conveniently disappeared from the website a day or two later ! 

Someone involved in these activities is being at best economical with the truth.

You be the jury in what actually happened.  Both sides are a little peeved with me simply because I stoically refuse to accept either argument without conclusive proof.

These two mini-sagas must not be allowed to detract from the fact that player-poaching – the active pursuit and acquisition of players from other high schools – is still rife all over the country.  Allow me to use this flashpoint as a chance to analyse the general issue. 

First, let’s define the term “bursary”.  I would venture that most people would expect the recipients of school bursaries to be learners

(1) of humble circumstances
(2) in Grade 8
(3) who show great promise in an area which
(4) the school feels the learner will have a unique opportunity to develop at their specific     
(5) to the mutual benefit of both parties.

Now, I’ll apply these criteria to the Johannes case.

Garsies meets (1) because his parents aren’t able to afford the fees and travel costs involved in their son being at the school. 

Just because they put out feelers when he was still in Grade 7 doesn’t let them off (2).  If they saw promise that they could develop back then, but he was unable for any reason to come to them at that stage, they should have backed off rather than cultivating him as some sort of sleeper agent without Swartland ever being made aware of the situation.

The school also fails (3) because the only reason they approached him last year, was because he was already, to all intents and Garsfontein’s purposes, the finished article, having been developed into such by Swartland. 

That means that the only unique opportunity was to get to run around in what looks like seriously faded Griquas jersey and get fast-tracked for a Blue Bulls Craven Week cap, so (4) is also a fail.

While the arrangement definitely ticks off (5), it does so in a manner so cynical as to render it another failure.  The benefit to the school and its local union exists primarily – exclusively, actually – in the player’s race and secondarily his talent.  The youngster is simply being exploited as a pawn to highlight the perceived injustices of imposed racial quotas.

The whole unfortunate saga could easily have been avoided had Garsfontein actually gone out and found a local youngster that they could actually develop.

No-one is denying that Garsfontein is an outstanding school offering many bursaries covering a wide array of sports and activities each year, the rugby ones at least being handled by an independent non-profit organization, as if that makes the school any less complicit and thus morally less culpable.  How magnanimous !  Why they have to do this in such a roundabout way raises eyebrows, but whatever gets a competitive rugby team goes.  All’s fair in love etc.

I suppose, at a stretch, this also gets the deputy principal in the last article off the hook in much the same way as you don’t kill someone just by pushing him into the road.  Some car, bakkie, taxi or, if the fates are smiling upon you, a nice big truck does the actual dirty work.

Unfortunately the rugby portion seems to focus excessively on coloured players from the Swartland area, which renders it a systematic process rather than a benevolent one.  

Grade 7 kids are fair game, but, once  the learners commit to a high school, any attempts, no matter how subtle, to persuade them to move without a cogent reason (eg parents moving) are unjustifiable.

Before I get accused by some copracephalic bloggers (not Mr J) of misrepresenting the situation yet again: when offered the choice of returning to Swartland, Johannes has opted to stay at Garsfontein.  Maybe he just suffers from travel sickness.

Agreed, Garsies endeavours to get contracts for their pupils when they leave school.  This civic duty functions smoothly precisely because the next echelons up (Under 19, 20 and Varsity Cup) also need players of colour.

But all is not lost.  If my correspondent Mr J is to be believed, the school and Mr G have both resolved to take a long hard look at themselves in this regard.  Sincere introspection is sure to end up having benefits for both sides.

Why has this site taken this case to heart ?  Because it is a local issue.  Other areas are welcome to look after their own.  The attitude of shut up and let the lads play is remarkably naïve.

More good appears likely to come from this affair.  At least one tiresome, misguided and insulting blogger (again, not you, Mr J) has declared that he won’t be blogging any more.

We should be so lucky !

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