Grey College 1st XV coach Wessel du Plessis says the school’s partnership with French club Montpellier will not result in a player drain.
A benefactor, thought to be Montpellier owner Mohed Altrad, initiated the Badawi Legacy Scholarship Programme last year.
Grey College announced on its website that the programme had committed to making the following changes in three areas over the next five years:
– It will fund the appointment, by Grey College, of a French language teacher for a period of five years.
– It is expected to provide funding support to at least 50 scholarship holders which translates into partial funding support of over 200 student years. Scholarships will be awarded to students on an unconditional basis and without recourse or any other obligation during, or post- study at Grey College.
– The donor of the programme has secured a commitment from Montpellier Rugby Club in France to make available, to Grey College, resources including a commitment to sharing coaching methods and exchange programmes for rugby coaches.
Badawi Scholarships will enable scholarship holders to attend Grey College and will be awarded, on a means-tested basis, to individuals who do not have similar alternatives readily available to them. Scholarships holders will be individuals with demonstrated potential in leadership and/or academia and the sport of rugby.
However, there have been fears that the programme will enable Montpellier to poach some of South Africa’s top schoolboy rugby talent.
Du Plessis insists this won’t be the case.
‘Last year we had Rikus Pretorius, who played SA Schools for two years and was their vice-captain,’ Du Plessis told SARugbymag.co.za. ‘He chose not to go to Montpellier. He signed for Western Province last year, and is in their junior system, with a good chance of making the Stormers’ Super Rugby side.
‘We at Grey College are still focused on South Africa first. We have produced 45 Springboks and 17 SA Sevens players. We are the school with the most players in Currie Cup and Super Rugby.
‘The media has reported that we are sending players to Montpellier, which is not the truth. We are just providing opportunities for them. We always try to look at South Africa first. I try to convince guys to study and play for the Bulls, Lions, Cheetahs or Stormers.’
Du Plessis explained how the programme came about.
‘Montpellier signed professional players from South Africa, like Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis and Frans Steyn, who are all Grey College old boys. They liked the work rate of these players, as they were the first to arrive at training and often stayed long afterwards to work on their skills. Often these players would say that Grey College gave them that work rate.
‘Montpellier told us that they would present a bursary system to the Grey College players and I told them that I cannot guarantee that the boys would take the bursary when they finish at Grey, as it is completely up to them, their parents and agents.
‘If that boy would rather go to the Bulls or to Western Province, we cannot force him to go to France. The intention was never to force players to go to France.
‘If we wanted to export players and make money out of them we would have made a contract with those players and sent them to Montpellier. That is not what we are doing. It is just another opportunity for those schoolboys to excel.
‘You must also consider that a rugby player’s career is only five to 10 years long and there are only so many places to play rugby professionally in this country.’
Du Plessis confirmed the partnership between Grey and Montpellier had not affected his planning for the 2018 season.
‘They haven’t given us that many bursaries, not even 20 for the next five years.The amount of money they are giving us is also less than what Paarl Boys’ old boys are pumping into the school.’
Interview by Dylan Jack