Mariette Adams and Dylan Jack debate whether schoolboys who have signed contracts with overseas clubs should be eligible for SA Schools selection.
Adams says no …
To select boys, who have signed lucrative deals with overseas clubs, to participate in what is essentially a feeder competition in the already fragile South African rugby landscape would set a dangerous precedent.
Kade Wolhuter of Paul Roos and FC du Plessis of Grey College are the two best flyhalves in their age group; their performances over the last two schools seasons are testimony to that. But confirmation of their departure, coupled with that of centre Robbie Rodgers (Paul Roos), Lesley Botha (Grey College) and No 8 Sergio Moreira (Noordheuwel) to French giants Montpellier and Toulon, respectively, has sparked a raging debate about whether they should be selected to represent SA Schools in the upcoming U18 series comprising of South Africa, England, Wales, France and, for the first time ever, Argentina.
While there are some valid points on both sides of the argument, the selectors of both SA Schools and SA Schools A have opted to overlook all five France-bound boys in favour of other promising talents set to remain on home soil.
Now, I wasn’t averse to the idea of having any one of them in general – and Wolhuter in particular – work their magic against the likes of England and Wales. But if I’m honest, I fully agree with their non-selection for the sole purpose that it opens the door for some of their lesser-exposed peers.
Judging by their big-money moves up north, Wolhuter and co are clearly already held in high regard internationally and therefore don’t need another junior level platform to launch their fledgling careers. And there is no shame in their decision to move to clubs with supreme academies, first-class facilities, box-office coaches – such as Vern Cotter for example – and where they’ll be able to achieve financial security.
But based on that decision, it then can’t be expected of SA Rugby to contribute to their development and invest in them as players; not when the players themselves have all but confirmed there is no future for them in South African rugby.
Yes, they miss out on a chance to represent their country, but the annual U18 International series is not a rugby festival; it is a feeder competition, for South Africa at least, that serves as the perfect stage for upcoming hopefuls to make one last impression in a bid to be signed to a union/franchise.
What good would it do to South African rugby in general to have the likes of Wolhuter, Rodgers, Du Plessis, Botha and Moreira in the SA Schools set-up when all they really want is a nice time in the green and gold because their futures have already been secured?
What good would it have done to those players who would have missed out on a chance to play for SA Schools had the France-bound quintet got their wish?
The answer to both questions is nothing. Except for setting a dangerous precedent, it would have done nothing good to any of the parties involved.
Jack says yes …
A massive talking point has been sparked by the SA Schools snub of Paul Roos’ Kade Wolhuter and Grey College’s FC du Plessis, who are among the Grade 12s who will be heading to French academies next year.
That Wolhuter and Du Plessis are heading to the Montpellier and Toulon academies, respectively, can be the only reason for the duo’s exclusion from the squad.
Now, this doesn’t take anything away from Kean Meadon, who has been excellent for Paarl Boys’ High and was in good form for the Western Province XV at the Craven Week. Meadon possesses a pinpoint tactical kicking game and was a big reason for the WP XV’s surprise win over the Golden Lions in Bloemfontein, scoring a try, conversion, drop goal and penalty for a personal haul of 13 points. He richly deserves his place in the SA Schools squad as does Hermanus High’s Boldwin Hansen, who was solid for Boland.
I also sympathise with SA Schools coaches Mzwakhe Nkosi and Phiwe Nomlomo, who along with the selectors, have a heck of a job balancing the squad and honestly cannot please everybody with their selections.
However, I still feel at least one of Wolhuter or Du Plessis should have been included in the squad, regardless of whether they had already committed at least their short-term developmental futures overseas.
Looking at the situation from their point of view, they have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to join one of the top French academies, where they will be exposed to top-level coaching and be able to train at top-of-the-range facilities.
It doesn’t help that the SA junior calendar has changed dramatically since last year. With the U19 competition being reduced to a week-long tournament in September and the U20 Provincial Championship only taking place in July, there is realistically very little for first-years to do other than play club or university rugby for half the year.
One can understand why both Wolhuter and Du Plessis would both be keen to eschew that for France, where they will not only earn a fair amount more, but could find themselves being exposed to top-flight Top 14 rugby within their first couple years in their respective academies.
There is a feeling that it would be unfair to include the duo as, unlike their peers, they had committed to overseas clubs and thus investing anything in them is seen as ‘wasted resources’.
However, given the current economic climate, is it not just as likely that any other player in the squad could be heading for the Premiership before the age of 25, and thus not fulfilling his potential inside the country? Surely that would also be seen as ‘wasted resources’, given that said player will spend his peak years contributing to a French or English team instead of one of the South African franchises?
So the question remains, why rob two of the best talents of a generation the chance to represent their country, simply because said players feel they have made an excellent decision for their development?
Photo: Peter Heeger/Frikkie Kapp/Gallo Images