Grey High 1st XV coach Allan Miles is concerned with the results-driven nature of schoolboy rugby. DYLAN JACK reports.
With schools rugby becoming almost semi-professional at some schools, coaches are under more pressure to win than ever before.
Miles says this is resulting in an emphasis on schoolboys’ weight and size, rather than providing them with the skills they need to become top-level rugby players.
‘Everybody is worried about winning,’ he told SARugbymag.co.za. ‘As a result, a lot of junior school sides will always have those bigger, early-maturing players who get selected in positions like No 8, centre or wing. Their whole game will then revolve around giving those players the ball.
‘So none of the other players in the team develop any skill levels, and what happens is those bigger guys tend to have weaknesses in their tackling. Because they are bigger, they get used to throwing guys around instead of using their shoulders, and passing as they tuck the ball under one arm.’
Miles added that by Grade 12, these players tend to be caught up physically by other players and then these weaknesses in their games get exposed. He claimed this was visible when some of them played for the Junior Springboks.
‘Often with these schoolboys, there is a fixed mindset where they are heroes, and they never get pushed to a position where they might fail, so they never get pushed to work on the areas where they are lacking because they are regarded as heroes.
‘So these players never develop, and by the time they reach Grade 12, they are in and out of the 1st XV and will be lucky to play Craven Week.’
Australian rugby recently introduced guidelines whereby all Australian rugby players aged 10-15 will be subjected to mandatory assessments about whether their size and skills match their age groups.
However, Miles says a similar system is unlikely to be introduced in South African rugby.
‘The question is: how does one implement it into South African rugby?
‘The process is difficult. How do you get a boy that is too big to be playing U13 at a school in Grade 7 to play at a higher age group, and what high school does he go to then?
‘The current system we have in South African rugby is out of control. Our coaches would rather shop for better players than improve the players they have as they coach with a fixed mindset. So I do not see how we can implement this into our schools.’