Schoolboy rugby: ‘If you’re good enough, you can still make it’

If I could only play one game of rugby again, it would undoubtedly be for my schools 1st XV, writes former Springbok STEFAN TERBLANCHE in the latest SA Rugby magazine.

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With Covid-19 causing absolute havoc across the world with hundreds of thousands of deaths, many businesses going under and millions more suffering job losses, we can safely say 2020 is a ‘write off’.

We all have ideas and theories of what should be done and how governments should deal with the disaster but then again, who knows what the real impact and ramifications will be over the next few months and years?

Schools have been hit hard and pupils across South Africa have lost months of education. One has to feel for the Grade 7s and 12s in their last years of primary and high school. They are the ones I feel most sorry and aggrieved for. I will refer to rugby but the same can be said about all sports played by the pupils in these grades.

Many boys have only one year and a realistic chance of playing for their 1st XVs. Many would have sacrificed other sports and specialised in rugby to have this one chance, where they’ve gone from starting as a lowly Grade 8 to being the one who everyone looks up to. Yes, take that in for a moment: think back to your last year at school and imagine not experiencing that.

People often ask me about my most memorable game in my career and it’s a tough one to answer for obvious reasons. But I have no doubt that if I could only play one game of rugby again, it would be for my school’s 1st XV. Yes that’s correct; it ranks higher than any Test, Super Rugby, Currie Cup or Heineken Cup final.

It’s been talked about and rumoured that many boys would repeat 2020 to play first-team rugby in 2021. Post-matrics have been around for many years and I don’t take any issue with it at all. I do, however, feel that boys should not repeat matric in 2021 merely to play rugby.

If you had planned that before Covid-19, please stick to that. Many first-team coaches would love to have their stars back again next year as schoolboy rugby is very competitive and often the overall rating of how good a school is will be based on the rugby results.

So, please don’t get me wrong, because I absolutely loved school and would have loved to stay another year, but unfortunately you will never get 2020 back by repeating in 2021. Not only won’t you get it back but you will also take opportunities away from Grade 10s and 11s who might have more ability and talent.

If you stay behind to play Craven Week bear in mind that it’s only an U18 competition and most post-matrics won’t qualify for it, unless they started school at a younger age.

This pandemic may have ruined 2020 for all those talented rugby players who thought they had a career in the sport and were hoping to play 1st XV rugby and possibly even represent their provinces at Craven Week. You will never get that back and my heart really bleeds for you.

Trust me, though, if you are good enough and willing to work hard enough you will still have a career in rugby. Don’t let Covid-19 ruin another year for you!

*Terblanche is a former Springbok who earned 37 Test caps. He is now the CEO of the SA Rugby Legends Association and served as a member of World Rugby’s judicial committee at the 2019 World Cup.

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