Following his first column for SARugbymag.co.za looking at schoolboy rugby in South Africa, former Springbok Stefan Terblanche invited you to send him any questions. Here are his answers.
Ivan Jonsson: In regard to your article, what changes could be made at school level to make sure that these boys don’t burn out and peak out at matric for rugby? How do you keep them interested after high school?
Stefan Terblanche: Specialising at school level should not be allowed and boys should be encouraged to play one winter and one summer sport. There are too many tournaments and boys should only be allowed to play a certain number of games a year, maybe no more than 15 … that number can be decided. Schoolboys should also not be contracted and paid at schools level.
Paul Teago: Why are talented boys from small schools overseen every year? It’s unfair, very few if any make it. One good example is Marco van Staden, who is one of the very few lucky ones.
ST: That’s nothing new to be honest and has been happening since our days at school. We need to create a pathway for these kids as we lose too many good players because of this. It is very hard as we have a very big country and a big rural area, so it’s very hard to do this structurally and sustainable. Not impossible but hard, and we need a missing role player at this stage to come to the party, namely government.
Erhard Van Wyk: On schools rugby level we demolish all visiting teams. We have the best foundation in building from this level, yet when it comes to the Junior Boks some say that the best players are not selected? Is this true? If so, what is the reason?
ST: Again team selection is based on opinion, and good and even great players will miss out. Remember that we are so advanced with schoolboys taking on a professional approach at school level that we are ahead of other nations at school level, but not at national level. When we leave school we lose some of these players due burnout etc, and the other nations catch up to us as these boys that played for fun at school are now being coached professionally (only to a degree).
Konke Fipaza: Why not leave Super Rugby and make Currie Cup our main competition and establish some tribalism in South African rugby again?
ST: I think we will lose too many good players (we are doing that already) who want to play against international teams, and I also don’t think we have enough money in the South African rugby domestic competition to entice players to only play in SA. Many unions are barely surviving financially and if smaller unions have to pay bigger players salaries to accommodate all players in South Africa it won’t be sustainable. We might generate a bit of local interest and a small percentage rise at gates and attendances, but not enough to match TV rights being paid for Super Rugby at the moment.
Christopher Edley: What is the root cause of a lack of consistency from South African teams at Super Rugby and international level? How much of this inconsistency can be put down to the nature of the sport and how much of it is a down to forces within our control?
ST: Certain things you can control such as preparations, the way you travel, consistent team selection from coaches etc. However, referees and tougher travel schedules will always be an element to contend with. Control the things you can and be smart about the ones you can’t always control.
Jaco Reinach: What is more important in today’s rugby, the combination between a 9 and 10, 10 and 12 or the 12 and 13? And would you say the future at 12 will be more about players like (Kurtley) Beale and (Owen) Farrell for distribution, or will players like Manu Tuilagi and Rohan Janse van Rensburg still be viable?
ST: Players at 8, 9 and 10 will always be vital for me. Bigger 12s are still viable, but some would prefer more agile and skillful 12s. It also depends on what you have on the outside. If you have real speed on the outside, then there’s no use playing 10-man rugby and not to your strength. There are so many playing theories and game plans … I like a good distributor and playmaker at 12, but it can be a very tough channel with big runners coming your way, so you need to look after players in that channel. Some smaller players do survive there for a while, but it can be tough.
Troy Witthaus: Coming from a smaller school, how does being in a traditionally bigger school help you reach the goal of professional rugby?
ST: If you can make the 1st XV at a ‘bigger’ rugby school I think it becomes easier to be seen at trials, rugby tournaments etc as you will be in a dominant, strong lineup. When you go to Craven Week trials, for instance, you will more than likely play with players you will know better from your own schools team as you will have more representation at trials. Therefore you will stand a good chance to make the Craven Week team and be seen at SA Rugby high-performance week. If you’re from ‘smaller’ schools, you will really have to stand out and often deal with the stigma of selectors that bigger is better. Often they miss out … it’s been like that for years.
Sean Thomas: Based on current form and stats while playing abroad, between (Cobus) Reinach and Faf (de Klerk) you would have noticed that Cobus is miles better than Faf. Do you agree that Cobus Reinach should be the preferred starting No 9 based on form and merit?
ST: I have to brutally honest and tell you that I have not watched and followed the English Premiership closely. I can tell you that I think Faf’s game improved while playing overseas but Cobus is class – both used at the right time and with the right game plan can be lethal.
Leon Roos: Why did you leave the Boland Rugby Union? Why is it always about money, money, money? Why is there no loyalty in SA players?
ST: I was based at Boland for four years and loved it. I was not included in the Stormers group when I left so I didn’t leave for money as I was offered a chance and no money from the Sharks as they only paid me exactly the same as what I was getting paid at Boland. I was without a doubt the cheapest player in the Sharks’ Super Rugby team in 1998. After Super Rugby I went back to play Currie Cup for Boland and even though I played for the Springboks, I still wasn’t in the Stormers group. I wanted to play Super Rugby and the Sharks contracted me. I think that’s pretty loyal for as long as I was at Boland. I loved my time there!!
Mitchell Boomie Nelson: Do you think (Sharks coach) Robert du Preez will be fired?
ST: Sean Everrit will coach the Sharks’ Currie Cup team, so I’m not sure if that was a strategic plan right from the start, or the start of a process to access future Sharks coaches. I honestly have no idea.
Photo: Howard Cleland/Gallo Images