Former Springbok back Stefan Terblanche declared this year’s edition of the U15 Iqhawe Week in Johannesburg the best ever. THEO GARRUN reports.
Eastern Province claimed top honours this year, beating the Golden Lions 18-10 in the final game of the tournament, which was held at the Bill Jardine Stadium.
Terblanche, who is currently the CEO of the SA Rugby Legends Association, says he is impressed with the way the week has grown since its inception in 2013.
‘The tournament has grown from eight to 14 teams and the standard of play has been improving steadily,’ he explained. ‘We are now regularly seeing 15 to 20 boys from this week going on to play for their provinces at the [U16] Grant Khomo Week the following year.
‘There is even talk of selecting a team at the Iqhawe Week and entering it in the next year’s Grant Khomo.’
The rationale behind the Iqhawe Week is to provide an opportunity for players at those schools to receive provincial colours, and to perform on a bigger stage, where they will be noticed.
‘We all know that there are talented players everywhere in South Africa and that not all of them go to well-established, traditional rugby schools,’ said Terblanche. ‘Their schools don’t play in the top circles and the chances of those players being recognised and given further opportunities in the game are limited.
‘These players all come from schools that field four rugby teams or less. Those schools play in the Vuka leagues around the country, a competition run by the provincial unions and supported by the Legends’
The week has become a bit of a shop window for scouts from the top schools and the provincial unions, who are on the lookout for new talent to lure to their institutions.
‘We are happy for these players to be given opportunities to develop,’ Terblanche added. ‘But we are primarily concerned about the welfare of the players and we only give those approaches our blessing if we are happy that the player’s whole education is catered for and that every effort is made to help them fit in environments that will be strange to them.
‘Our aim is to grow the game in South Africa. And that means ensuring that it flourishes in the township and rural areas, far away from the top schools.
‘The message that has gone out this year is that a boy from a township school can become captain of the Springboks. There should nothing stopping the players we saw here this week from advancing the highest levels of the game.’
Photo: Theo Garrun