Schools should carefully consider the long-term impact of allowing Grade 12 rugby players to repeat matric for purely rugby reasons, writes DYLAN JACK.
In an interview with Netwerk24, several 1st XV coaches opined that matric schoolboy rugby players should be given the option to repeat Grade 12 in 2021.
This comes after the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in schools closing and students learning from home, ultimately leaving no room for sport as finishing the academic year is prioritised. Unfortunately, this means that Grade 12 rugby players will miss out on an opportunity to finish their schoolboy rugby careers on a high.
Many – especially those from underprivileged areas – who were hoping to prove themselves worthy of either a provincial contract or university sports bursary will also miss out on that opportunity.
Hoërskool Diamantveld director of rugby Jaco Dames explained the impact that the pandemic could have on these schoolboys to Netwerk24.
‘Universities are clearly going to offer fewer busaries because they haven’t seen these boys play,’ Dames said. ‘Because there is no longer a national U19 league, for many boys there is nothing after school.
‘They get great exposure at school, because nearly all the games are streamed [over the internet]. For many boys, rugby is a way to earn a bursary.’
However, the idea that these boys should be allowed to repeat Grade 12 for purely rugby purposes is debatable.
One especially needs to consider the long-reaching impacts that this could have in 2021.
What happens to the U16 rugby players who will be hoping to play U19 rugby next year? You can’t tell me that 1st XV coaches would ignore the returning 19-year-old schoolboys, especially if they are coming back just for rugby. This then, creates a quandary where next year’s Grade 12s could be put at an equal risk of missing an opportunity to make the most from their final year of rugby.
It would obviously help if South Africa’s club rugby structures were improved, creating a natural pathway from club to province. That way, this year’s graduating matrics could be comforted in the knowledge that they could still find an alternate route to make a career of rugby. Unfortunately, the best players still often go ignored.
The fact is that many of the schoolboy rugby players with a high potential would have already been identified and brought into SA Rugby’s Elite Player Development systems. As usual, most of these schoolboys would have already signed or agreed provincial contracts with the big unions.
The players who have been worst impacted are the late bloomers – especially those in the rural areas of the Eastern and Western Cape. However, as stories like those of Aphiwe Dyantyi and Makazole Mapimpi demonstrate: if one is determined enough and committed enough to make a career of rugby, one will get there in the end.
Yes, it is heartbreaking that many schoolboys have missed out on the best year of their rugby playing days – for many their last. But bigger- picture thinking is needed here. The last thing schoolboys rugby needs is more boys missing their opportunities.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images