Schoolboys rugby has made a welcome, if slightly muted, return with the Monument Centenary Festival and upcoming Noord-Suid tournament, writes DYLAN JACK.
After a year-long hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was wonderful to see some of South Africa’s high schools back on the field over this past weekend.
The majority of the big schools in action were playing at Hoërskool Monument’s centenary rugby festival. As expected, there was bit of rustiness – a given when some of these boys haven’t been playing competitively for a long period of time.
It was also a bit surreal to follow these games with no spectators in the stands, but such is the reality of the times we are living in.
That’s not to say that it wasn’t enjoyable to watch. The games were very much played in a festival sprit, which was a welcome return from the overly competitive attitude we often see from the bigger schools. It is also clear that the schoolboys have been hard at work over the past couple of months. There was no lack of physicality and the skills on show didn’t necessarily suggest that these boys had gone a year without rugby.
Monument deserves plenty of credit for presenting the festival, especially after it was reported that the original organisers had pulled out at late notice due to sponsorship issues. Director of rugby Tjaart van der Walt, director of marketing Wynand Moolman and the Krugersdorp community at large rallied and showed the kind of spirit that at times has been missing from the over-professional nature of SA’s high-schools rugby.
In the pick of the weekend’s action, Paarl Gimnasium resumed their rivalry with Grey College, but it was the Boland school that came out on top in an intense and closely fought encounter. The flyhalves of the two sides, Jean Smith and Liam Koen – the respective sons of Franco and Louis – are two players to watch this season. They both showed a great appreciation of game management and kept their composure very well throughout the match.
Most of the teams involved in the Monument Centenary will make their way to the Noord-Suid tournament, which will be hosted by Affies and runs from 27 April to 1 May.
The first day of the tournament will feature some interesting clashes, including Pretoria’s Garsfontein up against Paarl Gim, while in the evening kick-off Monument will take on Stellenberg, who have proven over the past few years that they are a rising power when it comes to their rugby programme.
Matches will be broadcast on what was School Sports Live, but has now become SuperSport Rugby after the broadcaster completed its buy-out of the YouTube channel – the weekend’s other massive talking point.
During the official announcement last Friday, SuperSport certainly talked a big game when it comes to spreading the coverage of schoolboys rugby beyond the regular ‘big schools’ and, most notably, emphasising the Eastern Cape.
It can only be a good thing that more pupils will get a greater opportunity for their sporting talents to be noticed and it makes sense to target the Eastern Cape, a known hotbed of sporting talent. Yet, the province’s schools often lack anywhere near the same resources as a Grey College or a Bishops.
One hopes that this works out for the greater good of South Africa’s incredibly talented sportspeople.
NOORD-SUID TOURNAMENT FIXTURES:
Day 1 (Tuesday, 27 April)
2:30pm – EG Jansen vs Welkom Gim
4pm – Garsfontein vs Paarl Gim
5:30pm – Monument vs Stellenberg
7pm – Affies vs Oakdale
Day 2 (Wednesday 28 April)
1:15pm – HTS Middelburg vs Duineveld
2:30pm – Waterkloof vs Durbanville
4pm – Noordheuwel vs Paarl Boys High
5:30pm – Helpmekaar vs Outeniqua
7pm – Menlopark vs Grey College
Day 3 (Friday, 30 April)
6pm – HTS Middelburg vs Stellenberg
7:30pm – Garsfontein vs Oakdale
Day 4 (Saturday, 1 May)
9am – Noordheuwel vs Durbanville
10:30am – Helpmekaar vs Paarl Gim
12pm – Monument vs Paarl Boys High
1:30pm – Waterkloof vs Duineveld
3pm – Marais Viljoen vs Outeniqua
4:30pm – EG Jansen vs Grey College
6pm – Affies vs Welkom Gim
Photo: Johan Orton/Saspa