Fri 15 Jan 2021 | 04:15

Interview: The future of SA Schools

Interview: The future of SA Schools
Fri 15 Jan 2021 | 04:15
Interview: The future of SA Schools
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THE SPOTLIGHT:  In an exclusive interview with seasoned rugby writer Wim van der Berg, SA Schools Rugby Union (SASRU) Chairman Noel Ingle addresses the state of South African schools’ rugby and its future.

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Amidst the havoc caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and focusing on the effect it had on rugby the world over, South African schools’ rugby players and the future of the game at schools’ level have seldom been in the limelight.

This is not to say that this level of the game has been neglected in the boardrooms (or zoom screens!)

The series of lockdowns have put paid to schoolboys’ dreams and enjoyment and it remains highly unlikely that the active (non-)playing situation will change until late in 2021, if at all.

It is already more than ten months since the last schools rugby was played on March 14, 2020.

In a conversation with Noel Ingle, who heads the SA Schools Rugby Union (SASRU), he pointed out that all provinces are experiencing a second wave of the virus.

“It’s a matter of wait and see until it shows very clear signs of reducing below certain targets that we have set [before rugby will resume]. When the players return to the playing field there will be protocols set for training and to play.

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“All sport, not only rugby, is critical for the competitors’ emotional and physical well-being. It is also the case with rugby, perhaps especially so, and from an emotional point of view we have to get onto the field as soon as possible,” Ingle says.

However, he emphasises that the safety of the players remains paramount.

On the virus and lockdowns effect, he felt the returning numbers could perhaps be influenced negatively after players missed out on what could eventually be a full two schools’ seasons.

But Ingle’s view is a pragmatic one in that the knock-on effect of the virus regarding players’ interest and return to the game, “can only be determined once we resume. Our only real solution is to get back onto the field.”

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This view also applies to the use of the many outside and internal coaches who are employed by many schools and particularly on whether schools’ finances will allow them to continue with this practice.

It can be assumed that financial constraints will probably curtail the air travel of many of the top schools who regularly face leading sides in other provinces, such as the matches between Paul Roos and Grey College, Helpmekaar and Boys High and the likes. There will probably also be less “bursaries” in future to players to strengthen schools’ top teams.

However, Ingle, although saying that a return to the playing fields was a first step, feels that it may be possible to travel for interschools matches but that these trips/tours will be undertaken with less teams than previously. Protocols, such as social distancing on buses, will have to be adhered to.

Will there be many schools players lost to the game?

“Let’s face it, it’s a physical game and parents may err on the side of caution. Players in many instances will only return when it is beyond doubt safe to do so.”

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Interview: The future of SA Schools | Rugby365