Selborne Schoolboys Say No to France
Two players in the 1st XV of Selborne College in East London have rejected attempts to lure them to France with attractive contracts.
The players are hooker Jacques Goosen and flank Jarrod Taylor. They both played for Border at the 2018 Craven Week and were both chosen for South African schools, playing against Wales, France and England. They were then 17. They are now 18, two of the outstanding schoolboy players in South Africa.
Selborne College was able to confirm that the two boys had had approaches from France.
Being 18, they could legally sign a contract and each has an agent, strange as that would have seemed a short while ago – in fact, have the same agent, Ronnie Cooke, the former Eastern Province centre. Cooke was able to confirm that both players had signed contracts to continue their rugby careers at the Sharks, Taylor for three years, Goosen for two.
For several years, there have been overseas scouts, particularly from England, Australia and France, at Craven Week. The possibility of contracting South African schoolboys has increased as SARU has reduced its grants to unions. This has meant that unions will be able to afford fewer contracted players, and, where they were able to contract some 150 schoolboys in 2018, that number is likely to be closer to 30 this year. Taylor and Goosen will not be the only ones receiving approaches.
It is the sort of thing soccer clubs have been doing in Europe for years.
It is clear that, more and more, schoolboy rugby is becoming a business. Unfortunately, not that it applies to this case, that business is not always savoury. In fact, there have been hideous happenings.
These are some of the stories.
In 2014, Vereeniging Gim sought to bring a case if kidnapping against Dr EG Jansen when two of its players were taken from the hostel at Vereeniging Gim.
Two Muir College players were taken up from Uitenhage to Noord-Kaap. They wanted to return home but were locked in the koshuis. On a Sunday, they crawled out through the koshuis kitchen and got to a waiting car which took them to the bus for Uitenhage.
SACS played at the St Stithians Easter Festival and returned to Cape Town minus a player, because one had been recruited by KES.
There was a man down in the Eastern Cape who forged birth certificates, enabling overage players to play for KZN schools. One was the captain of Glenwood, one the fullback for DHS. Altogether eight such players were identified, one who was really 22 years of age.
There have been schools squabbling over “poaching” or the introduction of post-matric-students from other schools why are good at games, especially rugby.
There have been schools refusing to play other schools because of the way players are obtained or used – Hilton refusing to play Michaelhouse, Wynberg refusing to play Paarl Boys’ High, SACS refusing to play KES, Parktown refusing to play KES, Hilton and Michaelhouse refusing to play Glenwood, SACS refusing to play Paarl Boys’ High, for example.
Here is some idealism in a recent letter to parents from the headmaster of Hilton College, George Harris: “We play to learn, to grow, to thrive, to celebrate our being young and able, to build our life-long friendships.
“Playing well is our aim; winning is a bonus. Schoolboy sport is just that!”
The truth of the matter is that winning at sport, especially rugby, is very often more than just a bonus; it tends to define the status/success of a school.
Academic scholarships are praised. There is no criticism of music scholarships. It is the sports scholarship that lifts questioning eyebrows especially when they are awarded to good rugby players.
Recruiting is questioned, though it has gone on for years and years and is more widespread than obvious.
Fruitful recruiting opportunities for schools are the Under-13 Craven Week, Grant Khomo Week for Under-16s and many of the age-group tournaments around the country.
There are no contracts allowed for Under-18 players, but there is a way around that obstacle, for parents can receive cash incentives and a serious reduction in school fees is often an incentive.
Wouldn’t it be a happy world if schools all saw sport as part of an educational package and trusted each other enough to allow for the admission pupils to the school at each’s own discretion and for the freedom of each to choose its own teams?
By Paul Dobson