Top Schools Challenge Coming
Planning is advancing for the inauguration of a new competition for top South African schools to start in 2021 with further development the following year.
The basic plan is to get top schools playing against each other – all teams against all teams. The organisers have said: “This series aims to ensure that the invited schools compete annually against each other, with all their rugby playing boys getting the opportunity to test themselves against the best whether he represents his school a 1st XV level or Under-/14C level.” It also says that schools are required to province a minimum of four teams in the Under-19 age-group and three teams in each of the other age groups (Under-16, Under-15 and Under-14).
The men driving this new initiative are Bart Schoeman and Carl Fabian.
They got six top rugby-playing schools together to discuss feasibility – Hoërskool Garsfontein (Pretoria), Grey College of Bloemfontein, Paarl Boys’ High, Paarl Gim, Paul Roos of Stellenbosch and Monument of Krugersdorp.
Those six school were in Rugby365’s Top 20 or 2019. They were ranked in the top eight with Helpmekaar and Framesby also in the mix.
The plan was to have eight schools involved in the challenge in 2021 – a Tier 1, to be followed, perhaps, by a Tier 2 in 2022 with the possibility of promotion and relegation between the two tiers. But all of this was to be thrashed out.
The schools were concerned about preservation of their traditional fixtures and the cost implications, as already there are many interschool occasions which involve the movement of many boys in more activities than just rugby.
In fact, it is all still in the planning stage
The initial discussion with the six invited schools included the following:
1) The “challenge” will take place only from 2021 onwards.
2) The establishment of a second-tier of competing schools from 2022 onwards.
3) Promotion/Relegation between the two tiers from 2023 onwards.
4) The minimum teams a school must field is three teams per age group and four in the Under-19 age group.
5) “Developing” schools will be “adopted” to help ensure that all the teams of the participating schools will have fixtures at any stage. Hoërskool Parel Vallei has been confirmed as the first development school.
6) Eligibility of players – No player will be allowed to participate in this series at the Under-19 age group who is not enrolled at his new school within the first two weeks after the commencement of his first grade 11 school year. A committee will be appointed who will evaluate each transfer that does not comply.
7) Coaches of the competing schools will make themselves available for free coaching clinics specifically aimed at developing coaches to assist in the development of rugby at all rugby playing schools.
8) The traditional fixtures and values of participating schools are to be respected.
On Point 5, Garsfontein and Parel Vallei are already keen to team up. Garsies have five Under-19 teams and then two each in Under-16 and Under-15 and three in Under-14. That is 11 teams. Paarl Boys’ High have 28 teams and Grey Bloem 35 teams. Clearly, planning is needed.
There is in this proposal food for thought and a need to tread carefully.
The organisers have said: “The main purpose of the Challenge is to ensure that the top schools compete against each other regularly. The need to play against other top schools in an organized system to grow the game and not only concentrate on the A teams/1st XV was one of the reasons we started with the process.
“We have no intention of replacing or changing existing schoolboy rugby structures which are certainly the most successful in the world. We just want to add some spice, that has been ‘demanded’, by the schoolboy rugby community for quite a while.
“We are confident that our involvement in schoolboy rugby will result in more boys playing the game, with the development of coaches our chosen pathway to achieve just that. Development opportunities are built into the plan by presenting coaching seminars to coaches of smaller and development schools that are not part of the series.
“An area we will also address is the mentorship and planning of players’ careers. Mentorship and guidance sessions will form part of the process. Parents and players will be informed and guided with their future planning and aspirations during and after professional sport.
“We are confident that in a few years our contribution will be seen as positive and constructive in preserving the game we all love at schoolboy level.”