First-team coach Dries van der Wal insists Grey College do not buy players from other provinces.
Grey College are currently on a 12-game winning streak, having defeated the likes of Paarl Boys’ (50-8), Outeniqua (41-0), Marlow (26-10) and Affies (30-13). They have scored 522 points in total, which could have been more considering that school games in Free State are stopped if one side gains a 30-point lead in the first half or a 50-point lead in the second.
There has been plenty of public criticism on rugby blogs about the success of Grey College, with many believing it’s because of their ‘imports’ from Johannesberg and Welkom.
‘That’s far from the truth,’ Van der Wal told keo.co.za. ‘The boys apply to be at this school and decide to play rugby here. Grey College doesn’t award bursaries, so we can’t just go out and buy players.’
Van der Wal believes his team’s success is due to the strong gees (spirit) and camaraderie that exists among the players.
‘I’m lucky to have nine guys still playing from last year. So I have a good, passionate side,’ said Van der Wal.
While 15 Grey boys have been selected for the Free State Craven Week squad this year, Van der Wal believes the 1st XV are strong because of how they play together as a team and not because of individual talent.
‘Time to time, you will get a great side that plays well together. So well, that you choose team combinations instead of individuals,’ said Van der Wal. ‘Of course you’re going to have moments where individuals stand out, but mostly credit is given to the team and not to one or two players.’
When asked about the various South African school rugby rankings, Van der Wal said that Grey College does not take note of them, even though they are ranked No 1.
‘I think it’s unfair. How can you be No 1 if you do not play all the schools?’ he asked.
Van der Wal suggested if they want to rank school rugby, then a super league should be created. But he admitted that even such a development would be difficult considering the academic commitments of the players in the classroom. He rather supports the inter-school format, where rivalries are created.
With five games left in the season, Grey College are set to continue their unbeaten run. However, they have a tough schedule ahead of them with matches against Grey High (1 August), Glenwood (15 August) and Paul Roos (22 August).
‘Paul Roos and Grey High are both good rugby schools and Glenwood is the top KwaZulu-Natal rugby school, so those will be difficult games to win,’ said Van der Wal.
What could help Grey College achieve a perfect season is their great rugby tradition that is so special and unique. This has proved to be an inspiration to the players.
‘The 1st XV players are also blessed with a good gym, a conditioning coach, a skills coach, a backline coach and a forwards coach,’ said Van der Wal. ‘They are inspired by this and the fact that Springboks such as Ruben Kruger, Frans Steyn and Heinrich Brüssow all sat where they are today.’
By Gareth Duncan