Tygerberg, De Kuilen bust in transfer saga

GARETH DUNCAN reports on De Kuilen High’s decision to boycott an entire rugby schedule against Tygerberg last weekend.

The saga arose after Tygerberg, one of the emerging powers in Western Cape school rugby, allegedly poached WP U18 Academy No 8 Lucian Williams from De Kuilen. The decision to drop all team fixtures last weekend was forced by De Kuilen, who beat Rondebosch 14-13 a fortnight ago, after their unhappiness about the transfer.

‘We didn’t even know that he had left the school,’ De Kuilen sports organiser Gabri Spies told keo.co.za. ‘When he didn’t show up on Monday [after the June holidays], we were told that he was injured. We then heard the Tuesday that he’s at Tygerberg. We contacted the parents and they only sent us a letter the following Saturday that they decided to send him to Tygerberg. We also understand that a good deal was passed on to the player for him to move.

‘We were upset about the matter, and we decided to cancel the matches against them because they bought one of our best players. He spent three years at our school, where he also made the WP U16 side, and we invested a lot of money into his development.

‘This is not the first time the so-called smaller rugby schools lose their players to other schools, and it’s not the first time Tygerberg is involved. Just ask Durbanville and DF Malan.’

Tygerberg head of rugby Gavin Beresford argued it wasn’t a case of ‘stealing’ another school’s player.

‘This has just blown out of proportion,’ explains Beresford. ‘I was there when it all started. I first spoke to Lucian’s father at the WP U18 Academy capping ceremony. I was congratulating the boys’ parents when I was introduced to him. During our conversation, he spoke about Lucian having to travel by train and taxi to De Kuilen, and leaving early in the morning and coming home late at night because he lives more than 20km away. He then pointed out that he only lived 5km away from Tygerberg. I asked him why he traveled so far, and he replied it was because of a rugby bursary. So I suggested that he enroll at our school because of the transport problem, and I left it there.

‘During the school holidays, we got a call from Mr Williams and he wanted to enroll Lucian at Tygerberg. There were no deals involved. Yes, the parents can’t afford to pay our school fees, but there’s a grant learners apply for that allows them to attend school without paying fees. We don’t pay the player or his parents.

‘We’ve experienced similar situations where we lost our players to schools like Outeniqua, Paarl Boys’ and Waterkloof. We never cancelled matches because of it. Now De Kuilen decide they want to deny over 300 boys an opportunity to play because they’re not happy.’

WP head of schools rugby Theo Kleyhans believes that national rules and regulations have to be put in place to avoid such controversy.

‘This is an unfortunate matter and it’s not the first,’ Kleyhans also told this site. ‘The northern suburbs schools all met up and they’re not happy about losing their top players to the other schools. There was a lot of emotion involved in this saga, and that’s why De Kuilen cancelled the matches.

‘In my opinion, Tygerberg were wrong in obtaining a player in such an unethical manner. With four league matches left, they could’ve waited until the end of the season. De Kuilen were also wrong in cancelling the matches. If you register with WP, you commit to the fixtures scheduled. The union has spoken to both schools sternly about it.

‘Tygerberg play in the same league as De Kuilen, so there’s no case of the player getting more or better opportunities at the other school. One also has to understand that the player does live nearer to Tygerberg.

‘Looking ahead, there has to be a code of conduct put in place to avoid such sagas. I suggest that the schools approach the board and ask for transfer regulations.’

This is not the first time that schools have been accused of poaching players. SA Rugby magazine spoke to Grey Bloem after they were accused of ‘stealing’ players and they denied it, adding they were giving boys opportunities.