GARETH DUNCAN reports that Saru have established a new SA Schools selection policy to ensure that the strongest possible squad is picked.
Over the years, pundits and coaches have complained about the selection process used for the SA Schools squad. Some have argued that the best players aren’t always called up, while some have questioned the exclusion of schoolboys who were not picked to appear at the annual U18 Craven Week.
To avoid these scenarios, Saru will broaden the SA Schools squad’s player pool. This year, the selection panel will consider players from the secondary U18 provincial tournaments (like the U18 Academy and LSEN weeks) and schoolboys who have excelled on the national school 1st XV scene, but have failed to receive a provincial call-up.
Traditionally, a final SA Schools squad is announced following the unofficial Craven Week final on the last match day. These selections are based on the talent that featured during the tournament.
However, Saru manager of amateur teams and events Yusuf Jackson said a wider squad will take part in a trial phase, that will run sometime in July.
‘A squad of players will be announced after Craven Week. They will be joined by players who have excelled at the other provincial tournaments and schoolboys, who didn’t receive provincial selection, at the SA Schools trials,’ Jackson told Schoolboy Derby. ‘This will ensure that we have the strongest squad available.
‘This group will be picked by our selection panel, which is headed by [national convener of selectors] Peter Jooste. This panel will also include members from the SA Schools Rugby Association [SASRA].’
The SA Schools team will take part in three international matches this year. They will face U18 teams from England, Wales and France between 5 and 18 August. The fixture against England will feature as a curtain-raiser for the Rugby Championship Test between the Springboks and Argentina at Newlands on 18 August.
Jackson also mentioned that a professional approach will be used in appointing this year’s SA Schools coach and team manager.
‘Candidates had the opportunity to send in their applications. From that pool, a shortlist has been created,’ he said. ‘On the off day during Craven Week [Friday, 13 July], we will have interviews with the final candidates, and the new coach and team manager will be appointed during the squad announcement.’
Meanwhile, Jackson added that the preparations for all the age-group provincial weeks are going well.
‘We are very happy with the planning of the youth weeks and we are expecting some successful and entertaining tournaments,’ said Jackson. ‘What’s great is the fact that four of our provincial unions will have the honour of hosting a tournament.’
The U13 Craven Week will be held at Grey College in Bloemfontein. The U18 Academy Week will be hosted in Wellington. The Grant Khomo U16 Week and the LSEN Week will be hosted in Johannesburg, while the U18 Craven Week will be played at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.