GARETH DUNCAN, writing in SA Rugby magazine, says the Wildeklawer Super Schools has grown into one of the biggest events on the South African schools rugby calendar.
What do you get when you take 18 of the top rugby schools in South Africa, schedule the most exciting schoolboy clashes of the year over a weekend and draw in massive crowds to create one big carnival? You get the Wildeklawer Super Schools, that will be hosted at Diamantveld in Kimberley in the last weekend of April.
The competition is only heading into its fourth installment this year, but it has already become the most popular annual schoolboy event in the country. This is an impressive feat considering there are several prestigious Easter festivals and other rugby weekends that are prominent in March and April.
‘I was headmaster of Paarl Gym back then,’ says Reinhardt, who is now the operations manager at Diamantveld. ‘The school used to take part in these annual Easter and other rugby festivals, which saw different teams from all over South Africa get the chance to play against each other.
‘However, the main problem I had was the mismatches in the schedules. You’d get the odd game where two strong schools went head-to-head and it would be a tight affair, but on other occasions, you’d get top schools taking on weaker schools and they would be predictable, one-sided contests. I felt that we needed a tournament where every fixture was an exciting feature match and both teams stood a chance of beating one another.’
Reinhardt then planned the ‘perfect event’ in 2008 and promoted the idea to several companies. Wildeklawer jumped on board as the main sponsor and helped drive the initiative. A year later, the Super Schools tournament was officially launched.
The event debuted at Paarl Gym, where 12 top schools were invited. The weekend was a huge success and a second event took place at Affies in Pretoria in 2010, where 16 schools participated. Last year, 17 schools travelled to Diamantveld in Kimberley, which attracted crowds of 10 000 to 12 000 supporters per day – a following bigger than some senior provincial matches get.
Diamantveld will again play hosts this year as 18 schools will take part in the biggest edition of the competition. Tournament director Cassie Carstens expects more all-round success.
‘I’ve been surprised by the tournament’s growth over the past three years. No one expected it to become so big so soon.’
There will be nine 1st XV matches at this year’s tournament, all of which are billed as ‘major clashes’. Most of the schools will also bring junior rugby teams, and there will be top netball schools involved.
‘We’re going to have South Africa’s best junior talent on show all weekend, which should bring in huge crowds, probably even bigger than last year,’ adds Carstens.
The event has garnered such a reputation that top provincial and national coaches attend, with Springbok Sevens coach Paul Treu being a regular observer each year, as he hunts for the best schoolboy talent around.
There will be some classic clashes. On day one, Waterkloof (who beat Affies 23-16 in March) take on Grey Bloem, Affies tackle Paarl Boys’, while Glenwood confront Paarl Gym. On day two, Affies face an impressive Paul Roos outfit, Paarl Boys’ duel with Monument, and Paarl Gym challenge Waterkloof.
Grey Bloem director of rugby Dries van der Wal says it’s fixtures like these that make this annual weekend special.
‘Every top school has a hectic season planned for the year, but they make sure there’s a gap for the Super Schools because you know you’re going to be facing two of the best teams in the country,’ says Van der Wal.
If you want to see the future of South African rugby, this is the tournament to follow. So many of the current youngsters who are excelling in Super Rugby and other domestic competitions have featured in this event over the past three years.
‘The only issue is the timing of everything. Last year, our boys struggled because we played in the Super Schools and the Kearsney Easter Rugby Festival over six days, which was tough on the players’ bodies. But this year they have scheduled the event better.’
Reinhardt says these logistical issues have now been sorted out: ‘We’ve realised that you have to plan this kind of tournament very early otherwise some big schools will be unavailable because of other commitments, while our fixtures might clash with other school tournaments.’
Former Grey Bloem inside centre Paul Jordaan, who made his Super Rugby debut for the Sharks this season, adds: ‘Every schoolboy wants to play in the biggest tournaments, where they can test themselves against the best. The Super Schools allows that.’
While a successful event is expected in Kimberley this year, there are already bigger plans in the pipeline. Tournament organisers are ensuring that more of the country’s best schools participate, while Carstens reveals that they hope to add an international flavour to future competitions.
‘There are no limits to this project,’ says Carstens. ‘We’ve had talks with Saru about getting some national input. We are also looking at the possibilities of inviting foreign schools, from New Zealand, Australia or Europe. We want new innovations every year.
‘But the important thing is making this a memorable experience for the players on and off the field. We want to give all the boys a strong sense of camaraderie and sportsmanship. That’s why we have evening dinners for all the teams, for everybody to socialise. We also bring in famous players as guest speakers, like Springbok Pierre Spies, which motivates everyone.
‘The Wildeklawer Super Schools is not only about a great weekend of rugby, it could also be the platform for many of South Africa’s future stars.’
Wildeklawer Super Schools fixtures (28 and 30 May):
DAY ONE (28 APRIL, SATURDAY):
Diamantveld A Field
Oakdale vs Monument (08:30)
Paul Roos vs Maritzburg College (09:50)
Glenwood vs Paarl Gym (11:10)
Affies vs Paarl Boys’ (12:30)
Grey Bloem vs Waterkloof (13:50)
Boland Landbou vs Middelburg (15:10)
Framesby vs Ben Vorster (16:30)
Diamantveld B Field
EG Jansen vs Louis Botha (14:45)
Diamantveld vs Outeniqua (16:05)
DAY TWO (30 APRIL, MONDAY):
Diamantveld A Field
Diamantveld vs Maritzburg College (08:30)
Glenwood vs Outeniqua (09:50)
Grey Bloem vs EG Jansen (11:10)
Paarl Boys’ vs Monument (12:30)
Affies vs Paul Roos (13:50)
Paarl Gym vs Waterkloof (15:10)
Diamantveld B Field
Oakdale vs Louis Botha (13:30)
Boland Landbou vs Ben Vorster (14:45)
Framesby vs Middelburg (16:05)