Through the initiative of Paarl Boys High coach Sean Erasmus and the backing of former Bok coach Heyneke Meyer, a rugby gem is being birthed in April this year in the form of the World Schools Festival.
Between the 2nd to the 8th of April, the inaugural World Schools Festival, featuring South Africa’s top ten schools and ten international schools yet to be announced, will take place at Paarl Boys High. This festival will act as a celebration of 150 years of rugby excellence at Boshaai, but perhaps more importantly as a platform for the growth of schoolboy rugby.
Schools rugby is rapidly changing, offering tradition, value systems and camaraderie, mixed into a professional environment. Top rugby schools are becoming not only institutes of learning but rather high performance institutions too. And what better for the game at a professional level?
However whilst so much growth and innovation is happening at schoolboy level, it seems to be happening in an amateur environment. Institutions are stuck in Limbo between professionalism and old tradition, and Schools rugby, for the most part, is grossly overshadowed in the media considering its importance to the game as a whole.
What the World Schools Festival will hopefully do is stamp professionalism officially into schools rugby, whilst also offering wide exposure of talent and staking a claim for more interest in schoolboy rugby.
Heyneke Meyer, now the managing director at Carinat Sports Marketing said the following. ‘I’ve always coached rugby because I believe in making a difference in people’s lives, and I truly believe this event can do that.’ ‘Rugby is not only about competing hard on the field, but also making friendships for life off the field, so this tournament will give something back to the game by making a difference and developing rugby in South Africa.
The beauty of the event is that it has the above-mentioned ability to unite people and provide the platform for development of rugby not only in South Africa, but worldwide. At schoolboy level is where administration has the biggest opportunity to change lives using rugby and develop the game as a whole. What is required is greater interest in the importance of schools rugby and wider exposure thereof.
Erasmus’ Paarl Boys High make the best claim for the game at schoolboy level, as they have adopted an attitude of professionalism that has allowed them to finish the past three years unbeaten in the South African schoolboy league and with only one loss, to New Zealand side Christchurch Boys High. This should create such excitement for the upcoming festival as South Africa’s top sides can now measure themselves against other international bests.
The only guaranteed result is that incredible talent will be on display and many clubs will have the opportunity to look into scouting and investing in this talent for the future.
South Africa boasts one of the toughest schoolboy rugby leagues in the world, yet we are still not there in terms of managing and investing in our enormous pool of resources and talent. The World Schools Festival provides a real opportunity for us to do this. Lets get excited. Lets get behind this.