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Monday, 15 June 2009 21:15

The Fewer The Men, The Greater The Honor

Browse all the annals of South African rugby history and one immediately gets the sense that schoolboy rugby, and indeed schoolboy sport, has been dominated by a select few priviliged schools. A Briton might call it the "Public School" effect. And no, in British Lions territory the word Public School has the total opposite meaning to what we conceive to be a typical Public School,

  In other words a Public School to them is what an elite, usually single sex, exclusive school is to us. Yet we can draw many comparisons to the state of rugby at schoolboy level in the United Kingdom with our own schoolboy rugby.

 Most interest in rugby in the British Isles is dominated by these "Public Schoolboys", while most of the ordinary average Joes have a fancy for soccer or rather football. Heck rugby was even created and named after a famous Public School, namely Rugby School. It has been so entrenched in the company of these elite few that one wonders whether or not England would ever be able to match the depth of talent that the rugby powerhouses of South Africa and New Zealand have.  Nevertheless that is a discussion for another day, however there is a strikingly similar situation here in South Africa.

With Craven Week coming up and the teams having been selected it gives me an opportunity to shed light on the fact that rugby talent is still, for the most part, dominated by a select few schools. In the Free State, one could readily say that Grey College would probably produce the Cheetahs Super 14 and Currie Cup teams for the most part year in and year out. In KZN, the list of schools is more, but still talent is for the most part sourced from your Glenwood's, your Kearsney's, your DHS's etc. Now I am not saying that is a good or bad thing since the interest in rugby in the country as a whole is far more than in any other country bar New Zealand. If we have a closer look however, we see that the sizes of these top schools enables them to produce such talent on a regular basis. Grey College has in excess of about 1000 boys, Glenwood has similar numbers (approx 1200) and if one had to go through the list of schools most would have such large numbers from which to choose an extremely competitive 1st XV. So then is the small school, smaller pool of players to choose from excuse a valid one? Well, one school says, "I think not." And believe me, they say it with a bang.

The Hoer Landbouskool Boland, more commonly known as Boland Landbou (Afrikaans for Boland Agricultural) boasts an envious record on the rugby field. Fielding 15 teams across all age groups week in and week out, an achievement which most top schools would themselves be incredibly proud of, and with opposition such as Paarl Gym, Paarl Boys' High, Paul Roos and the big Cape Town schools one would expect this school to be a "big fish". Add to this a list of Springbok and Provincial stars such as Derick Hougaard, Deon Carstens, Stefan Basson and Willem de Waal, as well as a victory in the 2002 Sanix World Rugby Youth Invitational Tournament and it is clear that this is a school with Grey-esque capabilities. Their record this season proves it, beating powerhouses Paarl Gym 14-12 and one of only two teams this season who have edged a strong Wynberg outfit. With these kinds of results one would naturally expect this to be a school of mammoth proportions; for a school to field 15 teams (assuming 15 players per team excluding subs) the amount of rugby players needs to be about 225.  Naturally then for a school to be so competitive surely large numbers of pupils need to be at hand? The Grand Total of boys attending Hoer Landbouskool Boland: 320 boys.

So this laughs in the face of the typical excuse schools put forward when their teams underperform, "Oh but Grey have over a 1000 boys to choose from!".

True, but the beauty of rugby is no matter how great your numbers are there is no brilliant winger or classy centre who can run circles around the team who has pride and passion. These days those two qualities are often frowned upon and often the response is, "Professionalism, professionalism, professionalism."

To me those two qualities will single-handedly seperate an average team from a great team. Rather there needs to be a balance between professionalism and that desire to win, that burning ambition to honour the jersey. Its what makes New Zealand, who have more sheep than humans, such a brilliant rugby nation. Its also what brought us as South Africans from being the laughing stock of the rugby world in 2003 to World Champions in 2007.

In my opinion Boland Landbou is a school for the new South Africa, despite what some might say. They teach us that although we might be minnows to the rest of the world, we have one thing that they can never take away from us... Passion, Honour and Pride in being who we are no matter what people might say. We are South Africans, and my goodness we are proud of it.

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