We already knew it but now we can re-affirm it, school boy rugby in South Africa is by far and away the best in the world.
The annual World Schools festival in Stellenbosch at Paul Roos Gymnasium has come to a close and the SA schools have dominated, as they did last year.
The Rest of the World team won just two matches and drew one but ironically, the World XV team that won both matches was made up of South African Players from around the country’s non participating schools.
Christchurch Boys’ High from New Zealand almost snuck the only overseas school win when they drew to a last second try and conversion from Affies.
Questions will be asked about the quality of opposition that was offered to play against the SA Schools but the very best from New Zealand, Italy, USA and England were here and they were dismissed with ease.
The quality, speed and power of the home teams was far superior to that of their opposition and for that they should take credit.
Accuracy and ruthlessness were a constant feature of the South African Schools’ rugby over the week long tournament and their opposition simply couldn’t cope.
It makes you wonder what happens between school’s rugby and Super Rugby all the way to international level that the Springboks are not dominating the world like the All Blacks have for the past decade now. The kiwi schools were not even close to the ability of the home teams. Worlds apart in fact. Excuse the pun but there is no other way to describe it.
Whether that opposition is devaluing the tournament or not is open for discussion but these boys can only play what is put in front of them.
I feel that the invitational teams need to take a back seat and that the organisers consolidate the number of teams down to 16. Four games a day is more than enough and closer games will only improve the tournament.
Hartpury, Napier and Christchurch more than held their own for patches of matches and gave the SA teams a scare but watching Paul Roos score 93 points in 60 minutes is not beneficial to anyone, on or off the pitch.
As a school boy, conceding that many points, could have a long-lasting effect on confidence and there isn’t a shred of positivity that can be taken from that.
The close matches actually became a bit of a relief for everyone around the ground. They were exciting, fast paced, end to end and full of drama. Not only did the Rest of the World teams put on a show but the SA teams faced invaluable experience of playing against different styles of play.
At half-time in the Paarl Gim v Hartpury match, the scores were level and Gim had soaked up phase after phase of pick and go rugby on their own line. A typically ‘English’ style of rugby was being played. Gim, who are used to dominating possession, suddenly had to adjust and think on their feet whilst the game was going. It was fascinating to watch and made the Gimmies performance even more impressive as they ran away with the game in the second half. The coaches will feel that they gained beneficial exposure from this.
More matches need to be like this though.
The set-up was fantastic and up there with any professional sporting event I have attended in the past, so kudos to the team at World Schools Festival for that but for this fantastic tournament to survive and thrive in the school rugby calendar, it needs to be careful that it doesn’t become too diluted.
South African Schools rugby is the best in World so let’s make sure that it is showcased by teams outplaying and outthinking their opposition in tough battles rather than walking all over them.
Affies in Pretoria hosts the next instalment and as a rugby mad and knowledgeable school, they will want to see the best of the best going head to head in March 2020.