OLLIE KEOHANE says you don’t need to attend a well-known rugby school, or play Craven Week, to become a Springbok.
As long as Craven Week has been going, the provinces’ respective teams have always been made up of a bulk of boys from the dominating schools in the area. For example, a school like Paarl Boys’, who have been unbeaten for the past two seasons, dominate the Western Province squad. The KZN Craven Week side consists of nine players from Glenwood and five from Kearsney. Free State’s team consists of 13 boys from Grey College and nine from Louis Botha, with only one from a different school (Fitchardtpark) to make up the 23. Affies also dominate the Bulls’ selections.
The trend continues throughout the other provinces and the selections are in keeping with the current top 20 schoolboy rankings.
Statistics show that these ‘rugby schools’ consistently producing the most Craven Week players have also produced the most Springboks. The top 10 Springbok-producing schools are Paul Roos Gymnasium (48), Grey College (45), Bishops (42), SACS (29), Paarl Gym (23), Paarl Boys’ (20), Kimberley Boys’ (19), Rondebosch Boys’ (15), Maritzburg College (13) and Grey High (12) – the same schools that dominate this year’s Craven Week sides.
But you don’t have to attend one of these ‘fashionable’ rugby schools to become a Bok. In fact, you don’t even have to have played Craven Week to make it into the national set-up. Of the latest Springbok 23, who beat Ireland in the series decider this past Saturday, only five of the starting players (Willie le Roux, Frans Malherbe, Siya Kolisi, Francois Louw and Adriaan Strauss), and only one bench player (Steven Kitshoff) come from the above-mentioned schools. Statistics on SchoolSportsNews.co.za show that since 1906, 165 different schools have produced just one Springbok. Although they have produced only one each, that’s 165 players who have made it to the Boks without attending the perceived traditional rugby schools
What this goes to show is that if you are truly good enough, you can make it to the highest level. Of course, attending a well-known rugby school has its benefits and gets you a foot in the door if you are a talented rugby player, but if you do not attend one of those schools, there is no reason to be despondent.
Lionel Mapoe earned his selection for the Boks this year after superb displays in Super Rugby. He attended Fitchardtpark. He is also the only Springbok player in history from his school. This year’s Free State Craven Week side has one boy from Fitchardtpark, among 22 other boys from Grey College and Louis Botha. Regardless of schooling background, the boy is there.
Schools aid a rugby player’s rise to the top, but no school is a guarantee to making a player a Springbok. Talent, along with hard work, determination and belief is what makes a Springbok. Never lose faith in your ability, because if history is anything to go by, you do stand a chance.
Craven Week selection is very much a beginning to a schoolboy’s career but non-selection is by no means the end of any schoolboy dream to become a Springbok.