Four players at this year’s Kearsney festival received bursaries from the Sharks Academy. KAMVA SOMDYALA says other unions should also get involved.
South Africa’s Easter schools festivals have been a fixture on the rugby calendar for years, with St Stithians hosting their 34th edition in 2017 and St John’s their 22nd. The two most recently established festivals, KES (16 years) and Kearsney (10), are now also well supported.
Festivals allow schools to test themselves against quality opposition and showcase some of the best players from around the country.
The partnership between Kearsney College and the Sharks Academy helps attract the top schools, and players, to the KwaZulu-Natal festival, and it’s time for other unions to get involved with the other festivals.
The Sharks are able to identify players who they think are good enough to make it professionally, and who have not yet signed with a union.
From 2008 to 2016, three players at every edition of the Kearsney festival were offered bursaries and this increased to four this year.
Quality players have been signed by the Sharks as a result of this partnership.
S’bura Sithole received his bursary in 2008, served his apprenticeship at the Sharks, and went on to play Currie Cup and Super Rugby for them.
While some players do not end up staying in Durban, like Chris Cloete, who moved to the Kings, or don’t make it professionally, the risk is still worth the reward for the Sharks.
The Sharks’ bursary system has also been kind to players in Eastern Cape schools such as Queen’s, Dale and Selborne, who impressed at the Kearsney festival and may not otherwise have been been picked up by a union.
Other unions should take the opportunity to snap up non-committed players by awarding bursaries at festivals and be celebrated for doing so.
It would be good for the game, as it would provide players with an added incentive to perform.
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