Changing SA rugby

2012-05-24 14:27
In the news lately, the topic of high school and primary school rugby has been a hot topic of debate. Kids getting injured, kids hitting refs and other players. Parents getting involved in scuffles. And there is a call for banning, get rid of those hooligans! Even Naas Botha is calling for the toughest sanctions.

But all of those people calling for the lifetime ban of players, those ignorant parents who do not have kids playing rugby, do not have kids playing rugby, yet they are calling for better safety measures.

I have been a supporter of primary school rugby since my son was seven. My other son started when he was seven as well. I have seen games that have been reffed well, I have seen games reffed where it was so biased against either the opponent’s side or our side. I have seen refs ref games so well that they have even recognised that a “squeeze ball” is not allowed at primary school level and seen refs who don’t even know what a “squeeze ball”  is. A “squeeze ball” is when you fall on the ball and push it between your legs, thus leaving your neck vulnerable to massive spinal column injury when the forward pack of the opposing team decides they want the ball. Forward packs are getting bigger. The tight five of our school is at least 350kg’s, probably more like 400kg’s.

I have seen parents behave so badly on the side of the field and have personally been threatened on numerous occasions. I am Boksmart, going through the basics of what is right and what is wrong on the side of the field. Most parents haven’t and their etiquette leaves much to be desired. Calls of “Moer hulle” or “Maak hulle dood” is common, even at the age of under seven. The scary thing is that my son is big enough to put a small adult in a coma and he has the build to do it, but I have managed, with much difficulty, to get him to manage his temper. Dad’s child.....

And the level of racism is worse than you can ever imagine. Forget “the Spear”. At primary school level, my son, who is English, is always referred to as “Soutie”. I may be biased but I do see him as a massive asset on the field when our team runs out. But he will always be a “Soutie”. I fondly recall when his club side (where he is not called a “Soutie” as his coach, who is also president of the club, recognises his accomplishments on the field) played Soweto. My son is HUGE yet a spirited Soweto side committed seven or so players to take this Bulldozer out. They eventually stopped him. Soweto went on to be beaten badly but my son still told me that that was one of his “funnest” games ever. Now that is what rugby is supposed to be all about.

If you want to fix high school rugby, start with fixing primary school rugby. What needs to happen, going forward, is the following. Before you fix the below, people like Naas and everyone out there, who criticise and pass judgement on players and parents must either support these changes or just keep quiet. Naas, et al, enforce a radical change in primary school rugby and if you are not interested, because you are too busy and your SuperSport schedule won’t allow it, shut up!

Fix this and you will fix school rugby and will actually start to encourage rugby being played across all age and racial groups: -

  • If you have not done a Boksmart course, you are not allowed to be next to the field.
  • Alcohol is not allowed next to the field during the game and alcohol may not be sold at the venue of a school rugby game. (Believe it or not, this happens more often than not)
  • All refs must be registered, qualified and generally understand something about the game. This sounds obvious but I have seen many refs being appointed minutes before a game.

  • Appointed refs need to come from a different league. You cannot have Blou Bul refs reffing games against opposing Blou Bul sides. Appoint a Lions ref, it’s not that far.
  • Have officials policing the sides of the fields. Parents are the worst influence on the side of a field. If a parent swears or makes any derogatory remarks, remove them.
  • No parent is allowed to call any player “fat”. This is a thoroughly disgusting habit, usually exhibited by very fat parents.
  • Men verbally attacking women on the sides of the field should be frowned upon. (Yet another characteristic of your overly eager male parent).

I will never undermine sports such as soccer, hockey and netball, as each of them pose their own parental challenges. But rugby is a highly technical sport and since the rules change every season, us ignorant parents cannot keep up with them. But as a passionate parent, I appeal to SARU and Naas to start taking primary school and high school rugby more seriously. Start policing it better. Not only will this start encouraging development sides but it will instil an ethic of professionalism early in the game and those incidences of violence and injuries will simply disappear.

If you don’t, you will see more and more parents emigrate with hugely talented individuals. And those talented individuals that you leave behind will not be interested in playing rugby because you choose to do nothing about addressing the problems (and no, I will not call it challenges) that we currently have with our rugby at grassroots level.

Read more on:    rugby

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