Academy pulls no punches

2017-04-09 06:06

Eye of the Tiger will find themselves up against the country’s premier rugby school in the St John’s Easter Festival.

When you are named after a song from the Rocky Balboa soundtrack, it is probably important for you to establish your credentials as hard bastards.

That’s the job facing the Eye of the Tiger Rugby Academy as they make their long-awaited debut at the St John’s Easter Festival, which begins on Thursday and will end on Monday.

For all their sins, however, Eye of the Tiger find themselves up against the premier school in the country, Paarl Boys High School.

Rugby juggernaut

Nicknamed “Boishaai”, the Western Cape team has overtaken Grey College as the schoolboy rugby juggernaut by not losing a game since 2014.

To underline that fact, Paarl Boys also got a record eight players into the 2016 SA Schools team from the 13 they supplied to the Western Province Craven Week side.

Among those players are youngsters of great potential in SA Under-20 lock Salmaan Moerat, Stormers fly half Damian Willemse and centre Manuel Rass, to name a few.

So if there was any doubt that this was an Apollo Creed-Rocky Balboa situation, those numbers tell a story.

But Viwe Qegu, the academy’s founder and one of the first two women to sit on the SA Rugby Presidents’ Council a few years ago, looks forward to the challenge.

“About four years ago, when we had just launched the academy, we asked St John’s if they would give our youngsters an opportunity to be exposed to rugby at the highest level,” she said.

“Paarl Boys are a very good schoolboy team, but this is the opportunity we asked for.”

Eye of the Tiger, who will also play against Nelspruit and hosts St John’s, have effectively replaced what used to be a Golden Lions Development XV in the tournament in the first appearance of their Under-19 side.

Senior teams

The academy, which is based at Queens High School in Johannesburg, was formed in partnership with the school because of their access to facilities such as rugby fields and a swimming pool.

While they are not a school and therefore possibly do not play as much as their counterparts, they do participate in competitions such as the Soweto Rugby Tournament, which they have won the past three times, the Bondedag Tournament, Rhino Week, the Klerksdorp Sevens and Namibian Sevens.

Essentially, they have six teams, which are made up of Under-19, Under-21 and Under-23 sides with an A team and a B team, and have produced Lions Currie Cup player and former SA Under-20 and Queens High flanker Victor Sekekete.

Another composite side going to St John’s is the Combined Australian Schools side, which is perhaps a way their senior teams should be competing in Super Rugby, given their results of late.

Other notable schools going to St John’s are Paul Roos, Affies, Hoërskool Florida and Hilton College.

There are other Easter rugby festivals, two of them in Johannesburg, with St John’s neighbours King Edward VII also hosting their own, with Jeppe Boys, Rondebosch and Marlow in attendance.

St Stithians also host a festival, their draw cards being Grey High from Port Elizabeth, Durban High School and SACS (Cape Town).

Kearsney College, which has attracted Eastern Cape powerhouses Selborne College, Queen’s College and Dale College, with Durban’s new powerhouse Glenwood College in attendance, will also host their annual event.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  rugby


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