In 2009, when I was still at The Star, I was asked to compile a list of my 10 school sporting highlights of the decade that was just ending to go along with similar lists drawn up by the reporters on the various sporting beats the paper covered.
I don’t remember much of it, but I think the exercise must have been quite easy because I had the archives to dig into to look for the standout teams and players over the previous 10 years.
I thought it might be fun to repeat the exercise for the 20-teens, although it’s not so simple without an article library to go to, and with my fading memory.
Here goes anyway – and I’m using the dodgy memory excuse to explain anyone I’ve left out. And yes, it’s biased towards Joburg where I live. I have only included events that I was personally at.
In roughly chronological order:
1 St Benedict’s rowing. They would have been on my 2009 list. In that year they won the boys trophy at the SA Schools Rowing Championships for the 16th time in a row, which was pretty remarkable. Well, they haven’t lost since and were crowned for the 26th consecutive time at Roodeplaat this year.
2 In 2010 Bree Primary School took the under-13 title at the Danone Nations Cup international football tournament at the Orlando Stadium. The Joburg school should have competed in 2009 in Brazil, but the event was cancelled because of the swine flu epidemic that year. So, they ran it together with the 2010 event in South Africa, and Bree won at home – the third South African team to take the title at the 52-nation event.
3 In 2011 King Edward VII School became the first school to win all three sections in Joburg’s T20 Johnny Waite cricket knockout competition. Their 1st, 2nd and 3rd teams beat St Stithians in all three finals.
4 At a triangular athletics meeting at Jeppe in 2015 I watched two world top 10 athletes in action. Patrick Duvenhage of KES was ranked in the top 10 on the planet in his age group in both discus and shotput at the time while Jeppe’s Mpho Tladi ran the world’s quickest time in the under-16 100m hurdles earlier in the year.
5 Ruan de Swardt of Affies became just the 13th sportsman to make the South African Schools cricket and rugby teams. He was selected for the rugby side at the Craven Week in July 2016 and made the cricket side at the end of the year. The previous player to do the "double" had been Martizburg College’s Adrian Penzhorn in 2002.
6 Remarkably, the next player to achieve that feat was Grey College’s Christopher Schreuder, the very next year.
7 At the 2017 boys schools interhigh meeting at St David’s, Lythe Pillay of King Edward VII school won the 100m, 200m and 400, races in time of 10.8; 21.6 and 48.6, respectively. He has gone on to do even better since, but that was the day he announced himself as a future superstar.
8 Travis Gordon of King Edward VII School captained the South African Schools rugby team in 2017. He was the first player from that school to do so and it came at the end of one of the best seasons in memory by a KES 1st team.
9 In 2018 Jeppe High School for Boys won all three of Joburg’s hockey trophies - the under-19 Aitken Cup, the under-15 Boden Trophy, and the under-16 Top 8 tournament. Their 1st team won the Aitken again in 2019 – for the 5th year in a row.
10 Max Chaumeton of Parktown Boys’ High came 28th at World Cross Country Championships in 2019. He went on the make the final of the mens 1500m race at the SA Athletics Championships. He ended his school athletics career without ever losing a 1500m race.
11 One more, lasting the whole decade really: the rise of girls water polo as a school sport. 10 years ago it hardly featured, now it’s the fastest growing sport at schools. There are big tournaments all over the country including two in Joburg, the St Peter’s Old Petrians and the Saints Stayers at St Stithians. Both were won this year by St Stithians Girls College who have emerged as the top girls polo school in the land.