The Paarl Boys’ High 150th Anniversary World Schools festival has turned out to be the damp squib many of us expected it would be. Composite teams assembled a few days ahead of the time were never going to provide much a challenge for our top school teams who have, as their greatest asset, great coaching and meticulous preparation.
There were a few wins for the overseas school teams, but in all, it’s clear that the local schools are generally cleaning up.
It’s a new concept, formulated by Heyneke Meyer, and it seems to have gotten a lot of people quite excited. Not me though, I really battle to care much about the result of Outeniqua vs the Italian All Stars, or Paarl Gim vs the USA Rhinos.
For me, it’s been just another lurch down the slippery slope that leads down to the hole that school rugby in this country is digging for itself.
Paarl Boys' High has been our top rugby school in recent years, I guess they want to call themselves the best in the world too, but this assembly of international opposition won’t prove that.
And it’s symptomatic of a deeper problem. It’s an extreme example of the adulitification of youth sport. I can’t believe that the educators in charge of the schools that agreed to the concept didn’t stop to wonder in which ways running a rugby “world cup” at school level would be a valid educational experience for the boys they are responsible for.
Surely the principle behind including sport in the educational curriculum is that lessons have a better chance of being learnt when those who are being taught are having fun. Having fun is playing with and against your friends. It’s fun to go on tour with your mates, staying together and playing traditional rivals. It’s certainly fun meeting people you played against many years later and talking about the games you played in the old days.
Some adults thought it would be fun to bring the top world school teams here and putting the top South African schools up against them. My colleagues in the social media seem to be enjoying it.
It hasn’t been much fun for me, and I wonder whether the boys who were prevented from strutting their stuff in front of the big crowds at the traditional Easter festivals like their predecessors have done, playing against opponents they will see again at the Craven Week, and next year, enjoyed it very much.