Schoolboy rugby is the sinner whenever something is wrong in professional rugby in South Africa since forever. Every time the Springboks lose, which is quite often, the guilty party is always schoolboy rugby. The accusers, however, seem to forget that the average Springbok was in the professional era for at least five or six years and the professional coaches could not fix the claimed lack of development. This reasoning is as credible as blaming Jan van Riebeeck for Apartheid or crediting Superman for the success of Red Bull.
Then this week a journalist from a prominent newspaper used his "voice" to attack schoolboy rugby who is harming the development of children into normal adulthood. He uses his alleged knowledge in the economics of sport and "studies" in psychology to diagnose all the evils that schoolboy rugby contributes. The exuberant celebrations by a team and their supporters are wrong, the disappointment of the losers is evil, and only in rugby, you will find the parent that put too much pressure on their child to perform. Oh yes and if you had the privilege to attend one of the top schools in South Africa you are going directly to the hell. All I can say to this journalist is sing like no one is listening, dance like nobody's watching, and live like its heaven on earth. Oh yes and if your mother did not want you to become the concert pianist she could not, maybe then you would have enjoyed the game of rugby and benefited from some of the lessons to be learned from participating in a team sport.
This made me think, and yes I am capable of doing that, do the critics of schoolboy rugby realise the amount of time, effort and money it takes to develop these future failures as people and Springboks? Why can't schools that develop these kids not benefit from the work they have put into the development of these boys?
The payment of a "development fee" is already applicable when a player between the ages of 17 and 23 transfers between two rugby unions or clubs. The IRB has determined an amount of 5 000 pounds for every year a player was being "developed" whereas in South Africa SARU has implemented a more complexed method to determine the value to be paid between unions as a "development fee". For a 1stXV schoolboy rugby player, the amount is R 2000.00, a Grant Khomo player would fetch R 3000.00 and a Craven Week player R 5000.00. An SA Schools player would cost the new union R 10 000.00 while a Springbok player would fetch R 35 000.00.
Two or three years ago Grey College and the Free State Rugby Union had a "disagreement" regarding the development fee that was paid by a French club for a boy that transferred to the club directly after school. The Free State Rugby at the end refused to pay Grey College a cent of the development fee, collecting the money even though their only contribution to the development of the boy was selecting the boy in their youth week teams. Enquiries regarding the development fee to be paid for Stephen Le Roux from Monnas is still not answered. What was confirmed that Monnas did not receive a cent.
The current system rewards the unions for the development of schoolboy rugby players in which they did not invest a lot of time nor money. Boys that represent their Unions at the Youth Weeks have to pay to attend the respective youth weeks with the coaches receiving a minimal amount for their efforts during the youth weeks.
It is time that the schools insist on being remunerated for their investment in the careers of our future stars.
The payment of a development fee to the schools can be implemented in several forms. I would suggest that a predetermined amount must be agreed upon per year spent at a certain school. If a boy transfer from one school to another the development fee as predetermined must be paid before the boy is allowed to represent his new school. When the boy leaves school and joins a union or a university the predetermined development fee must be paid to the school the boy attended in his last year of school.
The payment of a "development fee" will enable the poorer schools whose players are often "poached" to fund a proper development program which will benefit their whole community. It will also force the "Super School" to make a "financial" decision between developing their own talent and poaching" players from somewhere else.
Now we just need SARU, the Rugby Unions and the agents/scouts to stop jumping the fences of our schools for easy/free pickings but rather come through the gates and pay the "real" developers of talent, the schools, their just reward.