Durban – According to Google, the 21st century purveyor of all knowledge, the definition of sport is “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment”.
For Hilton College, being thrashed 67-7 in their annual 1st XV fixture against Glenwood this year certainly involved “physical exertion”, and both teams surely had loads of “skill”, but the “entertainment” was somewhat one-sided and the Midlands private school have now opted to stop playing rugby against the Durban powerhouse.
While it is something that is certain to provoke a lot of debate, for many it is not too much of a surprise and Hilton could just be the first of many which will choose less one-sided sporting fixtures in an effort to keep the entertainment and fun factor alive for their pupils, parents, old boys and benefactors.
Kearsney, arguably the province’s top schoolboy team last year, suffered the indignity of leaking a massive 86 points against Glenwood this year and there are more than a few old boys who wished that fixture had been cancelled, while Northwood and Port Natal also had more than 60 points scored against them by the all-conquering Glenwood 1st XV.
For the boys on the losing side in these fixtures the matches are no fun, and with Glenwood unashamedly pursuing a policy of winning on the rugby fields, the one-sided fixtures are sure to continue and even grow, and there is every chance in the future that other schools, which have chosen not to put as much effort and resources into their sports programmes, will also choose to withdraw from playing Glenwood.
It has to be pointed out, however, that Glenwood is far from the all-conquering behemoths that the four results mentioned above could indicate.
Glenwood lost four matches this season – all against out-of-province schools: Waterkloof, Outeniqua and Monument enjoyed victories over the top KZN school by margins ranging from a narrow five to 12 points, while one of the country’s top rugby schools, Grey College, enjoyed a convincing 29-12 victory. Even in local fixtures, Glenwood only beat Maritzburg College by a single point and Michaelhouse were within one penalty kick of drawing their match.
Hilton’s official statements have been carefully diplomatic: “The simple reason for this decision is that Glenwood’s fairly recent strategy has, in our firm opinion, now moved them into a different league.”
But what is that “recent strategy”? Clearly, Glenwood has pursued success on the rugby field with a bit more fervour than most, if not all, their rivals. In their efforts to compete with the top schools in the country (as opposed to the province) they have recruited players from other schools and other provinces, and have instituted programmes at the school which are designed to ensure success on the sports fields.
Their elite sports programme seems to be the best in the province and their top sportsmen lack very little, if anything, in the quest to achieve.
Look at their rugby results from under 14 level through to 1st XV and it is obvious their coaching staff has a clear and well-thought-out plan to work off and all coaches are contributing to their success.
So, what is the problem?
The critics claim the top sports schools in the country have turned sport into a semi-professional activity with some practices, without doubt, bordering on professional. For instance, player poaching and recruitment from some schools is rife with schools offering big incentives to players and parents for star pupils to change schools. If some of the rumours are to be believed, then some schools, particularly some up-country establishments, offer such big incentives it could be argued they border on child labour.