But the Blue Bulls Rugby Union (BBRU) is not only concerned about the land’s finest rugby players currently battling it out for top spot in the South African Conference, but also the enormous talent that lies in the northern third of the country.
That is why they also launched their impressive and vital new schools rugby project, in conjunction with SuperSport’s Let’s Play initiative and local and national government, at Loftus Versfeld last week.
Johan Schoeman, the BBRU Game Development Manager, revealed that their dedicated development programme would introduce boys and girls to rugby skills, with particular attention given to those schools in the disadvantaged communities.
Although the programme will also be implemented in the vast area of Limpopo, the Tshwane area has been divided into six clusters – North-West, North-East, South-West, Inner City, South-East and Pioneer, which includes areas such as Mamelodi, Soshunguve, Garunkuwa and Atteridgeville.
Forty-four primary schools have been identified for the programme and Schoeman said the aim was to “develop a sustainable rugby culture”.
“If we go into schools, then we have to work with the Education Department and sponsors are also big role-players – SuperSport have already given about R360 000.
“But we can’t just go in and leave them with kit. It’s a long process that ultimately reaches playing contact rugby in leagues. It’s about talent identification and creating a passion for the game, especially amongst the headmasters,” Schoeman said.
The programme has received the backing of both the Department of Education and Sports and Recreation SA.
“We congratulate and thank the Blue Bulls for their approach. They have made a big commitment to build and inspire young people,” Vuyani Mpofu, the Deputy DG of the Gauteng Department of Education said.
Deputy Sports Minister Gert Oosthuizen said: “The Blue Bulls have a wonderful mission statement about promoting rugby development in their surrounding communities and they have set a good example. We would like to assist them and make every Rand work, deploy the money optimally.”
Schoeman said the BBRU would cover the training of coaches and referees, while teams would start training at schools and fixtures would be held from July.
All this comes at a price, of course, and the Let’s Play initiative are major backers.
“In the pilot project last year, we introduced 1500 boys and girls between the ages of seven and 10 to basic rugby skills. Like the government’s School Sport Policy, we want to play our part in promoting healthy lifestyles through sport participation,” Let’s Play manager Vaughn Bishop said.
Both Schoeman and Oosthuizen identified the lack of facilities as the programme’s biggest frustration.
“The key challenge is facilities – there’s a total skew in terms of quality and access, a lot have been vandalised or are lying unused,” Oosthuizen said.
“Fifteen percent of the municipal grants have now been ring-fenced for facilities. We want to ensure access for all people, because it is access for the masses that will make us a winning nation.
“There is a very good case for sport – crime reduction. Those are the facts and this very good investment by the Blue Bulls will have a positive impact on the community that supports them,” the deputy minister said.