By Trevor Makonyonga
“All the public schools play rugby in New Zealand. Only private schools play it in Australia. Until you change that, you are still gonna get the same results that we’re getting right now.” These are the words of legendary former All Black Centre, Sonny Bill Williams as he gave an assessment of the difference in systems between New Zealand and Australia. The same even went a step further to rip through the Australian Giteau Law as he tried to offer solutions to make the Wallabies stronger again.
After reading about how other nations take the sport seriously, there was a temptation to try and bring SBW’s assessments closer to home. It will be lame to compare the state of rugby in South Africa and Zimbabwe but the opening quote could be true about the situation at home and the southern neighbours. In Zimbabwe, the public schools washed their hands and folded them clean and left everything to the private schools.
Right now, the country is going for two years without any form of schools rugby and it is a situation that has meant that two streams of talent have just slipped through the system. What is scarier is not just the absence of rugby, but the different approaches being taken by the Association of Trust Schools (ATS) and the National Association of Secondary Heads (NASH).
After very casual conversations with colleagues including some who are very influential in the organisation of arguably the biggest sporting jamboree in the country, the Dairibord Rugby Festival; Bustop TV went on a quest to find out where the chips are falling in the public schools system.
Bustop TV spoke to the current NASH Head in Charge of Rugby from Mutare Boys School, Tendayi Zachariah Gwashu who updated on their position as NASH regarding the resumption of rugby in public schools.
Gwashu said, “We (NASH) haven’t actually looked into that yet. It’s an issue which we still must look at national level because NASH has not indicated as to which sport will be done this year. I am not able to give any update at the moment. We are moving towards taking rugby to the grassroots and whatever we will, we will do in the structures.”
Asked on whether there will be any timelines set for any of the states programmes, Gwashu did not avail any.
The scenario is not the same for the private schools.
ATS Chairperson, Tungamirai Mashungu gave a detailed plan of the resumption of rugby in private schools.
Mashungu said, “We are looking at a bubble type of setup and they will remain in that bubble, and they will play fixtures against the teams that are there. Luckily the students are not as susceptible to COVID-19 unlike the adults so it’s not that big a deal for the students. Even as we opened schools, we have been able to play sport but obviously not interschools; normally. Unlike the clubs so our hope is that if we get the vaccinations, it will be a lot easier if not then we will have to change from annual fixtures that we used to have which are traditional in terms of home and away games versus schools. We are trying to look at a bubble system.”
Mashungu said that this December there might be a tournament.
He said, “There is a possibility that we will be having a tournament in December. Depending on what happens with this COVID-19 pandemic. If cases drop and we are relaxed, we move from level 2 to whatever level which is lower than that, we would like to try and have a tournament in December with some schools to see how we can manage this whole bubble system.”
To understand the way schools rugby is right now, the way it’s done is that it is considered a minor sport with Nash. Nash then allows the private schools to run the schools league. ATS is the one that has been mandated to run the fixturing. The fixturing that is done for all rugby playing schools. ATS are able to run the fixturing so they were given the mandate to run it as a minor sport but includes all the rugby playing schools. The schools are then put in tiers. We have the coed league, the Super 8 and everybody else then comes into the second tier.
The fixturing is done by regions for example Midlands schools will play each and the same goes for every province.
Nash Heads in Charge of rugby are there but do not do anything because ATS schools do their jobs for them. That’s what the situation looks like now. There is need to change the handling of public schools rugby in Zimbabwe.