A feature of the Coca-Cola Under-18 Craven Week, down the years, has been the presence of aficionados – old timers who go along, year after year because they enjoy the type of ruby played, and because they fancy themselves as spotters of emerging talent.
At the 50th anniversary of the week in Polokwane this week is someone who is attending his 35th consecutive week and who was, in his playing days, one of the top wings in world rugby.
Gerrie Germishuys played 20 tests for South Africa between 1974 and 1981 and scored 11 test tries.
He then became a teacher, and later a lecturer at Goudstad College of Education and then University of Johannesburg (UJ). It’s has been for those two institutions that he has been attending the Craven Week, all these years , running his expert eye over the talent and making suggestions to his colleagues in the recruitment department.
This may well be his last Craven Week in that capacity – he retires next year – but he sees himself attending the week whenever it’s in the vicinity.
“I have always loved schoolboy rugby and, although it has changed as professionalism has filtered down into the schools, I enjoy the competitiveness of the games at this level.”
As someone who was once a “flair” player himself, Germishuys bemoans the fact that the game has become a bit too structured. “I saw a very good wing on Monday, clearly very fast, but his team never got the ball too him once in the game,” he says. “I understand that game plans should be enforced, but why select players like that if you are not playing to your strengths?”
Garmishuys believes the growing trend of taking contact instead of avoiding it is bad for rugby, and it’s one of the reasons why, at an international level, South African teams are unable to set up overlaps the way the Australians and New Zealand sides do.
“The pity is that, at this Craven Week, and it’s only day two, I have seen teams that play entertaining running rugby, and players with plenty of ability. I am afraid that their flair gets coached out of them at more senior levels by coaches who adopt a safety-first approach.”
Germishuys still believes that the Coca-Cola Craven Week is the greatest school rugby tournament in the world.
“To have so many good players on display in one place is a feast for rugby-lovers like me. And for the universities and unions, it’s the perfect opportunity to make sure they have
enough talent coming through the ranks.”
It’s reassuring to know that tomorrow’s heroes have the heroes of the past, like Gerrie Germishuys, up in the stands, taking note of what they are capable of.