By FOCUS REPORTER
THE role of the Coca-Cola under-18 Craven Week as part of SA Rugby’s a talent identification process has never been more important than it is now.
That’s the word from SARU’s Manager – Playing the Game, Mervyn Green.
Speaking at the 2011 tournament in Kimberley this week, Green explained that the Union will not be repeating what happened in 2010, when the Craven Week was used to choose a national under-19 side that played in international matches – a move that some saw as an act of side-lining the South African Schools team.
This year, Green explained, the SA Schools team will play against a French team, while plans are already under way for the 2012 team to go to Australia and beyond that, hopefully, to play in a Tri-Nations tournament involving SA Schools, Australian Schools and New Zealand schools.
“The national selectors and the SA under-20 coach, Dawie Theron, are also here this week and they will be identifying a high performance squad which will include the SA Schools team, and the SA Schools Academy team chosen in Johannesburg at the Coca-Cola Academy Week two weeks ago.”
That group will be put on position-specific programmes that will include skills, mental preparation, conditioning and nutrition, as well as career advice.
“That programme will be driven by Dawie Theron and the unions will be involved in a monitoring role,” Green said. “The idea is that, out of that high performance group an elite group will eventually be chosen, they will be those identified as having the best chance of progressing to the professional and international ranks and they will form the core of the team going to the IRB under-20 Junior World Championship.”
The process actually begins two years earlier at the under-16 Coca-Cola Grant Khomo Week, according to Green. “Last year we identified an under-16 high performance squad and we will be doing the same again this year,” he said. “Those players are put on a development track, again with the support of their unions, so that in two years’ time, the selectors have a group of players that they already know in front of them.”
The principle is that potential national players, identified at the age of 16, who are put on special training programmes, have a better chance of living up to their potential.
“The Coca-Cola Grant Khomo and Craven Weeks play an invaluable role in that process,” Green said.
Of the 40 years of its existence, Coca-Cola has been part of the week for the past 26, a statistic the company is proud of. “Coca-Cola sponsors tournaments at the highest level and we are fully aware that no country can be successful without a strong development programme in place and Coca-Cola has played a major role in finding Springboks. More than 90 percent of the current squad have competed in one of the Coca-Cola Youth Weeks,” said Zayd Abrahams, Head of Sparkling Beverages, Coca-Cola South Africa.
Abrahams said further: “But the four weeks we are involved with, namely the Coca-Cola U13, Academy, Under 16 and Under 18 weeks are also about living for a difference and living a healthy lifestyle. These are the messages we also promote throughout each tournament.”