Does the top rugby school in South Africa buy players?

Oct 29 • School, South Africa U18 • 3159 Views • 1 Comment on Does the top rugby school in South Africa buy players?

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Grey College

There is always much debate about the Top Rugby Schools and why they are the Top Rugby Schools. In a recent edition of the SA Rugby Magazine there has been references to Grey College that might lead some to believe that this top rugby school could be accused of “buying” players.

A former Old Grey boy and dad of the First Team Captain William Small- Smith took the time to respond an a very insightful post which is well worth sharing!


1. The above article begs a response.

2. I write to you in my capacity as an old Grey, sponsor of boys currently at Grey and as a parent who has hardly missed a game that the Grey 1st team played in the last two years.

3. Grey College Secondary School offers no sporting bursaries whatsoever to its scholars. It does however assist parents with fees if the parents are unable to pay school or boarding fees. The applicants for such assistance need to provide compelling information about their inability to pay school or boarding fees. They do so by completing forms which are colloquially referred to as ‘bursary forms’. The school will accommodate children under these circumstances if it is at all possible. In fact legislation requires the schools to be accommodative under these circumstances. Every child who applies to be accepted at Grey is informed of this procedure and the parents are encouraged to confidentially approach the school in the event the parents have difficulty with paying the fees.

4. The article is a peculiar one and the ‘lengthy investigations’ you had apparently done on this topic is a very generous description of your efforts to write what is supposed to be a well-researched, balanced and responsible article.

5. You refer to the following boys who came to Grey after grade 8: Neethling Fouche, Nicholaas Immelman, Ruwellyn Isbel, Tyron Schultz and Kevin Luiters and Neil Jordaan. You, on the balance of the article, want the readers to believe that these boys were ‘poached’ or offered bursaries to attend Grey. The obvious way of establishing whether this was the case was to make contact with either the boys or their parents and enquire from them directly what the circumstances were which caused them to move their children to Grey College. You didn’t do this basic and logical exercise because it may be argued that you didn’t want to spoil a good story with the truth.

6. Had you made this very basic enquiry you would have found that every single mentioned boy’s parents, but for Ruwellyn Isbel’s, pay the full school and boarding fees. In every single instance the parents will be able to provide proof of this fact.

7. Ruwellyn Isbel is sponsored by an old Grey to attend Grey. His mother, with the greatest of respect to her as a single parent and wonderful God-fearing woman, is simply unable to afford it to send her son to Grey or any other school for that matter. Nothing prevented her from having completed a ‘bursary form’ for financial assistance but the fact is it wasn’t necessary. Ruwellyn is financially fully supported by an individual who has Ruwellyn’s interest at heart, first and foremost. The individual supporting Ruwellyn had a son at Grey who tragically died a few years ago. The sponsor can hardly be criticized under these circumstances and he gets absolutely no discount on any school or boarding fees from Grey.

8. In fact there are a few other boys at Grey that are also either partly or fully supported by old Grey’s. In all their cases their parents are unable to meet the financial obligations they encountered when their sons went to Grey.

9. If one looks at probabilities, take the following given facts: The Grey boys who made the SA Schools team this year, Paul Jordaan (father an old Grey), Johan Goosen, William Small-Smith (father an old Grey), Kevin Luiters, Neethling Fouche and Anrich Bitzi all pay their own school and boarding fees and they have been paying it since the arrived at Grey years ago. Not one of them receives any financial assistance from the school. Proof of this can be provided. If these boys don’t get financial incentives or bursaries from Grey College, what are the probabilities that youngsters as young as 13 (Grade 7 according to your article), with hardly any track record or credentials, would be offered money to come to Grey College.

10. The suggestion that coaches won’t speak to the boys of the other schools directly, but get the captain or other players to do the talking is equally improbable. I try to imagine a coach trying to get one of his 13 year old players to persuade another 13 year old boy that the latter should rather attend a school 800km away than his current school but honestly my imagination fails me on this one. The allegation that ‘some of the Grey PE u/16 players said that the Grey College coach sent a player, in most cases the captain, to approach them on the school’s behalf’ simply fails to withstand closer scrutiny. Are the anonymous Grey PE boys saying that they were approached by more than one boy, including the captain who said that the coach has sent them to speak to the Grey PE boys on behalf of Grey College? That would defeat the object of a ‘subtle approach’ entirely, wouldn’t it? In all honesty, and with the utmost of respect which I have for Grey PE, their superb headmaster and proud old boys, this story seems ‘a bridge to far’. Yet it found its way into your magazine. One wonders if it would have had Grey lost against Grey PE this year. In fact if my memory serves me correct Grey Bloem beat Grey PE’s u/16 side quite easily this year. It is weird then that the Grey coach would want to recruit players in an age group that his team were the stronger one on the day and then to use his players to facilitate the approach to boys who, if they would move to Grey, would in all likelihood compete for their place and position in a team against the very boys who ‘lured’ them to Grey on instructions of the coach. It just doesn’t have the ring of truth, does it?

11. Had it truly occurred and serious approaches were in fact made, and not just one kid trying to persuade another one that his school is the better one, I would have expected the Grey PE boys to tell their coach, the coach to tell the headmaster and the headmaster informing the Grey College headmaster of the tactics employed by the coach in question.

12. In fact simple statistics would show that ever since I actively started to follow Grey College sport in 1972, I recall only Jan Serfontein who moved from Grey PE to Grey Bloem. He moved because his parents moved. It is clear that the approaches you allege the coaches get the players to make on behalf of Grey to the Grey PE boys, was either a miserable failure (and has been for 40 years) or at least an exaggeration by the Grey PE boys concerned.

13. You also refer to Marcel van der Merwe who came to Grey in his matric year (2009). Had you spoken to anyone of significance at Grey, Paarl Boys High, Marcel himself or his father you may well have found a perfectly valid reason and explanation why he made the move. He certainly wasn’t recruited by Grey as you suggest. He certainly wasn’t paid by Grey to make the move. A responsible journalist would have attempted to speak to an informed individual about Marcel’s reason for moving to Grey but you elected to use this as an example of Grey recruiting players rather than finding out what caused him to move.

14. In conclusion I am disappointed that you published this article. Your agenda is one that doesn’t serve the cause of objective, intelligent and responsible journalism. In fact it is clearly bias. This is illustrated by the fact that you indicate in your article that you are withholding the names of the players who made the allegations but you have no hesitation to mention the names of the players at Grey who you would like your readers to believe where probably recruited.

15. Let me know if you require the contact details of any of the parents of this year’s 1st team in the event you wish to continue with your ‘lengthy investigations’.


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