Renzo du Plessis scoring the memorable 103m try for the Limpopo Blue Bulls at the 2019 Craven Week tournament. Photo: Rugby365

The exclusive Craven Week rugby tournament for u/18 players will be moved to October this year given the current lock down regulations. It is in fact the only national school’s rugby tournament in the world that lures scouts from across the globe to identify potential talent.

Last year the u/18 Craven Week was cancelled for the first time in its illustrious history of 50-odd years due to the lock down regulations. In the last edition of the Craven Week tournament, Renzo du Plessis from the Limpopo Blue Bulls team scored a memorable 103m try that earned him instant popularity amongst the rugby fraternity. He ended up landing a contract after his school year in 2020 to study through, and play for, the Sharks Rugby Union.

This time however, the South African Schools Rugby Association (SASRA) are determined not to cancel the 2021 u/18 Craven Week which traditionally takes places during the July school holiday. In a statement by SASRA on Monday the 7th of June, it was decided to rather postpone the event to the October school holiday with the full support from the South African Rugby Union (SARU).

According to SASRA, the full support from SARU entails the sponsoring and managing of the u/18 Craven Week tournament. The national rugby union is doing its level best to ensure that it is an endorsed event. The new date of course is an extremely critical time for matriculants around the country and SASRA indicated that they are aware of the situation.

That is why this early announcement for this tournament was made, to allow learners responsible academic preparation time before the trial and final exams start. SASRA has also indicated that it will facilitate opportunities for these players to participate in supervised academic activities at night and on off days. According to the management of SASRA, this entity will respect the decision of schools who opt not to play rugby during the third school term.

It did however note that the current situation is unfortunately not normal times and as an association, it is in salvage mode. Each of the provincial schools’ rugby associations will have to manage their own trial process to the best of their abilities within their specific context.

The provinces also indicated that they would like their teams to compete in the u/16 Grant Khomo tournament during the October school holiday. According to SASRA there is a possibility that both the u/18 and u/16 tourneys could be split up into a possible coastal and inland competition.

This is because SARU is also still looking for sponsorship for the Grant Khomo. SASRA indicated that the exact details on these possible decisions still need to be finalized by the respective provincial schools rugby associations. It is important to note, stated SASRA, that the u/16 Grant Khomo event may not be endorsed by SARU. Meaning that the full cost of attending must then be carried by each individual province.

The country should be over the third wave of infections after the July school holiday, by most indications, according to SASRA. They will however have to wait for the country’s Department of Basic Education (DBE) to give final permission to allow contact sports at schools. Like many other sport entities, rugby also has a strict protocol of return to play to ensure the safety of the players.

SASRA reckon schools will be able to move into the second phase without delay to continue with fitness and strength training while observing all the Covid-19 protocols as mandated by the DBE. Both SASRA and SARU are confident that fitness and strength training are permitted according to the government’s gazette, provided that all Covid-19 safety protocols are adhered to. SASRA also indicated that the principal of each school will be responsible for the monitoring of their school and ensure the adherence to safety protocols. A return to play program is expected in due course from SASRA.