Jan 23, 2021

Tackling Schoolboy Rugby Challenges

Gerald Pyoos, Dusty Noble and Dean Moodley of the KZN High Schools Rugby Association.

Shana Devitt from Pegasus Publishing sat down with Mr. Gerald Pyoos, Deputy Principal at Glenwood High School and the 2020 Kwazulu-Natal High Schools Rugby Association Chairman, Mr. Dean Moodley to discuss the state of schoolboy rugby in the province and nationally and the issues and concerns that face the sport at this level.

Mr. Gerald Pyoos
Deputy Principal at Glenwood High School and 2019 Kwazulu-Natal High Schools Rugby Association Chairman.

1.  Where are your rugby roots and how did it all begin for you?

There was no rugby at the high school that I attended. In 1983, I enrolled at Bechet Teacher Training College in Greyville Durban. Francois Louis, the former President of the KZNRU was the captain of the College team. He walked up to me and said: “You are nice and tall and will be a good lock” And that is where it all began. I played for the College, the Jaguars 1st XV and went on to play for the Natal President’s XV team in the President’s Cup Competition.

2.  Congratulations on your recent appointment as Deputy Principal at Glenwood High School. Glenwood High School has been a powerhouse in KZN schools rugby in recent times. What would you say is key to transforming this local dominance to the National school boy rugby scene?

I believe that we need to continue to compete at the highest level by playing the best schools. So competitions like the Kearsney festival, Grey High School festival, Wildeklawer as well as being fixtured to play all our KZN top High Schools as well as the likes of Monument and Grey College are imperative in keeping us at that competitive level. Ensuring that all our coaches are adequately upskilled and qualified to coach at the required level. Assessment of our coaches on an annual basis and feedback based on statistics is key to maintaining a level of excellence.

3.  What are your views on the current state of school boy rugby in KZN?

It is not healthy. Fewer boys are playing rugby at high and primary schools. Very few high schools are able to field more than 4 U19 teams. This is also apparent at other age group levels. Apathy among boys to take part is a factor. Parents not wanting their boys to play rugby which is deemed dangerous by some. Schools no longer have enough school teachers who are willing to coach or administer the game nor the resources to employ a large number of outside coaches. So you have fewer tier 1 schools that can compete against each other.

4.  You have served on the Sharks High Schools Rugby Executive for many years. In terms of school boy rugby, what positive and negative changes have you noticed over this period of time?

Positives: When speaking to executives and coaches from other provinces and comparing how rugby is run in those regions, we are doing an excellent job in KZN. Administration is sound and communication with our affiliates is next level. Our selection criteria and trials process is by far the best in the country. This is an improvement that has happened over the last 10 years or so. The introduction of High Performance camps to identify talent and improve our boys’ technical skills has proved successful.

Negatives: The numbers of boys playing rugby has waned drastically over the years and that is very worrying.

5.  You are an SA Schools Selector. What are some of the qualities/attributes that Selectors look at in players, when choosing an SA Schools team?

Props: Scrummaging ability is of utmost importance and core business. Body size and strength and physicality are key factors. The ability to do a single lift of a lock and hold him up for kick off reception. Mobility is also very important, cleaning rucks and ball carrying ability.

Hookers: Lineout throwing ability and scrummaging are core business. Physicality, mobility, being an extra loose forward on the field and ball carrying ability are key factors.

Locks: Combination of 4/5 locks is important. 4 lock – Jumping in the lineouts, kick off receipts and scrummaging are core business. Exceptional strength, physicality, mobility, cleaning of rucks and ball carrying ability are key factors.

Lock – Running the lineouts, scrummaging, good aerial skills at kick off receipt are core business. Athletic, physical and a ball carrying option.

No 6 flank – Playing toward the ball, turning over and slowing down opposition ball is core business. Mobility and strength are key factors.

No 7 flank – Big, mobile and strong ball carrier and a lineout jumping option is core business.

No 8 – Taking the right options off the base of the scrum, strong ball carrying ability, fast, strong and athletic. The link between the backs and forwards. A lineout option as well as fielding high kicks are core business. Good communicator.

No 9 (scrumhalf) – Strong passing from the base and running shape when necessary. Intelligent and skilful and a good communicator. Good box kick and kicking out of hand, solid defence and fielding high kicks are core business.

No 10 (flyhalf) – His ability to communicate, control the game with vision, skill, excellent passing, deft touches, kicking for poles, touch and territory. Possessing good defensive and attacking ability are core business.

No 11 (left wing) and No 14 (right wing) – Out and out speed is a prerequisite. Good aerial skills, defence and the ability to kick and finish are core business.

No 12 (inside centre) – Being able to create opportunities for himself and the outside backs with skill and guile. Strong runner and excellent defender. The ability to kick out of hand for touch and tactically are core business.

No 13 (outside centre) – Possessing wing speed and the ability to beat the opposition, strong defender with great skills are core business.

No15 (fullback) – Excellent positional play, the ability to field high kicks, kicking out of hand for touch and tactically. A strong defender and the ability to join the line effectively on attack are core business.

6.  Name one highlight in your rugby coaching / administrative career?

Being assistant manager for the Sharks during the 2001 Currie Cup season. Being elected as SA Schools Selector in 2016 and continuing in that role until at least 2021.

7.  In your opinion, how do schools adapt to the modern challenges facing school boy rugby?

The modern challenges are boys no longer wanting to play rugby and parents not wanting their boys to play rugby. Make rugby enjoyable and show parents that we have their sons’ best interests at heart, providing a safe place for their sons to enjoy the sport. Engender a sense of brotherhood and belonging which will encourage more boys to play this sport that we so dearly love.

8.  The Sharks have a vibrant young side playing in Super Rugby, many of whom have played for the Sharks Schools Teams. Who is your favourite to make a major impact for the Sharks in this year’s competition?

Jaden Hendrikse. One of the best age group scrumhalves I have seen in years. Look out for him, if not this season, then the next.

9.  What advice would you give a young and aspiring school boy rugby coach, who wants to reach the same high levels that you have achieved in this wonderful game?

Be the best coach that you can be, whether you are a school with 3 rugby teams or one with 28 rugby teams. Continue improving your qualifications and knowledge of the game by reading up on coaching and speaking to senior coaches whenever you can. Always be prepared for your coaching sessions and matches. Much of coaching and managing success comes from the relationship you have with your players. If they love and respect you, they will perform for you!

10.  Do you follow Pegasus Publishing?

I certainly do follow Pegasus Publishing on social media in order to stay updated on all rugby matters. I especially enjoy the blogs where features are done on players etc.

11.  Pegasus Publishing has been producing your KZN High Schools Rugby Fixture Programmes since 2011. What affect and role do you feel this has played with the schools – players and coaching staff in general?

The programme has become sought after by schools as a one stop programme with all the KZN high schools’ fixtures. The schools are also keen to showcase what their school can offer in the programme. It has given the KZN High Schools Rugby Association a very professional edge and it has put us on the map. The boys, parents and coaches absolutely love it. Long may it continue!!

Mr. Dean Moodley
Head of Department at Kearsney College and 2020 Kwazulu-Natal High Schools Rugby Association Chairman.

1. Dean, where did your journey with and love for rugby begin?

I was not fortunate enough to play rugby, as I went to a school that did not offer it as a sport. After varsity, I started my teaching career at Kloof High School, and it is there where my love for the game grew. After watching a few 1st team practices I knew that this game was for me. I had to get involved. So, I enrolled to do coaching courses with the KZNRU, under the tutelage of Mr Garth Giles. After qualifying as a coach, I started coaching at Kloof.

2.  What are the highlights of your career as a rugby coach?

Two of my most memorable moments are definitely with the Kearsney 2nd XV. Beating Glenwood in 2019, coming from behind with 2 minutes left in the game and beating Maritzburg College and Hilton in a titanic struggle on the Stott in 2018. When I coached U16A at Kearsney, our victory against a very ‘big’ Helpmekaar side in 2016, with my little ‘Minions’ was also a major highlight.

3.  Congratulations on your election as Chairman of KZN High Schools Rugby Association. I know that you have been on the executive for several years. What are your plans/goals for high school rugby in 2020/2021?

One of the goals is to encourage inclusivity amongst all schools affiliated to the Sharks High Schools Rugby Association. Schools need to have a voice on different platforms. We have already addressed this and have tried to have fair representation at selection committees, management teams and on the executive itself. We have made small steps here which hopefully will grow into larger leaps next year. The second goal is to manage the finances of the Association in a way that creates a sustainable system going forward. In the current economic climate and with the lack of sponsorship, it is important that we plan ahead. A third goal is to ensure that our National Week teams are competitive at their respective tournaments. We have certainly started well with two High Performance Camps already taken place.

4.  You are also Chairman of KZN High Schools Cricket. This is a first for one man to be heading up both these portfolios at the same time. How will you manage both these very prominent and important roles?

Fortunately for me, both sports run at different times with little overlap, which helps. At some stage, hopefully soon, I will have to give one up. I actually have two separate diaries to help me organize things!

5.  With the current economic climate, many parents are not able to afford to pay for their boys to go on Provincial tours. It is our policy not to exclude a player for non-payment. Schools can also no longer pay for their boys who are selected. The KZNRU is not able to assist in this regard. Do we adopt a no pay no play policy? Your thoughts on this matter.

I don’t think that we can implement a no pay-no play policy because it would be educationally and morally unsound. By working with strict parameters and proper planning, I am confident that no boy will be disadvantaged in any way. Having said that, we cannot function in the same way as we did 5 years ago. We are going to have to right-size and cut down on certain aspects associated with Provincial team in order to be more economically minded.

6.  Congratulations on your appointment as SA Schools Manager. A wonderful achievement! You have served in this role on several occasions. Many administrators would love to have such a wonderful opportunity. What advice would you give aspiring rugby coaches / managers?

Thank you. It is an honour and privilege to be associated with the SA Schools Team. My advice is simple: prepare to work hard, be organized, plan ahead and expect the unexpected. Most important of all, never give up on the dream! I was not successful at my first application attempt, but I did not let that bump in the road stop my passion and aspirations. Keep trying and believe in yourself.

7.  You have come across many talented rugby players, coaches and administrators over your number of years of involvement in rugby. Are there any characters or personalities who stand out for you and why?

Jesse Kriel – he is one of my favourites because he is humble and is a real team man. This true event displays the kind of person he is: In 2012, the Sharks Craven Week team played a warm-up fixture against Border in the Eastern Cape. On the way back, the back of the bus burst into flames. As everybody ran away from the flames towards the door, Jesse ran back towards the flames to see if anybody was still sleeping!

Dylan Richardson – I have a very soft spot for Dylan and I am very happy that he is playing for the Sharks. He always had the talent and I was fortunate enough to coach him when he was U16. Dylan used to inspire the players around him with his ‘bollocking’ runs and fearless tackling. Boys felt a lot better playing with him than playing against him.

Daniel & Jean-Luc Du Preez – they are probably one of the most talented young men I have ever met. I taught both of them at Kearsney and was their Craven Week manager. Their love for the game is unparalleled – if they could play rugby 24/7, they would and they play hard, with nothing held back. They played their first Craven Week in 2011 as Grade 10 boys, who had not turned 16 yet!

Salman Moerat – Salman was the SA Schools captain in 2016. I was privileged to have worked closely with him. He is one of the humblest players I have ever met. He puts the team first and does not like the limelight. On the field, he leads by example and off the field, he is a role model to young players. He will captain the Springboks one day!

Noel Ingle – Noel has been my mentor from way back dating to my Kloof days. He is a good friend from whom I have learned the most when it comes to rugby administration, planning and logistical preparation. I am grateful for his guidance.

I have been blessed to have worked with many great and knowledgeable coaches in my rugby career, from whom I learned a lot. Guys like Barend Steyn, Sean Erasmus, Bart Schoeman and Lance Sendin come to mind, and there are many more who have made an impact in my life.

8.  Rugby playing numbers at schools have reduced over the last decade or so. In your opinion, how do we breathe new life into the game that we love so dearly?

This is a very important question! The problem is dire and prevalent in this day and age. Some schools are only playing sevens rugby and cannot put a 15-man team on the park. At this point, it is positive that they are still playing rugby. Sevens rugby is doing for rugby what T20 cricket has done for cricket. We need to embrace sevens whilst still holding on to the 15-man game. Without changing the game too much, law makers need to look at creative ways of making the game safer and more exciting for younger kids. The madness surrounding player poaching, recruitment etc needs to stop as it paints rugby in a poor light. Young children need to play the game for the enjoyment of the game. The game should not be results driven but rather it should embrace educational qualities like discipline, teamwork, respect, preparation and planning. Rugby should be an educational tool of life!

10.  Pegasus Publishing has been producing your KZN High Schools Rugby Fixture Programme since 2011. What affect and role do you feel this has played with the schools – players and coaching staff in general?

I think that thanks to Pegasus Publishing, schools and spectators are now more aware of the fixtures across KZN. Schoolboys not playing on a Saturday can now watch other schools play. Spectators can plan to watch holiday festival games at their leisure. The contact details in the programme also makes communication easier between the schools. Sometimes coaches need filler fixtures for their schools and are able to check availability of schools via the programme. It has no doubt become a very handy and essential document to have.


Interview done by:  Shana Devitt from Pegasus Publishing