By Mutsa Sibanda
So you thought St George’s, St John’s and Falcon Colleges were the only rugby aristocrats in Africa at school level?
Then you had not considered South Africa’s Grey College which was ranked the world’s best overall rugby school of 2016 in the combined age-group rankings.
Grey College are hosts of this year’s Coca-Cola Craven Week Under-13 and the Grant Khomo Under-16 festivals. A total of 18 teams are participating, consisting of the national teams of Zimbabwe and Namibia and the provincial sides of South Africa.
The elite Bloemfontein school, with both primary and secondary education classes, is the third oldest school in South Africa, established in 1855. The first rugby match was played in 1881.
A century later, Grey College had taken their position in national and international rugby. Since 1981 the school has registered 13 unbeaten seasons and is the best represented school in world rugby having provided a vast alumni of students taking part in competitions such as Super rugby, European club rugby, Currie Cup and Varsity Cup.
Broken down, Grey College counts 45 ex-students who have been capped by the Springboks, South Africa’s national team and 16 capped by the SA national sevens team known as the Blitzbokke. In addition, 93 students (the most in South Africa) have been selected for the SA Schools rugby select.
Almost 50 Zimbabwean schoolboys are participating at the SA Youth Rugby Week and have two teams at Grey College hoping to draw inspiration from the rich rugby history of this institution.
The SA Rugby (SARU) president, Mark Alexander, said Grey College was the ideal venue for this year’s Craven and Grant Khomo age-group competitions.
“The fact that the tournament is being hosted at this venue, which is renowned as one of the top rugby schools in the country, is significant as many Springboks made their first strides in these fields.
“The likes of Jannie and Bismarcj du Plessis, Johan Goosen, Heinrich Brussouw and Ruan Pienaar all hailed from Grey College and became household names due to the accolades they achieved and I hope to see some of the players participating in these tournaments follow in their footsteps in future,” said the SARU boss, adding:
“This is an auspicious occasion because apart from serving as a platform for the best young provincial players in the country to showcase their skills, this will mark the first time some of these rugby players experience top-class provincial rugby at age-group level.”
Grey College is also the home of the Free State Cheetahs development programme known as the Toyota Cheetahs Academy and the school provides the majority of players in the Super Rugby franchise whose former heroes include former Zimbabwe Sables captain Kennedy Tsimba.