The Blue Bulls Rugby Union and their Schools Rugby Association, in co-operation with sports promoter Willem Strauss and coffee retail franchise Enrista, on Wednesday announced an innovative and exciting new rugby competition that will combine club and schools rugby that will boost player numbers for both entities.
The Enrista Future Blue Bulls competition will see the eight Carlton League clubs combine with schools in their general catchment area in a tournament that will involve 46 schools teams competing in those eight club sides.
The Future Tuks, Future Police, Future Centurion, Future Oostelikes, Future Valke, Future Naka Bulle, Future Harlequins and Future Vikings will all enter u.19 teams, consisting of only matriculants, in the new competition.
No player who represented the Blue Bulls Schools Association in any representative week (like the Coca-Cola Craven Week) will be eligible for these teams.
“This will not only broaden our player base, but will also benefit players from smaller schools and those who develop a bit later, as they will now have a platform to showcase their talents,” Strauss said.
“We have perfect examples of such players in Marcel Coetzee and Juan Smith and we believe this competition can deliver gems like that.”
The tournament will be played in the June school holidays and all teams will play three matches. A similar tournament for the Valke province is also in the planning stage and Strauss hopes to see the concept become a nationwide one.
“We see the clubs/schools league as the way forward to grow the game,” said Strauss.
It was an easy buy-in from their side, according to the Chief Executive Officer of the Blue Bulls Rugby Union,
Dr. Eugene Hare.
“All unions in the country have issues with numbers in club rugby and this initiative can produce a big number of school players that will continue playing after school. It is also important to expose schools players to the club rugby culture and this will make that happen.”
All schools players will be capped by their respective clubs.
Ferdie Niemand, chairman of the Blue Bulls Schools Rugby Association, see a number of benefits in this venture.
Not only will this boost playing numbers amongst clubs, but could provide another pathway for talented players, he said.
“We can only accommodate a small number of talented players in our provincial teams, but this tournament will give a host of players another opportunity to play in a very competitive environment.”
Enrista’s Andre van der Westhuizen saw an easy fit between their products and this project.
“We started our involvement in rugby by sponsoring the Blue Bulls referees and extended that last year to the u.18 Craven Week side. We are keen to reward our loyal customers and research showed that they loved their rugby as much as our coffee, so we decided to get involve at the grassroots tier. It is really concerning to see the number of schools players quitting the game after school and we believe this tournament will help to keep school leavers in the game.