Schools' pressure an issue for SA rugby

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Irish commentator Neil Francis' claims about a drug culture in South African rugby were part of a deliberate Irish effort to undermine the Springboks' Rugby World Cup triumph, South African critic Gavin Rich said in


"That the Irish media were intending to focus on SA rugby's supposed drug culture was obvious from the first week of the tournament. The Boks were playing the All Blacks, yet there were Irish journalists present at the early media conferences in Tokyo Bay intent on only asking questions about drugs," he said.


Questions continued during the Cup and Rich believed they were aimed at upsetting the Springboks in their potential quarterfinal against Ireland. However, Ireland's loss to Japan left them facing the All Blacks at that point and interest in the matter declined, with only Francis continuing to comment.


Rich said Francis was wrong in his claims at the professional level of the game but he said there was certainly an issue at schools level.


"Schools are reluctant to [drug] test in the same way that SA Rugby does," Rich said.


"The only time the governing body does get to test effectively is at Craven Week, and the results of that testing in the past few years make for rather sobering reading.


"What needs to be addressed is what gives rise to this problem, which is the increasing over-professionalisation of the country's school rugby, and the pressure that is brought to bear by parents and coaches on schoolboys to win and succeed at all costs.


"There's a mistaken impression among parents that professional rugby is a conduit to becoming wealthy. That is true for only a tiny percentage who do make it, and it is a very small percentage of schoolboy players who actually make it into the professional ranks at all.


"There are many parents pushing kids towards a mirage, and schools who build their reputations about the success of their rugby teams aren't helping the situation," he said.


Rich said the resulting pressure on young players to perform was what pushed them towards cheating.


At the same time, he made the point, "We should be trying to do something about it even if there is some irony in the fact that those who are making so much noise about the drug culture at schoolboy level hail from nations that feed off SA's schoolboy talent to improve their depth – they recruit from within the drug culture they supposedly abhor."


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