RUGBY players in the northern areas are ready to kick off the schools season when the Makro High Schools Sevens tournament is played at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium B and C fields this weekend.
Into its third year, this sevens event is proving highly popular in a region where rugby had been stagnant for many years before school teachers, led by Paterson teacher Shaun Fondling, sparked a revival.
Such is the interest generated in the sevens that several businesses have stepped in to back the event, including Makro, Engen Linton Grange and Diligence Security.
Fondling said this had made a massive difference to their efforts and he paid tribute to the sponsors for their support.
“It was a case of the teachers sometimes having to take out of their own pockets to keep things going, but this support is huge for us,” he said.
Makro’s Dees Gopaul said they were keen to give back to the community and would be looking to develop a long-term relationship with the organisers.
“Many of our customers deal with people in the northern areas and this one we aim to give back to the community,” he said.
“We are also very keen to give our children healthy sporting activities to do and this is one way to contribute to that.”
Fondling said that they would be moving the event to the stadium fields for the first time when the tournament was played on Friday and Saturday.
“We have again had a very good response from the schools, and there will be boys’ and girls’ events,” he said.
In the boys’ section, the 16 teams have been divided into four pools. Last year’s finalists, Arcadia and Bertram, are both in pool C.
Arcadia will be keen to defend the title they won in exciting fashion at the Adcock Stadium when they defeated Bertram 19-12. The match was in the balance until a late try settled the matter for Arcadia.
However, the competition for playoff spots is expected to be fierce. After three round-robin matches on Friday, the top two in each pool will advance to Saturday’s play-offs.
The sevens competition is the prelude to another full season of rugby for northern areas schools.
The Northern Areas High Schools Festival will be played from March 20-22 at the Adcock Stadium, while the Wednesday league fixtures begin on April 9. This will culminate in the finals, to be played on August 30.