Funds tackle school rugby

Neale Emslie

GERALD ANTONIEIN an area which is rich in rugby talent, counterbalanced by limited resources, the rugby teachers at Ndzondelelo High face a never-ending juggling act as they try to satisfy the needs of their pupils.

Founded in Zwide in 1979, the school caters for 1300 pupils from grades 8 to 12 and vice-principal Dan Ngcape, a rugby man to the core, says they are desperate for support as they strive to provide the necessary extra-mural activities.

Ndzondelelo has been declared a non-fee-paying school and Ngcape said the funds they received from government were barely adequate to cover their educational requirements, leaving no spare cash for sporting activities. That turns the lives of the sports coaches into a constant battle to ensure their teams are able to compete against other schools, the chief obstacles being arranging transport to away games and finding the proper equipment for their pupils.

“There are big challenges for us since the school was declared a non-fee-paying school, which means the children are dependent on grants from the department, which are mainly allocated to food and to educational requirements,” Ngcape said.

Demand for admission to Ndzondelelo remains high, with their numbers averaging 45 pupils a class, while the interest in sport, particularly rugby, is undimmed by the lack of facilities.

Ndzondelelo has one field for rugby and soccer and two netball courts, putting enormous pressure on men like Ngcape, rugby coach Gerald Antonie and their colleagues as they try to cater for what Ngcape says has always been a rugby-mad community.

“I have been involved in club rugby for close to 40 years,” he said. “I was a student in this area and then there was not even one soccer team in Zwide and Kwazakhele … our area is … a rugby-rich area.

“We want to draw attention of potential sponsors, because there is not even one billboard around our field, and we are expected to compete against teams like Grey and Framesby,” he said. “We are not running short of talent, but … of resources.”

Antonie said he believed it was essential for schools like Ndzondelelo and Ithembelihle, in New Brighton, to survive to ensure club rugby in the townships did not die. “Clubs like Despatch and Crusaders have resources coming out of the schools and businesses behind them. They will never die. But in our case we are struggling at all levels,” he said.

“It is no problem getting 100 players out here on to our field, so there is real interest here, but the more we get the greater is the pressure on our resources. So this is really a cry for help … from the business community.”

Antonie acknowledged some positive developments, with the FNB Classic Clash format assisting the school with funds, while he paid tribute to Pearson High who stepped in to assist them this season.

“Two weeks ago, Pearson paid half the bus fee for our transport to play there and we are grateful to Mr [Andre] Van Staden and his staff in helping us.”

Antonie also acknowledged SA Supplements, which supplies the first team with supplements, while FNB sponsors jerseys and bags – which are kept by the school after the season and filtered down to other players.

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