Focus on UK schools' clash

WITH Graeme College the beneficiary, two English schools, Tonbridge and Kirkham Grammar, will clash for the first time in Preston, England, today.

Although the rugby match is taking place more than 10000km away, there will be much interest from the Grahamstown school, whose pupils have benefited from an arrangement between the schools initiated six years ago.

That was when a rugby player exchange programme was set up by Graeme coach Pierre Jacobs and his Kirkham counterpart, Aled Trenhaile, when Kirkham were on a tour of South Africa.

Last year, this led to the establishment of the Graeme College Scholarship Foundation, which assists children in difficult circumstances to further their education at Graeme. Former Kirkham pupil James Walker, who is studying but still has close links with his alma mater, has supported the Scholarship Foundation and is the mastermind behind the benefit match.

The foundation has also benefited from a link between Jacobs and former Tonbridge first team rugby coach and housemaster of Judde House, Graeme Gales. As a pupil at Grey High, Jacobs was coached by Gales in 1997 when the Englishman spent a year in South Africa as part of a teacher exchange programme.

Gales and his Judde House pupils have raised support of the Scholarship Foundation, which enabled first team prop Siyasanga Mthathi to spend this year and next year at the Graeme College hostel, Grant House.

Similarly, the Foundation allowed Gordon-Wayne Plaatjies, a Craven Week rugby player and also first team cricketer, to spend this year in the hostel.

"We at Graeme College would like to express our sincerest appreciation and heartfelt gratitude to Kirkham and Tonbridge for planning to play this benefit rugby match in support of our Foundation," Jacobs said.

The Foundation has also been supported by Johannesburg businessman Sean Krige, a friend of Jacobs, who matriculated with him at Grey.

His private donation to the foundation allowed first team flank Ethan September to spend this year in Grant House.

While there is appreciation in Grahamstown, there is excitement in Preston.

"I am hugely excited by the Tonbridge fixture. Firstly, because it is being played for a great cause and secondly, because it should be a great spectacle for all spectators," Walker said.

Plaatjies said he and his colleagues were humbled by the support they had received.

"What the two UK schools, Kirkham and Tonbridge, as well as all the people behind the scenes are doing and have done, is absolutely amazing," he said.