The South African Diaries Part II

D1A Rugby: The South African Diaries Part II
Photo Credit: Phil Terrigno

Phil Terrigno is a faculty member at Texas Tech University and the head men’s rugby coach. He completed a six-week coaching and management apprenticeship with the Tafel Lager Griquas in South Africa’s Currie Cup.

As a player on New Rochelle High School’s (NY) varsity rugby team, I was a part of some difficult games in a massively competitive league that included national powers Xavier and Greenwich, along with established programs like Fairfield Prep and Harvey, among others.

While that league has changed in composition since I played, it was definitely among the premier youth rugby in the United States.

When I attended the u13 and u16 Craven Week competition in South Africa during my coaching and management apprenticeship with the Tafel Lager Griquas, I saw some incredibly impressive schoolboy rugby. It reinforced to me that youth rugby — and the quality and depth of it — has to be a point of emphasis for the U.S. moving forward.

 

What is the Craven Week?

It’s an annual schoolboy rugby tournament between are-grade teams from all of the South African rugby unions and teams from Zimbabwe and Namibia. The u13 and u16 tournaments were held in Kimberley (where I was visiting) and the u18 tournament was held in the Cape Town area.

This would be comparable to having USA Rugby’s Regional Cup Tournaments organized in a single location for each age group (for instance: u13s in Colorado, u16s in Georgia and u18s in New Jersey).

The standard of the u16 teams, particularly from the bigger unions, was staggering. They played structured, tidy rugby and communicated extremely well. Before the tournament started, I attended a Griquas U16 training session and was impressed at how quickly the players (which had just assembled from all over the Northern Cape and do not regularly play with each other) grasped the ‘install’ portion of their attacking shape.

 

Playing barefoot

There was an interesting cosmetic difference at the Craven Week between the u16 and u13 games: the u13 players played barefoot.

I couldn’t get a concrete answer as to why the players were barefoot, but it seemed smart from a player welfare perspective for youth players. The collisions appeared to be less intense and players weren’t gathering as much speed before they collided (compared to using cleats). It also forces players to let the ball do the work if they can’t cover the space on foot as quickly.

 

Griquas in the SuperSport Challenge

During my time with the Griquas, they played five matches — all a part of the SuperSport Challenge, a pre-Currie Cup tournament organized by SuperSport (a South African Sports TV network).

This included road matches against the Cheetahs, Sharks, Griffons and two home playoff games against Boland and Cheetahs — all were wins.

A week after I left SA, the Griquas lost to the Pumas in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge final on a drop-goal in the 83rd minute. The team will now have a brief period of rest before resuming training for the Currie Cup, which will begin in mid-August and end in the mid-Fall.

Part I of the diary covered the basics of the Currie Cup, the Griquas’ training environment and approach to analysis and an update on the Springboks’ summer test series against England.