The schools under 18 Ten- a -Side rugby tournament took place over the last week. Dharmaraja College Kandy surprised everyone by winning the Cup Championship beating fancied St Peters College in the final. Playing good controlled rugby they beat Trinity nd Royal on their way.
Coached by the evergreen Hisham Abdeen the win will be a morale booster to a school whose first XV side falls down to the lower division next year. The second day of the tournament saw some interesting matches form the quarter final stage onwards. In the semi final St Peter’s beat Isipathana while Dharmaraja beat Royal College.
The tournament was however somewhat disappointing with a number of schools keeping away. On the first day all matches were concluded before 2pm. The second day too there was a long break of almost three hours after lunch so that the finals could be played late afternoon.
Action at Last week’s under 18 rugby tournament. (Pic Ranjith Perera)
This was a week of virtually too many full day tournaments which began on the 14th and 15th with the club sevens. This was followed on Monday with the Western Province Schools under 18 matches. On the 18th and 19th it was Western Province Schools under 16 followed by All Island Schools under 18, played on Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd . It was not only a poor turnout on the weekend that was disappointing.
This type of non realistic planning takes a heavy toll on the match officials (referees), who virtually ran every day of the week and were restricted in numbers, as all cannot get leave from their work places. The factor of fatigue is never considered when those who referee make a mistake.
The game then suffers as the organizers are more interested in the statistics and that too before school authorities , parents and the boys say, “ cannot come, -OL is due soon.” Another issue was the lack of planning which forced the games during the week to be played in semi- dark conditions.
So much so that the final of the WP under 16 had to be called off during extra time. It was no doubt that in this young set of players there were some that were very talented. But what is in store to use them to be beaters of the better rugby playing clubs in Asia? There is indeed a lot of planning and development that has to take place. It is in this context that I had the privilege of talking to those who were involved in organizing what is now known as the “super twelve of mini rugby”.
One issue they had was that the expectation of mastering the fundamentals of the game was not in place as some teams had a tendency to use the bigger boy or the faster player to keep running and the others are left behind.
The intention was to see how the rules can be modified to enable more support play. There was also discussion on not having any competitions at age groups below thirteen. An issue was that then the teachers and coaches will not have anything to take to show the schools authorities as well as the dearly involved advisory committees. Speaking to Mr. L.K. Jayaweera, the Director Sports of the Ministry of Education, I was told that the Ministry does not promote competitions below the age group of thirteen excluding games such as Chess, Swimming etc. They do realize the importance of building a culture of values and sportsmanship and enjoyment at this age level.
As seen by those involved, the tendency is to centre on a few stronger boys and concentrate on winning and not learning the team game.
It is detrimental to the game and the individual who may find that as he grows others also grow and he is no longer the Gulliver among Lilliputians. If he is taught the team game and his early ability is polished with the honing of other skills he may do better as he grows.
Take the case of the Sri Lanka U20 side that had a good win over Korea and went down to Japan by a huge margin. What we need at this point is to learn and plan to be alongside Japan. It can be seen that we have a long way to go to get close to Japan at all levels. What is important is that we plan and develop to meet the challenges ahead.
That requires more organization and commitment to objectives.
The statistics are important but it should be like the lamp post, used to illuminate and not to lean on. At all levels we should be moving in the direction of the Asian Five Nations as well as being a more dominant player in the sevens.
This will require more games with tougher opposition especially for the fifteens game. More Sevens games are required to have squads ready and in touch for the Carlton Sevens to be played in November. The Mercantile Sevens as well as the Sevens which I understand is being planned by the Western Province for schools will be important as there is a need to select a national Sevens side as well as U20 squad.
*Vimal Perera is a former Rugby Referee, coach and Accredited Referees Evaluator IRB