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This article was published on August 22nd, 2014
In July and August, 52 pupils, 5 Staff and 1 Sports Therapist from King’s Macclesfield embarked on a two and a half week rugby tour of South Africa playing 12 games across the country, starting in Pretoria and Johannesburg,
flying to Port Elizabeth and then along the Garden Route, before finishing in the beautiful city of Cape Town. The boys played some of the biggest rugby playing schools in South Africa, like Paul Roos Gymnasium and Jeppe High School for Boys. In stark contrast one of the games was against a deprived township side called the Leopards and as part of the experience the boys also coached sport to Primary age children the ‘United Through Sport’ Charity.
On arrival we stayed at Pretoria’s High Performance Centre for 2 days and then moved to a camp in the wilderness to play a Leopards RUFC District development side – effectively a select township side. The boys played well, given the heat, altitude and rock hard ground and we won both games with Matt Stubbs and Stu Gurney getting the Scott Barrow sponsored MOTM awards! Tries in the 1st XV game (24-7) came from Matt Peakman, Tom Fairclough (after an 18 month layoff), Dan Greer and Jake Hughes. The 2nd XV also won, and their score was 24-0. After the game there was a braii and some drumming and the boys swapped kit and ties with the township lads, who for many had never sat down and shared a meal with a white man before – incredible given the last 20 years of change! Special mention should go to both Jonny Jones and Dan Hinchcliffe who could not play during the tour and helped with all the pitch side jobs and duties with great distinction!
From there we returned to Jo’burg and played a very strong Jeppe High School for Boys side – the oldest state school in Jo’burg and a school that has played King’s before in 1993 when Jake White (World Cup Springbok Coach) was in charge. They are one of the top 10 schools in SA rugby. Their big derby game the previous weekend was televised on the SA version of Sky Sports with about 6,000 people watching. We fielded 3 teams and the boys defended brilliantly and we could see all the summer training paying off with low chop tackles and then competing for the ball at the breakdown. The 3rd XV lost 12-3 and were excellent against far bigger and more athletic opponents. The 2nd XV lost 22-10 but played superbly for big chunks of the game but just didn’t finish their chances. The 1st XV game was the big show piece at the end of the day and in front of a decent crowd (including many King’s families out in South Africa to support) they played as well as any 1st XV over the last 4 years and dominated the contact area with good low body position. Sadly an intercepted pass and a penalty meant we went in 13-0 down at half time. The 2nd half was incredible and we kept coming back and had a kick to win the game! Sadly this went wide and we lost by 1 point, 13-12. Superb individual tries came from Johnny Hammill and Harry Jackson. Alec Mantel was MOTM, whilst Callum Lavelle was the 2nd XV MOTM and Rory Wallace was the 3rd XV MOTM.
We then boarded a flight to Port Elizabeth and trained on the St George’s test cricket ground before checking into our hotel prior to playing Muir College at 1st and 2nd XV level. The tour Physio was kept very busy with bumps, scrapes and knocks and unfortunately Tom Key had to go to hospital for a double fracture in his arm once we arrived in Port Elizabeth.
Much to the boys amusement, on all 3 flights we have been on so far, they have told the Captain it is my birthday and it has been announced on the intercom! On the most recent flight I had to go up to first class to receive my present, whilst the aircraft sung happy birthday as I walked back! That said, I now have 3 bottles of expensive champagne travelling around SA with me, although the Captain announced my name as Gary Manson and sadly the tour name has stuck!
After touching down in Port Elizabeth the boys went into a township Primary School and were greeted by the entire school and some singing and dancing in assembly. The boys reciprocated with a rousing burst of Jerusalem followed by Sweet Caroline! The lads were an absolute credit to the school and taught English and organised some sport sessions for them as well.
After our bruising encounter against Jeppe HSB, perhaps not surprisingly the boys found the game in Port Elizabeth hard going! The temperature was almost 30 degrees and the pitch at Muir College was as hard as Tarmac. The Port Elizabeth area is enduring one of the driest winters for a long time. The 2nd XV started slowly but managed to come good in the end and Joe Murphy picked up the MOTM award and tries came from Tom McClusky, Stu Gurney and Joe Murphy. The winning score line being 20-0.
The 1st XV game followed and the first half was a catalogue of individual errors that allowed the very fast wingers from Muir to capitalise on any King’s errors and they scored 4 tries in quick succession before half time. It was always going to be a tough ask to bounce back from this with tired bodies and minds. The effects of 3 games in 5 days was taking its toll, however credit to the 1st XV boys as they clawed their way back into the game with 4 of their own tries from Archie Thorneycroft x2, Oscar Kenny and Alec Mantel, before eventually bowing out 38-26 losers. MOTM was Joey Hale.
From here we moved along the coast to near Port Alfred and then inland to the Kariega game reserve. This proved to be a superb experience and the boys were based in lodges and went on 4 game drives and saw elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo, giraffe, zebra and hippo to name but a few. A fantastic experience and one that will stay with the boys forever. Our time on Safari was crowned off with a superbly well attended fancy dress night!
From Kariega we travelled up the Garden Route stopping at some beautiful places like Jeffrey’s Bay and Plettenberg Bay before arriving at Mossel Bay and 2 nights hosting at Point High School. They were outstanding hosts and at the most beautiful ground to date. We played some brilliant rugby that saw us win the 3rd XV game 13-8 with tries from Jake Hughes and Tim Philips and MOTM was Jamie Cunningham. In the 2nd XV game we drew 7-7 with Edd Austin grabbing the only try and Olly Kenny was MOTM. In the 1st XV game the boys put the ghosts of Muir College to bed and played brilliantly and won 33-17 with tries from Dan Percival, Johnny Hammill, Oscar Kenny, Laurence Holt and Dan Greer. The MOTM was Tom McClusky who had to replace Will Hodgson after he received a nasty blow to the face.
Our next coach journey took us to the beautiful town of Stellenbosch and we had our awards dinner here. Alec Mantel got the Player of the Tour award for his ferocious tackling and energy in the contact area and this was presented by a former Junior Miss South Africa, which clearly went down well with the boys! Other award winners were Jack Qualtrough as Best Tourist, Arran McClosky as Most Helpful, whilst Tom McClusky picked up the Top Try Scorer and Highest Points Scorer awards and capped off a fine tour!
We spent 2 days in Cape Town and visited the Test rugby and cricket grounds at Newlands, and the South Africa Rugby Experience and Museum and also had a memorable day trip to Robben Island to see Nelson Mandela’s prison cell.
In our final set of fixtures on tour we played the historic Paul Roos Gymnasium school, currently ranked 2nd for rugby in South Africa.
The 2nd XV found the match incredibly hard and physical and did well to only be 2 scores behind at half time, however, Paul Roos proved too strong (not surprising when you consider they put out 26 rugby teams every weekend!) and ran out eventual winners by 41 points to 13. Jake Percival scored King’s only try whilst Stu Gurney added the extras and 2 successful penalties to rightly pick up his 2nd MOTM award! Stu had also received the Most Improved Player award for his heroic efforts whilst on tour.
the 1st XV game the side included a number of leavers for whom it was to be their last King’s game of rugby. In an emotional game King’s defended brilliantly and prevented Paul Roos from scoring any tries in 70 minutes of ferocious rugby! King’s had two penalty kicks at goal but both sailed wide and just as the game looked like it might finish up 0-0, Paul Roos got a penalty and ended up sneaking the game 3-0! A truly memorable result, which brought flashbacks of the Daily Mail exit at Northampton School for Boys, but credit to the boys and all their hard work both on tour and in the build up to it – their commitment and bravery was exceptional! The MOTM award went to Dan Greer.
In conclusion the tour was exceptional and a great experience for boys and Staff both on and off the field. The final statistics show how brutal and bruising the rugby really was – P12. W5. L6. D1. Points For 185 and Points Against 168.
Credit must go to Pete Allen, Dave Thomson, John Percival, Jack Sadler and our tour physio Phil Adshead! Also thanks to Scott Barrow for his help with the pre- tour training sessions and sponsoring the various MOTM awards. We are also very appreciative of our sponsor Thorneycroft Solicitors and the many parents who travelled across this magnificent continent supporting and encouraging us. Your presence was vital and will long be remembered!
Head of Rugby