The three annual Coca-Cola Youth Weeks as well as the SARU Academy Week are an established and integral part of the South African Rugby calendar and important to the game’s growth and development. They provide a platform for our possible future rugby stars to gain valuable experience of Provincial, and even, National competition.
For instance, over the years a host of players have graduated from the Coca-Cola Under-18 Craven Week to their respective senior Provincial teams and ultimately the Springbok team.
Indeed, the list of those who have gone on to achieve greatness at the highest level is an impressive one.
The Coca-Cola Youth Weeks have a special place in the hearts of all South Africans who care about the future of our rugby. The tournaments give our rugby experts an opportunity to cast an eye over the available talent.
SARU’s Youth development programme is an inclusive programme targeted at the broader community, specifically aimed at providing equal opportunities to those individuals from disadvantaged communities. We have developed and implemented a system that nurtures and develops talent and ultimately guides young players towards a possible international rugby career. The Coca-Cola Youth Weeks are also used to monitor the rate of transformation across the member Unions. I am sure that equitable demographic representation will soon become a natural feature of these weeks.
This event provides unequivocal evidence that the transformation of rugby is well and truly entrenched at this level. Congratulations to the Provincial schools selectors on the composition of the teams here. What we see here today provides all who serve and support rugby with a vision of where rugby needs to be at all levels in the future.
There are many factors that need to be considered when managing this very important aspect of the game but if we all work together for the common good – as evidenced by what we have seen here today – we will realize that we are a lot closer to our achieving our objectives than we may think.
I wish to convey a special word of thanks to the players, parents, coaches and referees who made these events so special. We are pleased that their commitment to the game helps build a brighter future for rugby in South Africa. Our Sponsor Coca-Cola is a committed partner ensuring that the Youth Weeks are a huge success. Thank you to Coca-Cola for being part of such a rich rugby culture.