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Back You are here: Home Sports Rugby Western Cape Rugby: The Eye of The Tiger- The Rise of Tygerberg
Monday, 15 October 2012 21:28

Rugby: The Eye of The Tiger- The Rise of Tygerberg

Written by  Jaco Zeeman

The nickname “Tigers” was created when Tygerberg High school was founded back in 1954. Nowadays, the familiar sound of the famous song, “Eye of the Tiger,” inspires the proud and passionate home-supporters of this Parow-based school on rugby match days.

Edwin Sass


This modest rugby-playing school continues to shock the more well-known rugby schools around the country as they continue to “rise up to the challenge of their rivals.”

Tygerberg’s rise to prominence all started seven years ago when various teachers and parents made a commitment to restore rugby at the school to its former glory. For the last 6 years, coaches, teachers and parents committed lots of time, energy, passion and hard-work in building a proud rugby tradition at the school. They now boast some of the most well-known former school boy rugby players and have recorded a number of famous victories against top schools in the country.

At Tygerberg the objective is quite clear, according to 1st team coach Craig Hale: “We aim to develop boys to take on life’s challenges. We see how far we can push them and see if we can achieve success at any level and in all spheres of life.”

The coaching structures at Tygerberg are very unique in that a coach is assigned to an A team at U14 level and from there they progress with the side up to U19,where they will coach the 1st team for two years, before starting the cycle all over again. This particular method has proven to be very beneficial for both players and coaches. A personal relationship, based on trust and knowledge is developed by the time they reach U19. This has yielded great results under the new regime of Tygerberg’s rise to prominence and according to Craig Hale, is their possible recipe of success.

At U14 and U15 level, the sole focus is placed on communication: both on and off the field. Once this communication is fully ingrained into the players and they have an honest relationship with the coaches, they move on to honing the various rugby-related skills. Each individual is developed so that they can ultimately contribute to the overall success of the team. They are given a free rein to play to their strengths, while the various coaches assess their strengths and weaknesses and identify their natural ability, before eventually fine-tweaking them into school boy rugby stars.

Coaches who deserve recognition for their unwavering commitment and tireless dedication both on and off the field include: Craig Hale, Ossie Baard, Dewaldt van Wyk, Eddie Page, Andre Maree, Gavin Barresford and Charles Loubsher. They have all played a pivotal role in the success of Tygerberg’s rugby in recent times and have worked hard, both on and off the field, with the players. Charles Loubsher is one of the founding members of the Rugby committee which was formed seven years ago. A special mention must be given to Gavin Barresford who has been an instrumental figure in the advance of Tygerberg rugby. “He is a dedicated, hardworking individual who has invested vast amounts of time and energy into the school’s rugby,” says Coach Craig Hale. The passionate school teacher plays a huge role in coaching and is also largely responsible for recruiting players. He has ensured and maintained good coaching structures that will see prolonged success for Tygerberg in the foreseeable future.

When asked about the recruitment, Craig Hale is quick to point out that people should not point fingers: most schools approach and eventually poach rugby players. Tygerberg have been on both sides of the scale and thus he is not concerned with its legitimacy or moral value. Craig says: “Young and upcoming boys approach the school out of free will and choice. They see the coaching structures, pride and passion and identify Tygerberg as the correct environment to nurture their game. We follow the correct procedures but, ultimately, it is about the happiness of the boys.” Craig further stipulates that the current players do the recruiting through their on- field performances and talking to their mates: encouraging them to come to the school.

With regards to sponsorship, Tygerberg relies on dedicated old boys and parents who generously invest back into the school. They are also eternally grateful to Mr. Price who have kitted them out so well and stress that if there are any sponsors keen to get on board, it would be immensely helpful and much appreciated.

This year, The Tigers have used the continuity of recent seasons to maintain and enhance their ever-growing reputation as a rugby school that plays an attractive, yet successful, running brand of rugby. Former Bishops 1st XV coach and rugby legend, Basil Bay describes The Tigers:“They are the only school side that play the infamous Bishops running game better than Bishops themselves”. This speaks volumes for the style of rugby that The Tigers pride themselves on.

Astutely trained by the incumbent 1st team coaching trio, consisting of Head and forwards Coach Craig Hale, Avril Papier marshalling the backs and kicking coach Christiaan du Preez, they have ascertained their 70% winning ratio that they have achieved for the last five years. Notable victories thist season include: convincingly beating Rondebosch Boys High 38-17 at Rondebosch and narrowly going down to Waterkloof away from home 20-19, outscoring them in the tries department three tries to two. The Tigers further boast beating Bishops three times in the last five years. However, most impressively, after being outclassed by Paarl Gymnasium 75-3 the week before, they narrowly edged out Paul Roos 22-20. This is definitely a huge feat, illustrating the character and commitment of the side, as well as echoing the 1st XV rugby motto: “Winners were once losers who stood up one more time.” They also beat a strong Paarl Gymnasium side two years ago, a side in which current Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth played in.

The philosophy of the side is to “play against time,” as Craig Hale explains it. This alludes to doing as much as you can in life, because the clock is always ticking and your time could be up at any moment, not wasting a second and living for the moment… much like: “Go big or go home”.The joint top try scorers for The Tigers are outside centre Edwin Sass and left wing Shane Grundling with 10 tries apiece midway through the current season. Craig Hale predicts that Tygerberg’s rugby will keep growing from strength to strength and predicts a bright few years for rugby. He believes next year’s side should also not be taken lightly – with the next group of stars coming through to rightfully take their place in the spotlight. These include pacey centres Sherwin Eiyman and Hanson Fielies and nippy scrumhalf T.J. Goddard.

Tygerberg are currently playing 2nd or B League Schools Rugby in the Western Cape, solely due to not having enough sides to field against other top rugby playing schools in the Premier A League Schools, raising a strong debate to its validity, because they regularly come out on top against the elite schools. Tygerberg proudly boast 12 competitive sides, but require a minimum of 14 teams to be eligible to play the other top schools on a consistent basis. However, all could change with financial backing from a generous third party. The school has huge plans to build a Boarding house in order to house scholars from all over the country. They obviously need financial support to realise this dream. This would go a long way in further enhancing the reputation and performance of this proud academic institution that boasts a 1st Rugby team that has remained in the top 30 in the country in the last few years – possibly one of very few schools who can compete at the highest level of rugby without an established boarding house.

The school is also very proud of current and former Tygerberg rugby players involved in the different structures of South African rugby. Most notable of course current Stormers and Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth aged only 20 (two years out of school). Entienne Swanepoel, Andre Warner and Edwin Sass are working with the W.P. U19 Currie Cup Squad, whilst Marvin Orie and Travis Ismaiel were both in the victorious Baby Boks side who won the IRB Junior World Championship in 2012. Others include Jody Reynecke, who has featured prominently in the WP ranks and is now playing W.P. U21 as well as playing for local club side Durbells’ 1st team, and Justin Geduld who is a young S.A. Sevens star on the rise. The school is very proud of these top players who are all playing their part in the future of South African rugby. These guys serve as great patriots and are ambassadors for what can be achieved. We look forward to seeing how Tygerberg continue to deliver jaw dropping performances, produce future Springboks and fight for top flight school boy rugby.

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