How heads bust the school rugby cheats

By Tanya Waterworth and Craig Lewis. Time of article published Jun 2, 2012

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Top KZN schools, reeling from the scandal associated with over-age rugby players, are now looking to investigate other sporting codes.

This follows an unprecedented investigation in the last two weeks into all players to gauge their eligibility for the final KZN squad for Craven Week.

Yesterday the names for the U18 and U16 squads were released and according to chairman of the Natal Schools Rugby Association, Noel Ingle, all the players have been vetted as age appropriate.

The urgent investigation has so far found eight players that have allegedly committed fraud by doctoring birth certificates.

The story of over-age rugby players in schools broke last week and it appears that in some cases players had assumed false identities, while others had allegedly changed their birth certificates. Ingle said some of the changes were clumsy, while others looked genuine.

KZN Rugby Union Council president, Graham Mackenzie, said all U16 and U18 players who took part in the main trials to represent the province have been cleared to play.

“Over 320 boys were put through a full check, and we can report that eight boys were found to be in conflict with the age restrictions. Those individuals have been withdrawn from the teams, trials and in many cases have left their schools.”

“It’s a really unfortunate saga and my personal sorrow is that if this sort of thing has happened in the past, then some players who were of age may well have been precluded from representing their province. That would be a very sad story,” said Mackenzie yesterday.

The 11 heads who submitted their players for clearance are Durban High School, Glenwood High School, Kearsney College, George Campbell Technical, Westville Boys’ High School, Northwood, Hilton College, St Charles, Michaelhouse, Clifton and Maritzburg College, although it is understood promising players from other schools were also checked.

Elwyn van den Aardweg, Kearsney College head and who chaired the heads’ meeting, confirmed other age groups and other sporting codes may well now come under investigation. “The role of agents if any, also needs to be investigated,” he said.

Meanwhile, social media was buzzing this week identifying two of the province’s top players, Siyabonga Tom (Glenwood) and Mbembi “fast one” Payi (DHS), as having left their schools under a cloud. The saying “Faster than Home Affairs, older than Pat Lambie, it’s Tom” has gone viral.

Their disappearance from school has been discussed and most heads have addressed their pupils on the issue.

Tom was being tipped as a future Springbok and Payi was known on the field for his devastating play. Neither could be contacted for comment.

While some of the players were found to be turning 22, but playing U18, there was one player said to be aged 22 and playing U16, but this could not be confirmed.

Paena Galane, spokesman for Sports and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula, said: “The matter is really hurting the efforts put into school sports programmes. South Africa subscribes to fair play.” - Independent on Saturday

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