King Edward High School Easter Rugby Festival. KES vs Hilton College. 170406. KES' Jason Riley is brought down by the Hilton defence. Pic Etienne Rothbart.

Time-honoured traditions of school rugby in KwaZulu-Natal, which saw historic rivals pit their best players against each other, are being eroded with some schools being accused of pushing the game towards professional level.

This was highlighted last week when Hilton College said it could no longer play Glenwood High School as Glenwood’s rugby was “too professional”.

Glenwood High School principal Trevor Kershaw said the school was disappointed.

“They are our oldest fixture – 1924 I think – and so we are sad when a tradition such as this comes to an end. Hopefully they will see themselves clear again soon to rejoin our fixture list,” he said.

The schools had met to discuss the issue and the reasons behind the withdrawal, he said.

Hilton College headmaster Peter Ducasse said they decided to discontinue all fixtures “for the foreseeable future”.

“The simple reason for this decision is that Glenwood High School’s fairly recent strategy has, in our firm opinion, now moved them into a different league,” he said.

In this year’s first term games, Glenwood gave almost all the schools it played a lashing. Hilton lost 67-7, Kearsney were overwhelmed 85-13, Westville lost 32-15, and DHS received a 39-13 beating.

“Apart from the increased risk of injury, which is associated with such mismatches, we see no educational value in playing matches where the contest is decidedly one-sided.

“There is no animosity between our two schools,” Ducasse said.

Kershaw said there were no other schools that had declined to play rugby against them.

“It is not a problem for us as our fixture list is full,” he said.

KZN High School Rugby Association chairman Noel Ingle said it was disappointing that two major boys’ schools in the province would not be playing each other in 2015.

“I hope that sometime in the future the issues can be resolved,” he said.

Ingle disputed the claim that Glenwood had become too professional.

“What they may be doing is improving their system and the condition of their players,” he said.

Ingle said the association would have a provincial headmasters’ forum next month to discuss all their concerns.

An individual with knowledge of the politics of school rugby said the aggressive recruiting and poaching of players by schools was a “marketing exercise” fuelled by overzealous parents and the culture of rugby worship. - The Mercury