Nieuwoudtville U/19 Proteaville take on the big city
Written by Mandy Schumann - Bokkeveld Conservancy
It is Friday morning, 24 February 2017 at 3 am, a typical dark and chilly morning on the Bokkeveld plateau. A small group of u/19 Proteaville rugby players, their coaches, parents and even a grandmother gathered for a send-off with a prayer by one of the parents. This kind of community support is typical of a small town like Nieuwoudtville. The young players were going to Cape Town on an outreach organised by their coach, Rostie Schippers, and a small team who rallied around him to help make this trip possible. Assistant coach Fabian Louw and Protea High School teacher Kobus Moses also accompanied the team.
The itinerary included a rugby match against players from Bonnytoun, a juvenile detention centre for youth at risk in Kraaifontein, a visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, a rugby training clinic, an outing to the Bellville swimming pool, attendance of a rugby match at Newlands and playing touchies matches against school teams in Camps Bay.
"The visit to Bonnytoun made a huge impression on the Nieuwoudtville team," said team captain Dimitri Skippers. Most of the boys at Bonnytoun come from disadvantaged backgrounds and many grew up in townships where there is a much higher crime rate than in other parts of Cape Town. Gang culture is embedded in many of the townships, with education given little attention. These youngsters are tough. Dimitri said it made him realise how relatively safe the area is in which he grew up. Pressure to join gangs is relentless and once drawn in, it is difficult to escape. Some of the Bonnytoun youngsters shared their experiences with the Nieuwoudtville team members. Their tattoos and gang marks make it very difficult to be accepted back into society again, said one youth. The teams then tackled each other on the field and the Nieuwoudtville players made history by drawing against this team. This is the first time the Bonnytoun team, league winners three years running, did not win a game. So well done Nieuwoudtville, who tenaciously guarded their touchline against the determined Bonnytoun attack.
The team camped at the Pollsmoor camping grounds in tents borrowed from the Nieuwoudtville Heiveld Cooperative. Saturday morning, well rested, they attended a training session hosted by the Western Province assistant coach for the U/21 team, Mr Labeeb Levy. Levy put the team through their paces and also organised touchies matches in Camps Bay on Sunday. Little did the Nieuwoudtville team know they were to play girls teams! Sounds easy, but with names like the Cobras (jnr) and Mambas (snr), the Nieuwoudtville team met their first defeat of the outing. Curtley Beukes said they were not just beaten, but thoroughly beaten! This was the team's first touchies game against girls, and they also had to adjust to touchies game rules with which they were not familiar.
An outing to the Bellville swimming pool was a treat for the team, given the grip the current drought still has on most of the Western and Northern Cape. This was followed by a visit to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Eugene Marinus, curator of Nieuwoudtville's own Hantam National Botanical Garden, facilitated complementary entry to Kirstenbosch, kindly sponsored by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). A much friendlier "boomslang" experience greeted the team. This canopy walkway through parts of the Kirstenbosch forest was a highlight of their visit, together with the dinosaur exhibit, sculptors and a fascinating array of other cultural and botanical exhibits. For many in the team, this was their first visit to this famous botanical garden.
What is a rugby trip to Cape Town without a visit to the Newlands Stadium? While queueing to enter, Stormers player Scarra Ntubeni was spotted and rounded up for some group photographs. The Bulls vs Stormers match was another highlight for the team. Dimitri and Curtley said most of the team are Stormers supporters. Those who were not, became Stormers supporters within the first 15 minutes of this match.
What is the team's message to other young players after this outreach? Grab opportunities with both hands. Make wise life choices. Bad choices will lead you down a path you later cannot extricate yourself from. They hope that what they have experienced and learnt will encourage other youngsters to play sport as well.
The team would like to thank everybody who helped make this trip possible, including their coaches, Protea High School, the Steering Committee of the Bokkeveld Conservancy, Rooibos Limited, Leopard's Leap Family Vineyards, SANBI, the Heiveld Cooperative, Labeeb Levy, the Nieuwoudtville community and their parents. Michael van Rooyen taxi service and drivers Shorty and Luke, who drove the extra mile and safely transported them, were also thanked.