Posted by on 22 August 2014 | 0 Comments

An invitation not "withdrawn".
MC Chris Immelman, the writer and guest speaker,
principal Willem Engelbrecht and sports organizer Heini Redelinghuys at the
Porterville Interschools Capping Dinner on 19 August. (photo: Karien Nel)

The following article goes against my stated intent of making this website all about the kids in that it does not deal primarily with schoolboy rugby.

However, the course of events faithfully described here touches on some important educational principles, the foremost of which is respect, as in that one should respect opinions that do not concur with your own as well as the other person’s right to express such, in other words, freedom of speech. A second one is common decency and manners.

Please bear with me for relating a most uncomfortable course of events, one combining large measures of irony, arrogance and hypocrisy. It illustrates the lengths to which those in authority will go both to retain that authority and to ensure that the road ahead of them remains free of any perceived obstacles.

Some background

Emotions ran high at the Paarl Boys’ High Old Boys’ Union AGM in 2013 just after another hard-to-swallow defeat at Interschools against Gym, which further underlined what had been an eventful season for the school’s 1st XV. Fingers were pointed and some uncomfortably direct questions were asked of several important school figures.

The upshot – regarding the rugby, at least – was that it was resolved that an advisory committee would be appointed to oversee the functioning of rugby and that a suitable candidate would be sought out to fill a new post, Director of Rugby.

The said committee would comprise several staff members and other influential and highly competent old boys, one of whom was shortly to become the major sponsor for the sport at the school.

In no way related to this, but, it transpires, of some bearing, I wrote and published several articles focusing on Boishaai during the course of the year.

One dealt directly with the aftermath of the Wildeklawer Spectacular, in which half the 1st XV was dropped, a strange situation to which reference was also made in the build-up to Interschools; another questioned the apparent bias of the Craven Week selectors in choosing some players now dropped to the Boishaai 2nd XV for the Craven and Academy Week teams, while a third surmised what lay behind the selection of the new director of rugby, while yet another predicted what lay ahead of him.

The period before the meeting to which I was “invited”

A part-time member of the advisory committee requested my e-mail address, telling me that it was needed so that the committee could send me an invitation to the function announcing the new sponsorship and introducing newly-appointed Director of Rugby Sean Erasmus.

About ten days before the function I was contacted by the same person saying that I would not, in fact, be receiving an invitation as several members of the AC were opposed to it.

On Tuesday 11 March 2014 I phoned, as is my custom, the Boishaai sports organizer to ask whether I might reserve a parking place in front of the club-house for that Friday’s game against Argentinian tourists, San Isidro. He assured me it would be no problem and asked whether I could come a bit earlier as the principal and his deputy wished to meet with me.

Having become a very wary person in recent years, I made some enquiries about both the agenda for the meeting and why I had been removed from the function guest list. A prompt reply via e-mail from the now-sponsor reassured me that the meeting was to discuss “an open agenda”.

The meeting

Hardly had I sat down than it became evident that the sole agenda of the meeting was for them not only to criticize the articles in question, but also to inform me that they were well aware of who had provided me with the information upon which the articles were based.

When they had tired of this and had in most ungentlemanly language insulted several co-members of the AC, they resorted to pointing out how much each of them had done for the school.

Since no-one, least of all myself, had at any stage brought that into question, the only obvious inference one could make is that the two of them were trying to reaffirm their importance, which they must have felt was under some form of threat.

The next direction their harangue took was to criticize me for writing the articles after all that they had done for me.

All I could think of pointing out by way of a reply was that I had always asked for the parking place well in advance and had never left the clubhouse without thanking the senior member of staff present as well as the lady in charge of catering. I even wondered whether they wanted me to offer reimbursement for the refreshments I had consumed at their games.

Eventually tiring of their repetitive tirade, I challenged them regarding my articles.

The first point was to express my utter disgust at their insulting suggestion that I had got all my information from their co-AC-member, to whom they had referred by using a crass four-letter obscenity.

I have devoted a great deal of time, largely at my own expense, to creating this website and spend considerably more on updating it and preparing my articles. Nobody else writes my articles or prescribes to me what I should write.

On the sudden team changes after Wildeklawer and the Craven Week selection, I pointed out that the first was in the public interest because Boishaai is such a prominent institution and that my criticism of the CW selection was merely voicing what every schoolboy rugby supporter outside their school had long believed.

The matter regarding the appointment of a Director of Rugby, who made a very brief appearance at the meeting, had, I noted, been based on my observations around the fields and in the club house on the regular occasions I had been there.

The meeting ended after some forty minutes with the principal informing me that, unless I undertook to forward any future articles which might be construed as portraying the school in a less than favourable light to his office for approval, I would no longer be welcome on the school’s property.

Had I actually responded – for once I held my tongue – it would have been that Hell would host the Winter Olympics before that happened. I resolved simply not to go there again.

I might add that I am not the first currently active local schools rugby writer to undertake never to go to Brug Street again.

He further stated that I would probably already find many of the Boishaai family avoiding me, which, doubtlessly coincidentally, did prove the case.

And so I left the office, “Thank you for coming” at the start and at the end, but none for all the nice things I’ve ever said about the school or what I’m trying to do for the game at schoolboy level.

I visited Brug Street for the last time – my parking place had not been reserved – watched the match, declined post-match refreshments and went home.

Irony and hypocrisy

Regular readers – and, at the time of publication 65907 different people have visited this site 210251 times over its 26 months of existence – will know how fond I am of terms such as these. It should be no surprise that they can be found here.

Given that events far more potentially damaging to the school occurred at the 2013 Old Boys AGM, the course of which they must have realized was known to me, why did I, apparently determined to portray the school in a bad light, choose merely to mention the decision to look into an advisory committee ?

Totally disgusted by his treatment by Craven Week selectors, one Boishaai player actually considered giving up rugby for soccer, but fortunately settled for a compromise: a career abroad.

Ironically, he was the only HJS player I had ever directly criticized in a match report – and this only after explaining my comments personally to the lad’s father on the day of the match in question. At least the youngster isn’t disillusioned with me ! His father thoughtfully keeps me up to date regarding his sublimely talented son’s progress.

The hypocrisy of the situation is that, despite all this negative publicity I was allegedly generating, the school authorities were quite happy for the 1st XV to accept an invitation to play at the 2014 Tony Stoops Rugby Festival.

The principal was even seen slipping in to attend at least one of their matches, but, unlike all the other headmasters present, did not bother to greet the hosts.

On a different level of hypocrisy, one would sincerely hope that it is not inculcated into the young gentlemen at this fine place of learning that they should merely churn out responses, orally and in writing, that they think will meet with the approval of the most senior staff. This is, after all, 2014, not 1984.

It concerns me that I might not be the only person who is being poorly treated !


The sponsor has been at great pains to apologize on behalf of the school for the unpleasant tone of the meeting and the two educators’ complete disregard for the forwarded agenda.

We discussed the matter over lunch on one of his visits to Cape Town, but that’s where it seems to have ended as far as the school is concerned, apart from passing interest shown a few months later by a school governing body member.

This year’s Old Boys AGM was conveniently shifted to June, when learners and parents, some of whom would presumably be Old Boys, would be more focused on examinations, quite possibly in a precautionary move to avoid a recurrence of last year’s ruckus.



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