Saturday, October 27, 2018


Dear Parents,
Guy Pearson Headmaster
of Bishops

          Boys at Cape Town’s Diocesan College, commonly known as Bishops, are so special that the school feels it necessary to make sure that its rugby first team stands out from the from the commoners at other schools.
          With a motto of Pro Fide et Patria – For Faith and Fatherland you could hardly expect anything different from this private, all boys school where the annual College fees in Grade 12 will set you back R240 380 per boy, plus no doubt thousands more in extras. So you wouldn’t want them treated any other way would you?
          The boys in the team I’m talking about have no numbers on their jerseys, because as one of the boys said on TV just before a televised match: “We are one.”
          Meanwhile the teams they play against such as those from the nearby Government schools like South African College Schools (SACS) and Wynberg Boy’s High all have numbers. The fees for Grade 12 borders at these two schools are considerably less than half what you would pay at Bishops.  
          This was Guy Pearson, the headmaster of Bishop’s explanation for this very elitist behaviour: “In his book ‘Bishops Rugby, a History’ Paul Dobson writes the following: 'Bishops does not wear numbers, partly because there are usually no programmes at matches, partly because it holds to the belief that rugby is a team game and individuals should not be singled out. At worst it is a harmless tradition; at best it is an expression of idealism.'”
Bishops & Wynberg players
          Idealism has been defined as the unrealistic belief in perfection – hardly something boys should be taught so early in life I would have thought.
          And just to make sure that Bishops has no big heads in its teams Pearson told me: “You are correct; we do not pick a man of the match. You will notice that when the game is televised the commentators pick a man of the match, but we don’t.
          “I forgot to mention that the teams we play do not mind us playing with no numbers, they appreciate this tradition. We have other ‘quirky’ traditions like running on as a group from behind the post and not through a ‘tunnel of adulation’ like other schools.”                                                                            

          Is this Bishops approach to rugby the best way to prepare boys for the real world, where everybody is certainly not equal? Didn’t Communism fail dismally with its no class divisions ?
          Bishops evidently believes it is so unique that it can blithely ignore the whole purpose of having numbers on jerseys. As everybody must know they are there to enable referees to easily identify players that transgress, and it also makes the job of commentators of televised games a lot easier. They complain that when Bishops is playing they sometimes get picked out for getting the names of players wrong.
          Mr Pearson was not exactly correct when he told me that the schools Bishops play against don’t mind this no number business. I canvassed the heads of just two other Cape Town schools that play Bishops and they have both been sporting rivals of the special one for longer than most people can remember. 
Jan de Waal

          Jan de Waal, Headmaster of Wynberg Boy’s tactfully phased what I believe most people would say: “This is a classic case of tradition, which is now having a negative impact on the modern game.
          “Many schools have little traditions passed on from one generation to another. Queens (Queens College, Eastern Cape) for example do not play with a number 13, Bishops have no numbers etc. I’m sure there were soundly thought through reasons for the original decision, but maybe its time to revisit those traditions to adapt to the current realities.”
          On the other hand Brendan Grant, Headmaster of SACS has a very passive approach. “That is Bishops tradition and we have no problem with it at all. We look after our traditions and do not dictate to other schools what they should do.”
          While doing research for this post I came across an advertisement that must have given the boys a laugh. It was immediately below a video of a Bishops vs Wynberg match and was for Vascamen, available at Clicks and Dis-Chem, where it can also be bought on-line. It’s in the sexual wellness category with ingredients like horny goat weed.
          Nobody seemed to know how it got there.
          “It doesn’t seem right to me that they should have videos of school rugby coupled with ads like this without obtaining the okay from the schools involved,” I told Pearson in an email. “As if teenage lads are not horny enough without getting them to take horny goat weed etc. Does anybody at Bishops or any other school know if this product is a performance (on the rugby field as well as in the bedroom) enhancing drug?” 

          Pearson told me that the video streaming of schoolboy matches was done by a company called School Sport Live. Bishops had nothing to do with this. “I will let them know that some of their adverts are not appropriate in a school context,” he said, adding: “I personally do not watch these videos so am unaware of the content of the adverts.”
           “This advertisement is not created or endorsed by us,” Rowan Raaff head of School Sport Live emphasised. “We deal with schools, so we would be shooting ourselves in the foot if we associated ourselves with a product of this nature.”  
          Vascamen is a local South African, Loock Pharmaceuticals product. Its Marketing Director Marieke Prinsloo assured me they would never place an advertisement for this anywhere connected with schools. “We do however have a few deals with sports magazines, both printed and on-line, that fit our target market profile, mostly 35 years and up.”
          The advertisement in question must have been one of those Google phenomenons because when I looked again it had gone.
          “While it offers a variety of sporting choices rugby is truly at the heart of the school,” Bishops tells us. “The main rugby field was the first in South Africa and is sometimes used by the Springboks for practice sessions out of the public eye. Many Bishops boys have gone on to become Springboks, most recently Robbie Fleck and Selborne Boome.” 
Former Bishops boys have become rugby internationals
all over the world
          Bishops was established in 1849 by Robert Grey, the first Anglican Bishop of Cape Town. He founded two schools, one for native children and the other for European children and it was the latter that became Bishops.
          The Bishop was certainly not preaching "We are one" in those days.
P.S. When I was at Bishops a hundred years ago we were not nearly so precious and if you stepped out of line you knew all about it. Six of the best with a flexible cane left an indelible impression on your backside, and your mind for quite a long time.

No comments:

Post a Comment