South Africa & Swaziland Rugby Tour 2017
A party of 36 boys and 5 staff from AKS Lytham embarked on a most successful 8 match tour to South Africa and Swaziland in July. Whilst obviously the rugby was the key driver behind the 17 day tour, providing a variety of cultural and community based experiences is also a significant part of the school’s ethos and as Robbie Jones (Director of PE) is keen to point out, “we are always keen to go off the beaten track”.
After two hard days at a training camp and matches in Pretoria and Cape Town to look forward to, the 4 days spent in Swaziland working alongside the Skrum charity proved extremely rewarding for all concerned. Skrum, an organisation set up to help increase HIV awareness uses the slogan “Pass the ball, not the virus”, is run by ex-pat Michael Collinson, a regular visitor to the Rosslyn Park National Schools 7s, as well as being the President of the Swaziland Rugby Union and World Rugby Council member.
With a day spent coaching some of the young children and 4 games during the Swazi leg of the tour, the AKS party were greeted by the match officials wearing old Arnold School shirts, taken out on a previous tour in 2014. Ahead of the second round of matches versus Swaziland U17 & U18 sides, AKS staff member and Manchester Society referee Joe Matthews gave a presentation to the young Swazi officials before refereeing the U18 game himself and giving feedback following the U17 match refereed by the Skrum coaching staff.
With a great start to the tour with the first four matches all won, AKS were delighted to hand over more playing kit from both the school and through SOS Kit Aid, as well some referees shirts provided by Andy Thompson from SOS Kit Aid and Manchester & District Referee Society. The day was completed as we were treated as privileged guests to watch Swaziland take on Zambia in the ConCaf Cup in the National Stadium.
On returning to South Africa, a return visit to Harlequins RFC in Pretoria saw the 1st XV produce some excellent rugby only to concede the lead with a try in the last minute, losing 18-14. We were, however, delighted to persuade the Harlequins club to visit AKS Lytham on their UK tour in October. Whilst in Pretoria, visits to the Voortrekker Monument and the National Apartheid Museum gave a very solemn insight into South African history, both distant past and more recent.
The marvels of a cycling safari in Swaziland were then superseded by game drives at the delightful Mabula Reserve. The excellent sighting of lion, elephant, giraffe and hippo as well as the numerous antelope and zebra provided a breath-taking experience. The wild life experience also included a day spent at the Cheetah Outreach Sanctuary and the opportunity to come face to face with an adult cheetah.
The next leg of the tour took in the wonders of Cape Town and the Western Cape. This included a superb day that started with the cable car to the top of Table Mountain followed by a boat trip to a seal colony and the penguins at Boulders Beach, and culminated with the tour party gathered at Cape Point. Unfortunately the scheduled trip to Robben Island was lost to the weather.
The U16 team played a very fast and athletic Paulus Joubert side in Paarl, where the warmth and sincerity of the welcome was second to none. The young AKS side were out-powered but showed good tenacity and resilience in a tough encounter in so many ways. As the tour party transferred to Caledon in the Eastern Cape for the final stage of the tour, Overberg High School provided great hospitality as the boys were billeted with local families. The matches too proved to be excellent, with the U16XV losing narrowly 19-7 and the 1st XV concluding the tour with an impressive 31-12 victory.
The tour proved a huge success, with many fabulous memories to cherish for a life time. The boys were constantly applauded for their spirit and conduct in all that they did and where a credit to the school throughout.
R. Jones (Tour Manager)