THE Coca-Cola under-18 Academy Week, an annual interprovincial tournament aimed at development and transformation, will take place in Wellington from July 2 to 5.
The 26 teams are chosen according to a formula which sees a minimum of 11 players from previously disadvantaged backgrounds combined with a maximum of 11 players from other groups.
These selection restrictions do not always apply and many of the provinces select their best squad from the players who narrowly missed out on Coca-Cola Craven Week selection.
South Africa’s new captain, Jean De Villiers, competed in a Coca-Cola Academy Week in 1999. He didn’t make the Academy team which goes to prove that players must never give up. Talent will always shine through.
The teams will all play three matches: on Monday July 2 and Tuesday July 3. Wednesday is a rest day and all the sides play their final game on Thursday July 5.
As is customary, the fixtures for the first day only have been announced. The games for the following days are arranged on a strength v strength basis at the end of each day’s play.
A national Academy side is selected at the week and it has, in the past, proved itself to be almost as strong as the South African Schools team that is chosen at the under-18 Coca-Cola Craven Week. Further, the South African Schools and SA Rugby under19 selectors attend the Academy Week, so the players have plenty to play for.
The players also perform in front of a number of scouts from the professional rugby organisations looking for players to sign up. Then there are the Universities who offer bursaries to players who can bolster their Varsity Cup sides in the years to come.
For many players who will be in Wellington, this serious rugby occasion could well be the first step on his career development ladder.
“All Coca-Cola Youth Weeks, of which there are four, are aimed at identifying and nurturing talent within South Africa,” said Coca-Cola SA Marketing Asset Manager, Craig Van Niekerk. “Coca-Cola has sponsored Rugby Development for 27 years and since the inception of the Under 18 Coca-Cola Craven Week back in 1964, there have been 243 springboks that have emerged.”
The sides from SA Rugby’s senior provinces will be joined by country district teams from Border, Eastern Province, KwaZulu-Natal, Pumas, Leopards and Griquas. There is also a team from Limpopo and two from the Valke – representing their Vaal Triangle and East Rand regions, and one selected at the Craven Week for Schools for learners with Special Educational Needs (LSEN), held the week preceding the Academy Week.
The hosts, Boland will supply the 26th team – a Boland XV – to make up the even numbers.
The fixtures for day 1 are: Pumas CD v Griffons, Eastern Province CD v Leopards, Limpopo v Border, Blue Bulls v Eastern Province, SWD v KwaZulu-Natal, Western Province v Lions, Boland v Free State, Border CD v Blue Valke, Silver Valke v SA LSEN Schools, Pumas v Griffons CD, Griquas v Namibia, Griquas CD v Boland XV, KwaZulu-Natal CD v Leopards CD.