It was three years in the making and cost $6,000 per student, but 28 rugby players from Hutt International Boys’ School have a lifetime of memories to take away from 18 days in South Africa.
In 2012, Matt Sexton was coaching the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth and it was this connection coupled with current employment by New Zealand Rugby and his two sons attending HIBS that was the catalyst for the bold tour.
School Captain Joel Cutler explains what was involved in making the idea a reality once the school board approved.
“The boys who were interested in attending had to commit to fundraising, small things at first like a car wash once a week before the bigger events,” he says.
“The biggest fundraiser was a Gala night in July last year. Norm Hewitt (whose son Alex attends HIBS) was the guest speaker and there was entertainment, food and prizes. It was amazing the support we got,” Cutler continued.
HIBS touched down in Johannesburg before heading to Port Elizabeth where they also spent some time in a poorer township before concluding their visit in Cape Town.
Louis Calvert is First XV captain and explains the rugby varied greatly, but was always challenging and educational.
“Our first game was against Grey College which is a really big rugby school in South Africa. Basically every boy at Grey plays rugby so being a smaller New Zealand school we didn’t play their top team, but they still fielded a very good side who beat us by a bit.”
“The match in the township was really loose. Our opponents didn’t play with a lot of structure, but we managed to beat them.”
“The third match was the closest game. We lost by one point, but weren’t too happy with the refereeing while the last game we won easily against a more academic school. We played well and it was a nice way to end the tour.”
The tour included sightseeing at the Table Mountain, a game reserve and about a dozen braaivleis. However both boys agree the highlight was giving back in the township. Cutler captures the atmosphere.
“Nothing could have prepared us for the poverty. It was outrageous. The kids had very little, but they were so happy when we came. There was a language barrier, but we ran coaching clinics, supplied gifts and hopefully touched them in a positive way,” he says.
Back in Wellington HIBS aim is to qualify for the Premiership. On Saturday they lost 20-29 to Rongotai College with four key players injured, but have two more chances to reach the top grade in the next fortnight. This Saturday they play Mana College at home at 2.30pm.
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