“The first place we stayed was a gated hotel in Johannesburg which was pretty nice considering we were surrounded by slums. Seeing the poverty in South Africa reminded us of how we shouldn't take things for granted,” Louie Chapman of Christchurch Boys’ High School reflects on his first days in South Africa.
Recently the Barbarians halfback and a 26-strong squad toured South Africa as part of the World Schools Festival. Christchurch was soundly beaten in both games, but some valuable lessons were learned.
“In the first game against Grey College we were a bit shell-shocked by their size and skill and were down by four tries after 15 minutes. The middle period was pretty good. We scored some tries and built some chemistry, but our pre-season fitness didn’t kick in and we conceded three tires in the last ten minutes,” Chapman reflects.
Combating size has been an issue for South Island sides at the National Top Four with Southland Boys’ High School suffering record defeats in the past two seasons. How will Christchurch approach big North Island teams this year?
“History shows the South Island has struggled against the North Island, but the onus is on us to improve. We have to be fitter and smarter, tackle low and clean and move the ball a lot,” Chapman answers.
Christchurch’s South African trip wasn’t all about rugby. There was some sightseeing, team bonding and a special visit to the Crusaders dressing room at Ellis Park after their Super Rugby win over the Lions.
“We were there for about half an hour. There are about six or seven Christchurch old boys in the Crusaders so it was pretty cool to hang out with the likes of Matt Todd and Tim Bateman who was a head boy,” Chapman enthuses.
The tour cost each boy $5,000. Chapman says much of the fundraising was done by the Christchurch community.
“It was pretty crazy the support we got. We had three big fundraisers, including a race night and a golf tournament. We’ve got some great sponsors and a real chemistry for the season ahead.”
Christchurch has won the UC Championship 10 times and in the past three years have captured the crown twice winning 42 out of 47 games, including a streak of 27 in a row. Christchurch has scored 1865 points in this period. With much the same backline as 2017 returning expect Christchurch to score heavily again.
“Our strength will be in the backs. We have the likes of Ryan Barnes and Ollie Lewis back. We will need a good forward back to get us the ball, but the seconds had some good players last year so I’m sure we’ll come together pretty quickly,” Chapman anticipates.
One of the most anticipated games of the season in the garden city is the annual clash between Christ’s College and Boys’ High. For the first time in 16 years it was Christ’s who won in 2017.
“I guess one team had to lose to them and unfortunately it was us. Christ’s deserved their win. They played well and took their chances,” Chapman concedes.
“This year we will have less pressure on us, but the season isn’t defined by that game. The likes of St Bede’s, Nelson and St Andrew’s are always contenders in the UC Championship,” Chapman continued.
In the summer Christchurch are perennial contenders in cricket. In fact the First XI has won the National title for the past two seasons and nine times since 2005. Chapman is a rep standard batsman and right arm off spinner.
“There’s a great culture and strong depth for cricket at Boys’ High. We're not a team built on individuals so at a five day tournament like the Nationals somebody different will perform every day. I really enjoy my cricket and last season went good,” Chapman says.
What code is his preference?
“I get asked that question a lot and at this stage I have no idea,” Chapman responds.
In addition to his sporting prowess, Chapman is the head prefect at Boys’ High. Why was Chapman preferred to others?
“Not sure. I must have talked myself up more than others at the interview I guess it helps I’m a leader in rugby and cricket which gives me a bit of a reputation around school. It’s a huge privilege to be the head boy and I do my best to lead by example, ” Chapman theorises.
In 2015, Jake Bailey was the head prefect. His moving speech about life and leadership shortly after being struck down by cancer went viral and was a big source of inspiration for Louis.
“Jake is a legend. He’s in remission now and lives on the Gold Coast. He has a book out and is living proof of why we shouldn’t take things for granted,” Chapman concludes.
Christchurch Boys’ High School’s South African Results:
Grey College: 66 (De Wet Marais 3, Franco Smith, Ian Small-Smith 2, Wyclef Vitoor 2, Werner Gouws, George Coetzee; Zander du Plessis 8 con) Christchurch BHS: 28 (George Harding, Cullen Moody, Ryan Barnes, Corbon Harding tries; Moody 4 con)
Paarl Boishaai: 25 (Ewan Roos 2, Vian van der Sandt, Cullan van der Merwe; Trent Sirvetsen con, pen) Christchurch BHS: 7 (Max Hughes try; Ollie Lewis con)
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