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From 1 to 4 October South African rugby fans will see the country’s top Under-15 SA schools’ rugby players showcase their amazing talent at the 2018 edition of the Iqhawe Week, to be held once again at the Bill Jardine Stadium in Johannesburg.

This development rugby tournament, which was initiated by the SA Rugby Leg-ends Association (SARLA), is a joint initiative with SA Rugby, and aims to bring together representative U15 teams from the 14 rugby unions in South Africa. Tal-ented young athletes – many of whom are from non-traditional rugby playing schools and under-privileged, rural areas – now have the opportunity to show-case their abilities, in addition to the possibility of being awarded a bursary from a traditional rugby-playing school.

The Iqhawe Week is part of SARLA’s broader mandate to achieve true transformation and social upliftment within rugby as a sport. This can only truly be realised through development and the creation of opportunities at a grassroots level. SARLA’s other progressive initiatives include the Vuka Rugby Development Programme and the Legends Cup.

Considered a great achievement for those participating as they take the next im-portant step in their rugby careers, it is also a special occasion for the coaches and team management members. Financially supported and endorsed by SA Rugby and the Gauteng Provincial Government, the event is hosted in partner-ship with the City of Johannesburg, and has in previous years seen some tense matches and many great wins. SARLA has worked with determination to ensure that the Vuka programme – running at various rugby unions around the country – will succeed in the search for new talent, and they have succeeded to date in the sourcing of participants for the week-long event. Across South Africa, many young players from all backgrounds are now able to access the same opportuni-ties, such as training and competing, as those from the more established tradi-tional rugby playing schools.

Stefan Terblanche, CEO of SARLA says of the event, “It’s an absolutely amazing week and all of us at SARLA are enthusiastic, motivated and looking forward to the experience.” He went on to say “No doubt we will discover some incredible new talent!”

“Rugby is so much more than just how we play, there are many essential life les-sons and values to be learnt; these include integrity, dedication, respect, team-work and discipline,” Says Gavin Varejes, President of SARLA, adding that, “SARLA is grateful for the support of all of our partners, such as SA Rugby, My-Players, the Gauteng Provincial Government and The City of Johannesburg, and we are exceptionally proud to play such a big role in the transformation of the lives of so many young South Africans.”

MyPlayers, wholly owned and managed by players, is the official organisation of South Africa’s professional rugby playing community. MyPlayers represents the voice of our players, working hard to secure supportive, beneficial services such as financial and education advice. Siya Kolisi, Springbok Captain and MyPlayers board member, states “We are committed to improving the game for the next gen-eration, some of whom may be the talent discovered at the 2018 Iqhawe Week.” He goes on to add: “This is why we have also set aside a portion of our incomes in 2018, to not only sponsor the event, but also to create a poten-tially life-changing bursary fund to aid young talent.”

Kolisi was a Grade 8 pupil from Zwide, outside Port Elizabeth, dreaming of a pro-fessional rugby career when he had the opportunity to meet Schalk Burger. Kolisi shared a positive message for all participants in the upcoming Iqhawe Week, “I was determined to change my and my family’s life for the better and I have worked extremely hard to achieve my dream. This is an opportunity for you to do the same, you can do it!”

The Iqhawe Week has, since 2013, grown substantially as an es-sential transformational and development mechanism in our country’s rugby community. Since 2016 there have been 63 players that have graduated from Iqhawe week to the prestigious U16 Coca-Cola Grant Khomo Week. This is proof that the platform is significantly successful for opportunity creation,
said SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux.

Roux furthers adds that “Transformation is about creating opportunities for all South Africans, and this initiative is in line with our objective to grow and develop the game at grassroots level, as players from non-traditional rugby schools and rural areas are able to showcase their skills on the provincial stage. I would like to thank SARLA for the fantastic work they are doing to give back to rugby, as well as and the City of Johannesburg for supporting this event.”

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