Bay of Plenty Rugby Community Rugby Manager Pat Rae has announced the province will replace its U13 –U15 rep programmes with a number of U13, U14 and U15 development days involving both boys and girls across the three sub unions in 2020.
With the Northern Regions Rugby Council decision last week that there be no interprovincial union representative programmes below Under-16 from next year, Bay Rugby is keen to get strategies started to fill the void that’s been left by the decision.
“While I know that this decision will not be popular with many of those involved with teams in this age band, I know that it is the right decision moving forward,” Rae says.
“Rugby is changing rapidly like never before and with these changes come challenges. While we continue to see some extraordinary growth, especially in the girls/women and non-traditional formats of the game, participation rates in the teenage boy tackle space continue to fall.
Rae says rugby is a “late development” sport and representative teams for U13-U15 with weight restrictions doesn’t necessarily reflect the best players.
“It also falls into line with Sport New Zealand’s assertion that early specialisation does not necessarily equal success at the elite level.
“I attended the Chiefs U17’s Camp held at St Johns School in Hamilton earlier this year and witnessed some excellent development programmes being run.
“Former Maori All Black and Chiefs stalwart Tanerau Latimer was one of the many former representative players providing some excellent hands-on coaching to these boys.
“How good would it be for current and former Steamers and Volcanix players to do the same for hundreds of U13, U14 and U15 boys and girls, of all abilities, shapes and sizes.
Rae says the development days would not be restricted to those boys selected for a rep team, but open to all boys and girls that wanted to learn from their heroes.