Johannesburg, SA – Puedam High School was in the media spotlight last year following a decision to demolish all but one of their rugby fields to make way for a performing arts centre. The move divided the community at the time with concern being raised about how it would impact sport in the school, particularly rugby.
Last weekend we sent our man Simon Crane to see how Puedam rugby fared against arch-rivals Tetravaal High in their annual clash.
By Simon Crane 13 Nov 2021
Johannesburg based Puedam High School narrowly lost all eight of their rugby fixtures against Tetravaal High School on Saturday in front of a capacity crowd on their home campus. The annual fixtures, which are the highlight of the South African school rugby calendar, were all played back-to-back on the single remaining rugby field at Puedam High School.
The back-to-back matches made for a particularly long day with the first junior match starting at 8am and the final fixture, the 1st XV game concluding almost at sunset at 5pm.
The annual home and away derbies between Puedam High School and Tetravaal High School represent the very pinnacle of school rugby excellence and the fixture this year was broadcast live on Supersport for a record 5th consecutive year. Upwards of 10 000 spectators were at this year’s fixture and hundreds of thousands across the country would have seen the matches live on television from the comforts of their homes.
There has been controversy at Puedam High School in recent months as four rugby fields made way for a new state of the art High Performance Arts and Culture (HPAC) Centre built on the school’s campus.
The school is located in a busy and urban part of Johannesburg and with no room to expand, there simply was no choice but to utilise the field space for the construction.
“We recognised the need to realign our focus and attention on culture and the arts and we responded bravely to that call,” said Arnold at the time.
“The decision to cut down field space was an easy one. You must remember that we still have one premier rugby pitch on our campus and because there is just one pitch, we can all focus on the game being played instead of being distracted by other ones running concurrently. In addition, let’s remember that we now have a High-Performance Arts and Culture Centre too.”
The decision has divided parents, but Mr Arnold has received much support. The recent demolition of the hallowed Ellis Park stadium, the scene of World Cup triumph decades ago, to make room for a national centre of artistic excellence seems to have indicated a shift in the nation’s focus.
Today’s eight losses from eight rugby fixtures might seem like a bitter pill to swallow, but Tom Arnold feels differently.
“We’ve been losing for weeks now,” beamed Mr Arnold proudly.
Of course, we don’t want to lose every day, but if we reach our target of losing half the games we play, I will consider my job as an educator a successful one.Tom Arnold
“We are in the business of preparing young people for the future. Being able to lose well is part of life. To have every one of our teams lose today, means that 120 of our pupils will have experienced loss in sport today. Not only that, but the 10 000 home spectators today will also have felt that loss. And because this was a live television broadcast, I am very proud to say that hundreds of thousands more will have today experienced this same loss too.”
He continued. “Life deals us hardships. For all of these pupils playing today, they will have faced a defeat, but being able to face that without being crushed by it is an invaluable lesson. Of course, we don’t want to lose every day, but if we reach our target of losing half the games we play, I will consider my job as an educator a successful one. I’m proud of our pupils and our coaches for losing well today.”
For some, the words of Headmaster Tom Arnold will be cold comfort. Some will limp home, bruised, to re-watch their worn-out copies of World Cup finals from 1995, 2007 and 2019. But some will have had their inner resolve strengthened as they leave today better prepared for what is ahead.
What we can confirm as the lights are switched off on the rugby pitch, the stands go quiet once again and as the strains of Dvorák’s New World Symphony can be heard from the HPAC centre at Puedam High School, is that we are indeed moving into a brave new world.
Read the original article by Simon Crane here
For more on the controversial Puedam High School read, ‘Rugby Pays The Price As School Builds New Performing Arts Centre’