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Fourteen rugby teams and not a blade of grass

June 11 2004

Fourteen rugby teams and not a blade of grass in sight

On 27 June 2004 , 36 coloured and black boys and girls from Capetown will arrive in New Zealand to begin a 17 day trip of a lifetime.

It all began In 1996 when the All Blacks toured South Africa. They were greeted at the Lord Charles Hotel, 40 minutes northeast of Capetown with a haka – enthusiastically performed by a group of young boys.

The boys, the Squirrels’ rugby team, were from Somerset West Methodist School and they had waited more than two hours for their heroes to arrive. Moved by the spectacle, the All Blacks offered the boys an invitation to visit New Zealand one day. It seemed like an impossible dream for a community struggling to maintain the basics of life, but the school decided to take up the challenge and a year later 26 – 10 and 11 year old boys arrived in New Zealand for a six week ruby tournament of New Zealand’s North Island.

Somerset West School has a roll of 1200 predominantly underprivileged children and boasts fourteen rugby teams. Two hundred plus children think nothing of walking more than two kilometers to the nearest grassed area to practice their chosen sport. School principal Sonia Leibrandt, has one ambition before she retires,to have their very own sports field.

Since 1997 two junior New Zealand teams have made reciprocal tours and been hosted by the Somerset West school families and community. It was always a wish that one day the Capetown Squirrels could undertake another New Zealand tour. Now it’s happening – after a painstaking fund rising effort led by parents and staff.

Hamiltonians, Cynthia and Bruce Gillespie have helped to coordinate the tour for the group which this time includes a nine girl netball team as well as the 27 strong Squirrels rugby side. To say this is a once in a lifetime experience for these children, they say, would be a gross understatement.

“We’ve been on the receiving end of the hospitality of these kids, their families and teachers and I have to say they have a lot to teach us,” say Bruce and Cynthia.

Life long rugby enthusiast and one time pro-1981 Springbok tour advocate, Bruce needs little convincing of the power of children to advance cultural understanding.

“This is the first generation of black and coloured South Africans not to have lived under the rule of apartheid. Their parents did and they won’t forget but their compassion is amazing. It’s experiences like this that go a long way to breaking down racial barriers and building cultural understanding, Bruce says. “Lifelong friendships have developed amongst some of the adults and several personal trips taken.”

NZ Tour 2004

Itinerary 27 June – 15 July


27 Sun 1140 Arrive Auckland International flight MH131.
Bus to Whangarei. Arrive at Otangarei Marae where Tour Party will be welcomed, followed by allocation and meeting with billets.

28 Mon Leisure day.

29 Tue 0930 Powhiri at Pompallier College
1030 Netball game
1130 10-a-side rugby game v Pompallier U11’s
1230 15-a-side rugby game v Pompallier U11’s
1400 Refreshments
1600 Billets to collect Tour Party from the College

30 Wed 0830 Depart City Clubrooms by bus for Bay of Islands.
1000 Boat tour of the Bay of Islands
1330 Visit Waitangi Treaty House
1630 Arrive back at City Rugby Club. Collected by billets


01 Thu 10.00 Powhiri at Otangarei Primary School
1030 Refreshments (billets most welcome)
1130 Kapa Haka will perform
1230 Netball game v Otangarei Primary School
1400 Assemble at Old Boys Rugby Club
1500 Rugby games 10 and 15-a-side v Old Boys Club
1630 Billets to collect

02 Fri Leisure Day.

03 Sat Leisure Day.

04 Sun 0830 Depart Whangarei by bus for Auckland.

1200 Arrive Auckland. Stop for lunch at Mission Bay/Orakei domain
1300 Visit Kelly Tarltons Underwater World
1600 Arrive at Accommodation – Hato Petera College, Northcote –Welcome (Powhiri)
1800 Dinner then settle in for the night

05 Mon 0900 Girls to North Harbour Netball courts.
Skills/coaching session with Yvonne Willering for both girls and the SA coaches.
0900 Boys to North Harbour stadium for stadium tour/training run
1130 Boys arrive at North Harbour Netball courts to support girls
1200 Netball game v composite age group team.
1300 Return to Hato Petera for lunch.
1430 Depart for Eden Park
1500 Tour of Eden Park
1730 Sky city for dinner and tour of Skytower
2100 Return to Hato Petera

06 Tue 0800 Depart for Tauranga
0930 Comfort /refreshment stop en route
1130 Arrive Tauranga
1200 Tour party, guest, billets will be welcomed (powhiri) onto the Otumoetai College Marae with Otumoetai Intermediate School Kapa Haka group performing.
1400 Allocated to billets.
Otumoetai Intermediate van to be used to travel the adults around in Tauranga

07 Wed 1030 Assemble at Aquinas School
1100 Netball game v Aquinas School
1230 10-a-side rugby game v Aquinas School
1330 15-a-side rugby game v Aquinas School
1430 Assemble for refreshments at Aquinas School Hall. Leave school
hall with billets

08 Thu 0830 Depart by bus for Rotorua
1000 Tour of Whakarewarewa thermal village
1300 Lunch at lake Rotorua.
1400 Proceed to Agrodome
1430 Agrodome sheep show and farm tour
1630 Return to Tauranga
1800 Collection by billets

09 Fri 1000 All proceed to Otumoetai Intermediate School where Gordon
Tietjens (NZ Rugby Sevens Coach) will take boys for an hour
coaching/skills session and the girls will also have an hour session
with a local netball star, followed by photos.
1200 Lunch. By bus to Mount Manganui Hotpools.
1500 Return to Otumoetai Intermediate School for collection by billets.

10 Sat 0900 Depart by bus for Raglan. Morning tea at Karapiro Dam
1200 Arrive at Raglan, lunch by the seaside
1500 To Poihakena Marae for welcome (powhiri)
1800 Hangi meal and cultural evening. Overnight stay on Marae

11 Sun 1000 10-a-side rugby game v Raglan Junior Boys
1100 15-a-side rugby game v Raglan Junior Boys
1230 Lunch and farewell
1330 Depart by bus for Hamilton
1430 Arrive at Flagstaff Club for greeting and allocation of billets
1600 Leave with billets
Evening at leisure

12 Mon
1300 To Waikato Stadium to be hosted by Harlequins Rugby Club, stadium tour and other activities. Hamilton & Raglan teams are also invited to attend
1630 Home with billets

13 Tues 1100 Netball game v Puketaha School
1200 Lunch and then to Waikato Stadium by bus
1400 10 & 15-a-side rugby games v Eastern Suburbs Junior Boys
1600 Refreshments at Flagstaff Club.
1830 Dinner at Flagstaff Club.

14 Wed
Depart Flagstaff Club by bus to Waitomo caves
1300 Waitomo caves tour
1600 Return to Flagstaff Club for collection by billets
1830 Evening get together for adults TBC

15 Thu 0900 Depart from Flagstaff Club by bus to Auckland International
1400 Depart for home (SA) Flt MH136

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