When the Tatler learned that Franschhoek-based open water swimmer, Michelle Weber, qualified for the Olympic Games in Tokyo we just had to get in touch. We managed to have a coffee two days before she departed for Tokyo and were mightily impressed by the humble and determined athlete we met.
Reinventing and Restoring Rugby at Franschhoek High School
Former Springbok assistant coach Gary Gold recently joined Train Camp at Haute Cabrière as a guest of Franschhoek Tourism, where they toasted some new developments in a decade-long relationship. Train Camp said, “We asked Gary to consult on the strategy for our Rugby Programme at Franschhoek High School. He was part of the team that beat Richie McCaw’s All Blacks twice in New Zealand and the British & Irish Lions, and he’s one of the great thinkers of the game.”
Head Coach of USA Rugby since 2018, Gary divides his time between the Cape and Colorado – and the Tatler sat down with him, over a glass or two, to talk about his vision for rugby in the valley.
So how did this partnership come about?
I’ve always wanted to get involved in the development of rugby and rugby players, and that starts at school level. I’ve coached at provincial, club and national level for twenty years, and the time is right to use that experience to drive development. When Dick Muir and I coached the Springboks under Peter de Villiers, Dick introduced me to the guys at Train Camp – so we go back over ten years. They showed me what they’re doing at Franschhoek High School, it was a great fit for my thinking on the evolution of the game – and we took it from there.
What changes are you bringing to the rugby played by FHS?
It’s more the introduction of strategic development for individual players, and systems that support that. The programme has the squads living in the hostel – so we can build strong teams from around 60 of the best young players, and develop them individually like you would at an academy. Inevitably there’s a talent deficit in some positions, and that’s where we’ll identify and recruit players and offer bursaries. We’ll look for local Winelands players from the community for the bursaries, because we want to keep building the game in this region. And of course, we want to make the school a force in the game nationally.
How will it work with your national commitments in the USA?
I’m contracted with USA Rugby until the end of World Cup in 2023, so I will be consulting to Train Camp for now. That’s said, I’m passionate about the strategy – and developing this level of rugby is a long-term commitment for me. We’ll also have a good team; small, but very focused. A head coach, an athletic performance coach – and we’ve developed a very good talent identification and scouting network here in the Cape. We’ve had a lot of interest in the head coach position, and I’m also here to discuss some of those names. Train Camp already has the sports science expertise lined up.
We just had lunch with global swimming delegates and officials. What does Train Camp have up its sleeve in terms of Rugby partnerships?
To start, they’ve brought in the Serge Blanco fashion brand to package the team and its kit. Their team has collaborated with Toulouse, and recently announced Cheslin Kolbe as a global brand ambassador – so that’s an exciting relationship. Serge Blanco’s son, Sébastien, works with Train Camp and has close ties with the French clubs, so maybe there’s an opportunity to bring overseas players here to play – rather than them scouting ours.
What makes this project special for you?
The fact that it’s at a school. South Africa already has the best rugby schools system in the world, while some top test nations don’t even have a schools rugby culture. That’s why many of our players are scouted straight out of matric, but it’s only a matter of time before they expand their own full-time programmes to this age group. South Africa needs to up its game at this level to stay competitive, and for us the head coach role is as much about mentorship as technical training. He gives them structure and discipline, and they have to perform in class as well if they want to play.
Also, an academic institution gives the players options. We can introduce coaching accreditation, sports science and sports management to the curriculum, and they and the other students can have a career in the future. It’s good for the whole school.
As the most-watched sport at the Olympic Games, and one of South Africa’s top performing codes in the tally of medals, swimming gets relatively little attention from the media outside of an Olympic year. African swimming as a whole seems to keep an even lower profile outside of the aquatics community, but the sport’s continental federation, Confédération Africaine de Natation (CANA), has been steadily building participation and development among its 54 member countries. Egypt has a particularly strong showing in the sport, with around 175 000 registered participants – compared to 65 000 in South Africa. The federation is headquartered in Johannesburg, and divided into four zones that include continental Africa and island nations like Madagascar, Cape Verde, Mauritius and Seychelles.
This week, Train Camp is bringing swimmers, coaches and officials from 22 of CANA countries to the Maties Swimming pool deck in Stellenbosch – which has become the premier destination for local and international aquatics training camps over the past few years. Maties Swimming Head Coach, Cedric Finch, is excited at the prospect, saying, “We’ve hosted world champions and Olympic medallists from around the world, but to have swimmers from so many countries at one train camp is something special. It gives a real cross-section of where African swimming is right now.”
This CANA train camp brings athletes together from as far afield as Djibouti and Tunisia, and marks the beginning of a close association between the federation and the Cape Winelands. CANA Vice-President and Treasurer-General, Jace Naidoo, said, “Sports tourism in Africa has been focused mainly on the Western Cape, and particularly the Winelands, for quite some time – but it’s largely ad hoc and quite fragmented. Establishing this region as our federation’s primary training camp destination will make the swimming part of that market more structured and predictable. There are great opportunities for long term development as well, and going forward young swimmers from across the continent will come here to train, attend the local school and develop their swimming careers. It is critically important for athletes to train in a stable environment – with strict protocols to ensure their safety, as well as access to quality education. Stellenbosch University has understood that, and shown real vision to support the South African federation by establishing a national Centre of Excellence facility.”
Franschhoek Tourism is hosting a brief tour of the valley for officials from the camp exploring the area. Train Camp Commercial Manager, Darryn Marshall, explained, “This is a chance to introduce 22 countries – of the 54 we will be bringing to the region – to Franschhoek, and show them the high standard of infrastructure and facilities here. As a destination, it’s among the best in the world. It’s a great privilege that CANA has accepted our proposal to make this region the custodian of their future athlete development strategy.” The tour will be joined by struggle icon and CANA President, Dr Sam Ramsamy, who added, “African swimming has always had to overcome preconceived ideas, but as a continent we’re beginning to claim our rightful place in the global sport. The Winelands has world-class facilities, world-class expertise – and from here we’ll produce world-class performances. This is just the beginning – soon the whole world will be talking about what’s coming next for sports tourism in this region.”
Text: Editorial Desk | Image: Train Camp
Training Tennis Talent
The courts of the Franschhoek Tennis Club were chock-a-block with energetic youngsters on Wednesday, 17 March. They were all there to try out ‘tennis’ for the first time.
The activities were part of the first day of the ‘Love-All, Tennis!’ development programme conceived by the tennis club and implemented in partnership with the sponsor, Train Camp, and Franschhoek High School. It all forms part of the club’s efforts to explore partnerships, grow the club and sport of tennis and to have a wider impact in the community.
Franschhoek racing talent Giordano Lupini returns to the track at Killarney after a year away on 10 April, when he commences a come-from-behind title chase in Class B of the Cheaper Cars GTi Challenge.
The Franschhoek Lions Club held a Bowls Day at the Franschhoek Country Club on Sunday, 22 November 2020.
The three-a-side event featured twelve teams that competed on a knockout basis. Participating teams were invited to bring along their families while pizzas and a fully stocked bar was available from the Country Club. All in all it made for a fun, family-friendly day of raising funds for the Lions administration account to enable the club to plan future community projects. Some half-decent bowls were even played! The Lions Club plan to make it an annual event.
This year’s Under 12 Cricket Tournament at Groot Drak went off extremely well with only one out of a total of 28 games being cancelled, and that because of a day exceeding 40oC. Most of the schools showed a marked improvement in their skills and application, with all the semi-finalists playing very attractive cricket.
On Sunday, 2 February 2020, Groot Drakenstein Games Club, just outside Franschhoek, held their annual ‘John Faure’ Six-A-Side tournament. The weather was glorious and the eight participating teams and spectators were treated to an array of local food and craft beer on tap while watching the cricket in one of South Africa’s most picturesque settings.
Groot Drak boasts the country’s oldest turf wicket, which played true, allowing the batsmen to score plenty of runs, with some enormous sixes being deposited to all corners of the historic ground. Celebrity players, Darren ‘Whackhead’ Simpson, Johann Louw, Frikkie Welsh, Ryan Bailey, Luther Bakkes and others treated the crowd by showing off their skills with both bat and ball.