Schools’ to “contract” their rugby players to keep poachers out

With the amounts of money that is now being ploughing in their rugby programmes, it has become essential for high schools to take added steps to protect their investments.

Recently a journalist told me that a top rugby school in the Western Cape was either considering or had already “contracted” it’s top players to prevent them from being poached by schools or rugby unions from other provinces.

A school rugby bursary is already an official document that stipulates various criteria and which the player’s parent or guardian is required to sign.

Stipulations would include the amount or percentage of the bursary, the period for which it applies, a performance clause, participation requirements and perhaps even conduct clauses.

However of growing importance particularly for smaller schools and especially those in the Eastern and Western Cape which are at great risk to poaching, is to include an undertaking as part of the bursary not to negotiate with another school.

Some school rugby bursaries are still on official school stationary but main are now done through Old Boys in their personal capacities or through their businesses or by Supporters Trusts or Public Benefit Organisations (although all schools are of course also PBO’s).


  1. This is the only reason why a school may reduce school fees to a parent.

    The law says the following families can qualify for a total or partial exemption from school fees:

    Where the breadwinner’s annual salary is less than ten times the amount of the school fee. So for example, if a parent is a domestic worker who earns R800 per month then she will earn R9 600 per year. If the school fees are R1000 per year, then ten times the school fees is R10 000, this is more than the domestic worker earns in a year. She is therefore entitled to an exemption or a reduction in fees.
    Where the combined income of the mother and father is less than 30 times the annual school fee. For example if the joint income of the mother and father is R1 500 per month and the annual school fee is R700 per year :
    12 x 1500 = R 18 000 per year
    30 x the school fees of R700 = R 21 000
    Because their total income is less than 30 x the fees they will qualify for a partial reduction of fees.

    To apply for a reduction in fees, the parent must do the following:

    Write a letter to the School Governing Body requesting to be exempted in part or totally from fees.
    Provide a pay slip or letter from the employer explaining how much the parent earns.
    If the parent is unemployed, or self employed, they should make an affidavit saying what they earn or how they support the child, for example, on a pension or a child care grant.

    Therefore reduction of school fees for any other reason than affordability is ILLEGAL.


    I must admit we are busy investigating this as previously mentioned. Currently the uneducated view is if someone is “earning a salary”, subject to certain “performance clauses” and prohibited to seek other “employment” he is employed.

    43. Prohibition of employment of children
    (1) No person may employ a child—
    (a) who is under 15 years of age; or
    (b) who is under the minimum school-leaving age in terms of any law, if this is 15 or older. [Section 31(1) of the South African Schools Act, 1996 (Act No. 84 of 1996) requires every parent to cause every learner for whom he or she is responsible to attend a school until the last school day of the year in which the learner reaches the age of 15 or the ninth grade, whichever is the first.]

    (2) No person may employ a child in employment—
    (a) that is inappropriate for a person of that age;
    (b) that places at risk the child’s well-being, education, physical or mental health, or spiritual, moral or social development.

    (3) A person who employs a child in contravention of subsection (1) or (2) commits an offence.

  2. The laws on rebates of fees do not apply to the boarding establishment, it’s a different type of contract and the child can and will be asked to leave due to non-payment. Generally that means leaving the school too, because the BE generally means they are from out of town.

    It’s often a heartbreak story, parents fall on hard times, but schools are a nett sum game. The money has to come from somewhere to run a big BE and the other parents can’t be expected to pick up the deficit. Couple of superb boys lost in theis way.

    Some private schools are offering payment plans, pay the fees off over 10 years … hectic.

  3. @Gungets Tuft: Interesting also is that their are no rules governing junior rugby. SARPA and SARFU’s agreements only cover players older than 22 or younger boys playing senior rugby.

    So junior rugby at this stage is a free for all. No control over agents, union, schools etc etc.

    I know for a fact a big school in the North West Province is gunning for Monnas as some Monnas contracts is in the name of the school and therefore seen as illegal. A can of worms if you ask me. And the vultures are circling.

  4. @Tjoppa: Ja, I dunno, I just seems daft that you should have to contract kids, but I see the financial side of it, but not from the scholarship angle necessarily. The main issue is that BE’s work on a no-profit basis, so they cater for say 400 beds being full. Someone leaves, especially without notice, the BE finds itself short R11,000 that term because it is hard to fill a bed mid-term. Parents do sign that they will give a terms notice but don’t always do that, ad it’s just too costly to sue.

    How this impacts the school when poaching takes place is no different. However, you lose a sportsman that is hard to replace without going out an recruiting and you get the wallet smacked.

    Can you contract to stop kids leaving, interesting test cases coming up. Basic truth is you might be able to legally keep them, but you can’t make them keen

  5. @Gungets Tuft: Very interesting indeed. Someone asked me if a third party contract a player to attend a school is he a mere representative of the school and if not can he contract someone on behalf of a third party. Maybe oom Koos Roos can help with his superior knowledge of the law.

  6. @Tjoppa: Tjoppie, I do know that these contracts will be difficult to enforce. The mere fact that parents bind themselves will not suffice. In most cases these kids come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Law suits will be costly and the courts will be reluctant to entertain these type of cases.

    As far as school who want to sue each other over players and capital input, it is a fact of law that you can’t bind a third party in a contract. So the cause of action will lie in delict. To prove that and for instance to quantify the damages will be tough!

  7. @Koos Roos: Form a League of Gentlemen. Firm handshake, level eye and agree to stay within the rules, no matter the pressure from Old Boys, parents and benefactors with deep pockets. It’s not hard, they claim to be teaching the boys that all the time, just read the lesson notes …… yes?

  8. @<a href="#comment-40814@Gungets Tuft: Sorry GT. Not been on the blog for a while. That is so true! BUT as you know: The snake of money got in the garden of Eden. :wink:


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