We haven’t given up on hockey and rugby in 2020

The re-opening of the school has been put back a few weeks, making the resumption of the winter sports season more challenging, so we spoke to Mr Spilhaus and Mr Hillock to get their views on what may happen and to offer a word of advice to the boys.

Both stress that the school has not given up on still having some matches played later in the year.

“There are discussions at senior management level between Jeppe and our traditional local rivals and from what I hear there is a chance that a shortened rugby season of some sort can be squeezed into the third term,” Mr Spilhaus said. “We are hoping to have two or three weeks of preparation, followed by games against the other boys schools. It’s too soon to say whether that will actually happen – it depends on what the virus does – but that’s what we are hoping for.”

The same will apply to hockey, Mr Hillock said, although hockey’s situation is a bit different. “Hockey has evolved into an all-year sport in recent years, so there are off-season structures and competitions already in place and we are looking to be more involved in those than usual this year,” he said. “Nothing’s for sure, though, and we don’t know if those will happen either.”

Mr Spilhaus is concerned that extending the 2020 season too long will have an adverse effect on 2021. I think a time may come when we have to write 2020 off and begin preparing for next year. That would be even more important if the boys don’t play and rugby at all this year.”

In the meantime, the rugby and hockey coaches have sent out programmes to the players and they are all working hard at home on their fitness and on keeping their skills sharp so that when the season does re-commence they can hit the ground running.

Mr Hillock and Mr Spilhaus both say missing out on a year’s play would be very sad, especially for the matrics. It should not, however, have too much effect on the development of individual players. “For the players in grade 8 to 11 it will mean a change in coaching approach next year, but the year off won’t affect them too much,” Mr Hillock said, “besides, everyone will be in the same boat.”

Mr Spilhaus believes that for those players wanting to go on in the game after school the disruption of the 2020 season need not be a total disaster. The universities will have observed them last season and bursaries will still be granted, while the provincial unions were not going to award as many junior contracts anyway and the future of their academies was in doubt already.”

The lesson to be learned, Mr Hillock said, is to use your opportunities when they arise. “Make the moment count, if this year has shown us anything, it’s that you never know what the future will bring, you need to use your chances to the full.”

We are certainly hoping that there will still be hockey and rugby played this year and that we will hear “all we saw was the back and white” echo across the school grounds once again soon.