Kirkham host Tonbridge for the Graeme College Scholarship Foundation


In a first of its kind, two UK schools, Tonbridge School and Kirkham Grammar School, will play a benefit rugby match with the proceeds of the match donated to the Graeme College Scholarship Foundation which supports rugby players in difficult circumstances at the school. This is also the first time the schools will meet on the field in a rugby match.

Kirkham Grammar School has ties with Graeme College dating back to 2007 when they played Graeme College on their South Africa tour. Subsequently the schools 1st team coach, Aled Trenhaile and Pierre Jacobs from Graeme College established a rugby player exchange programme between the two schools.

Mr James Walker is the driving force behind Kirkham Grammar Schools support of the Scholarship Foundation as well as the master-mind behind the benefit match. Kirkham Grammar Schools support has allowed 1st team captain and centre Gordon-Wayne Plaatjes to spend 2013 in Grant House (Kirkham Grammar School).

Former Tonbridge School 1st team rugby coach and Housemaster of Judde House (Tonbridge School) has ties with Graeme College when he coached the Graeme College 1st team rugby coach, Pierre Jacobs, in 1997 during his year in South Africa on teacher exchange programme.

Mr Graeme Gales and the men of Judde House at Tonbridge School have raised a significant amount in support of the Scholarship Foundation which has afforded 1st team prop Siyasanga Mthathi the opportunity to spend 2013 and 2014 in Grant House.

Mr Sean Krige, a friend of Pierre Jacobs, an incredibly compassionate man, made an extremely generous private donation to the Scholarship Foundation which allowed 1st team flank, Ethan September to spend 2013 in Grant House.

This match is testament to unique bond shared between rugby players, coaches and supporters worldwide.

The game itself is likely to be highly competitive, with both sides enjoying similar records going into it, however Tonbridge will arrive in Kirkham fresh from a good victory against Cranleigh at the weekend whilst Kirkham must recover from a defeat to Denstone College.

In truth though this match is an example of the power of sport for good and is as true an example as there is that it is not the winning or the losing that counts, simply the taking part. Having said that, neither side will be any less determined to succeed tomorrow, it is just a reminder of the bigger picture that is in play.

Graeme College’s 1st XV coach Pierre Jacobs articulately described that bigger picture in the pack sent to us by Kirkham Grammar School:

“We at Graeme College would like to express our sincerest appreciation and heartfelt gratitude to Kirkham Grammar School and Tonbridge School in the UK for planning to play this benefit rugby match in support of our Scholarship Foundation.

The Graeme College Scholarship Foundation was born out of a concern for the well-being of specifically the 1st rugby team when it was discovered that many of the players face difficult challenges in their daily lives that we often take for granted.

The mission and aims of the Graeme College Scholarship Foundation is to create a sustainable foundation fund that will allow us to cover the expenses of learners, identified with talent and potential, who find themselves in difficult circumstances, the opportunity to stay in the schools boarding establishment, Grant House, where the learners’ basic needs such as food, shelter, safety, security and a sense of belonging will be met. We aim to retain potential or aspiring 1st XV rugby players who have the potential to play rugby at a higher level after school. We aim to assist players in becoming positive role models in society and their own communities through rugby. We aim to give players a platform, through rugby, to better their circumstances and also to ensure that should the player not be able to pursue a career in rugby he will have the minimum academic requirements to further his studies at a tertiary institution.

Although these scholarships will be performance based and reviewed by the Scholarship Foundation Board on a yearly basis the major factor when considering a scholarship is a genuine care for the player.

The Scholarship Foundation will not be possible without the support of caring and compassionate individuals and businesses such as Tonbridge School and Kirkham Grammar School as well as Mr Sean Krige, who share our vision. In saying this, we do not neglect the academic and cultural aspects of these learners.

The criteria to help the Board of this Scholarship Foundation to determine which rugby players qualify for assistance from the Foundation are rugby players who have talent to play rugby at a higher level. The players overall contribution to school life. The players’ background, home circumstances (living conditions, safety, security, basic needs, distance from school etc.) and his family’s financial needs (socio-economic needs) are considered as well as the learners discipline record.

The players who received scholarships from the Scholarship Foundation all represented Eastern Province Country Districts in 2013. Gordon-Wayne Plaatjes was selected for the Craven Week team whilst Siyasanga Mthathi and Ethan September were selected for the Academy Week team.”

The man behind the fixture, Kirkham Grammar School’s James Walker, shares his passion for what is being done:

“I am hugely excited by the Tonbridge fixture. Firstly, because it is being played for a great cause and secondly, because it should be a great spectacle for all.

I saw the fantastic environment that Graeme College provides for young sportsmen this summer on a visit to South Africa. As in any establishment the people, players and coaches, are the most important asset and it is fantastic that we can support the work of Mr Jacobs and his team on the 16th.

Lastly, Tonbridge deserve great credit for agreeing to this fixture and for volunteering to make the long journey to Kirkham for the first of two fixtures. We look forward to visiting Tonbridge in 2014.”

October 16th will see a unique fixture taking place in north Lancashire. Kirkham Grammar School will be taking on Tonbridge School from Kent. Clearly this is a huge North vs South fixture, which is an unusual and exciting fixture in the sporting calendar, the match does however have a dual purpose.”

It is perhaps fitting though that the last word in this piece goes to the three boys for whom the Foundation has provided with a place at Kirkham Grammar School this year, 1st team captain and centre Gordon-Wayne Plaatjes, prop Siyasanga Mthathi, and flanker Ethan September:

“Personally I feel that what the two UK schools, Kirkham Grammar and Tonbridge School, as well as all the people behind the scenes are doing and have done for the Graeme College Scholarship Foundation is absolutely amazing. For schools and individuals to sponsor boys whom they have never met but only heard of their difficulties and struggles is very humbling and proves that there is hope and sport can bridge that gap.

We are extremely grateful and humbled by receiving the bursaries from the Scholarship Foundation. To know that there are people willing to make our situation better is heartwarming and brings us great joy and also encourages us to be the best at whatever we do because we have been blessed with amazing opportunities. Being in the boarding house allows us to focus on our academics because of the extra time we now have. It also gives us time to focus on our rugby and allows us to work harder at becoming better rugby players.

The benefit match between Kirkham Grammar and Tonbridge School is an awesome initiative from the two schools as they are going out of their way to play a match over and above their normal fixtures in order to raise funds for us. We would like to wish both the schools 1st rugby teams all the very best for the match and thank them for their generosity.”

The match will be played on Wednesday 16 October at Ribby Road Kirkham Grammar School kick off at 14h30 (UK time) with live scores available on Twitter (@KGSrugby).

Further Comment:

Aled Trenhaile, Master i/c Rugby, Kirkham Grammar School:

“We are very pleased to be welcoming Tonbridge to Kirkham on the 16th October in a benefit game for the Graeme College scholarship fund. Tonbridge have a fantastic sporting reputation and we look forward to what should be an exciting game.

We are also pleased to be supporting the Graeme College Scholarship which is a fantastic initiative thought up by Mr. Pierre Jacobs 1st XV coach at Graeme. Several of the rugby coaches at Kirkham and I have visited Graeme and we are all well aware of the unique opportunities the school provides to youngsters who haven’t always had the easiest start in life.

Lastly as a school we have a long affiliation with South Africa having toured there in 1997, 2007 and 2012. We have experienced the euphoria of winning at SACS in 2012 and the unique atmosphere that South African schoolboy rugby provides. I very much hope that we can enhance our links with South Africa in coming seasons and with the scholarship initiative.”

Graeme Gales, Housemaster Judde House, Tonbridge School:

“I spent a year on a teacher exchange programme in South Africa and visited on rugby tours with the Tonbridge School rugby teams and therefore have insight into schoolboy rugby in the country.

I coached Pierre Jacobs at a school level, who has established the Scholarship Foundation at Graeme College. When Pierre told me of the circumstances of some of his 1st team rugby players, in particular Siyasanga, I spoke to the boys of Judde House and we immediately started fundraising to support Siyasanga.

 The Judde House boys and their parents have been very supportive of this initiative and deserve to be commended for their extraordinary efforts. We look forward to the benefit match between Tonbridge School and Kirkham Grammar School 1st XV’s as we believe it is for a worthy cause.”

Sean Krige, private donor:

“I recently had the good fortune of reuniting with Pierre Jacobs, an old school friend of mine, when he contacted me surrounding some of the work he was undertaking on behalf of certain of his 1st team rugby players at Graeme College – in particular those living in financial and relational poverty.

I was very touched by Pierre’s genuine concern for the well-being of his students, and in particular the lengths he was going to assist them with all the resources at his disposal. To now be made aware of a fund-raising initiative by 2 prestigious British schools, in the sole interests of the Scholarship Foundation, is no less special, and particularly humbling as a fellow South African.

As someone who was raised and schooled in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, I am well aware of the needs that beset many informal settlements and communities there, and so for the Scholarship Foundation to be a recipient of such foreign generosity and concern is indeed cause for applause!

My hope then, is that this particular fund raising event would flourish and grow to bear much fruit not only for the current generation, but as a result, for many generations to come. My congratulations and commendations to all parties involved!”

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