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Hertfordshire students make inspirational trip to South Africa

15 June 2012

  • Young sports leaders from Bishop’s Stortford travel to Potchefstroom
  • School link includes coaching clinic with England players
Birchwood High School deputy head Charles Gilbank, PE teacher Alice Rolfe and students John Clarke, Bailey Parker, Emily Tranter and Madelin Griffin

Photo: Amelia Bullett, Herts & Essex Observer

Four teenaged school students from Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire are taking the trip of a lifetime to coach rugby in a township in South Africa as part of the Rugby Football Union’s commitment to develop the game and to bring the community game closer to the senior team players.

The quartet of Young Sports Leaders – two boys, two girls from Year 9 in Birchwood High School – will spend a week (June 14 -21) visiting Seiphemolo secondary school in the Ikageng township near Potchefstroom.

The trip is being funded by the RFU and it continues a three-year link between the two schools that was forged by the London Olympics 2012’s international legacy programme entitled ‘International Inspiration’.

John Clarke, Bailey Parker, Emily Tranter and Madelin Griffin were chosen for their outstanding voluntary work at local primary schools around Bishop’s Stortford.

During their visit to Seiphemolo, a school which has meagre sports facilities situated in a township with a predominantly black and Asian population, they will link up with star players from the England squad currently touring South Africa to coach rugby in Potchefstroom on Tuesday June 19.

The aim is to leave a lasting legacy with the capability for Seiphemolo to keep playing rugby, and build on the link between the two schools that has seen students and teachers from South Africa visiting Bishop’s Stortford in return.

Birchwood deputy head Charles Gilbank and PE teacher Alice Rolfe will be travelling with the students alongside RFU development officer Clare Cooper.

Gilbank said: “The London legacy project has the title of ‘International Inspiration’ and you cannot imagine something more inspirational than this.

“These four students have been working with primary schools here all year, completely voluntarily after school and at weekends.

“They have shown really good commitment on their Sports Leadership course and we are so pleased they will be involved in this latest trip by our school to visit Seiphemolo.

“It is all about getting the school children in South Africa playing games, enjoying themselves and living a healthier life.

“They are adding tag rugby to other games such as yard hockey and quick cricket.

“In turn, our students at Birchwood have learnt in geography lessons about the contrasts that can exist in such a small area.

“Potchefstroom is a university town but the Ikageng township nearby is very poor by comparison.

“Seiphemolo has a big field that was funded by the South African lottery, but the classrooms are in very basic brick buildings and you are lucky if you find one of the metal-legged tables has a top to it.”

Stuart Lancaster, England Head Coach, said: “The England players are looking forward to meeting the students travelling from Bishop’s Stortford at our coaching clinic in Potchefstroom.

“The underlying principle is that while the England Senior squad are on tour they can work at leaving a sustained legacy for rugby, and it has been good to hear about the projects Birchwood and Seiphemolo have collaborated on already which are having just such a lasting effect.”

A commitment to leave a sporting legacy at home and abroad was a key part of London’s successful 2012 Olympic Games bid and is one that the RFU will be attempting to build on as they look forward to hosting the Rugby world Cup in 2015.

Steve Grainger, RFU Rugby Development Director, will be in Potchefstroom during the visit, and said: “‘International Inspiration’ has been a huge success and has ensured that the inspiration resulting from London staging the Olympic and Paralympic games is built on across the world.

“The RFU are hoping to create similar inspiration when the Rugby World Cup comes to England in 2015.

“We are delighted to be supporting this opportunity for the Birchwood students to deepen their link with Seiphemelo and to play their part in developing Rugby within the local community in Ikageng.

“We would like to thank our hosts the South African Rugby Union and the local Leopards Rugby Union for their co-operation in this work that coincides with the SA Northern Barbarians v England match in Potchefstroom on June 19.”

The four Birchwood students will also receive tickets to the Springboks v England second Test in Johannesburg on June 16.