The IRB Junior World Championship 2012 is about more than just what happens on the field in the 30 matches with a key priority being to leave a lasting legacy in the host country, something the 12 participating teams are involved in by visting local schools in the Cape Peninsula of South Africa.
With the purpose of raising awareness and introducing the Game to non-rugby environments, the teams at JWC 2012 have each been assigned a school which they will visit three times during the course of the tournament.
Many of the teams made their first visits on Tuesday morning, giving them the chance to meet the students and to familiarise themselves with the environment in which they will be holding coaching clinics in the visits to come.
France were one of the teams taking part in Legacy actitives and the students of Gugulethu Comprehensive High School quickly lifted the spirits of the players after the disappointments of losing 18-15 to Argentina in their opening match on Monday.
The players were welcomed by a lively choir and enthusiastic students of a school which is situated in the second largest township in Cape Town. Gugulethu High School takes great pride in its scare resources and made up for its bare infrastructure with the cheerful vibe of its students.
After an exchange of national anthems, in which the students gave the best rendition, the French players were soon being swept along by the African tunes and joined in with the dancing.
Humbling experience for England
Coming face to face with the conditions the teenagers of the area live in was an eye-opening experience for the French players who all said they couldn't wait for the next visit to the school and to finally playing some rugby with the students.
Mathieu Brauge, the team's media manager, was very impressed with the entertainment offered and told the school that "the first game in the JWC we win, will be dedicate it to you and hopefully it will come on Friday."
Another school receiving a visit from one of the Under 20 teams was Symphony High School in Belhar, who welcomed some England players into their assembly before getting the opportunity to meet them and get some autographs of the future stars of world rugby.
The English players were then introduced to the school’s rugby team who they will be training with and also offered then some gifts in exchange for the warm welcome they had received.
Tommy Bell, who was handed the microphone to speak during the assembly, was amazed by the experience.
"It was a massively humbling experience for all the guys, we didn't know what to expect but it was just great to see so many smiling and happy kids. I think we crashed their assembly but they didn't seem to mind, it felt like we were in a boy band with all the screaming they were doing!
"But it goes to show that rugby is a universal language and for us to give up an hour or so of our time signing autographs and posing for pictures is nothing, hopefully it inspired a few of them to give rugby a go."
Baby Blacks prove a big hit
There were no formalities for the New Zealand players attending Voortrekker High School in Kenilworth as they were treated to a party in the best traditions of Cape Town hospitality.
The school's deputy headmistress, Miss Mariette Wagener, said the children were mostly excited about the prospect of meeting players from another country.
"It's not every day that we have a chance to meet people from other countries, and the excitement has been great ever since we heard that the New Zealand team would visit the school."
"This school has a tradition of a strong rugby culture and we're very proud of our Springbok Visser De Villiers. We've also produced Sevens Springboks and Baby Boks in the past.”
The Baby Blacks also joined in the dances once the traditional Capetonian welcome dance ('Kaapse Klopse') was performed by the pupils. Gifts were then presented to those present and packets with gifts were handed for the New Zealanders who did not make the trip this time.
Team manager Paul McLaughlan said he was not surprised by the wonderful reception. "South African hospitality is something we hear about back in our country all the time. It's wonderful that youngsters can swap notes on their customs.
"It's been overwhelming and I've been told that every time a New Zealand team comes to the Cape the people just love them."
Rugby's values evident
Tournament hosts South Africa visited Darul Arqam High School in Mitchell’s Plain and took part in a cultural programme with team manager Jonathan Mokuena describing the visit as “something special.”
“I don’t think the players realised how much rugby means to these communities. For those 80 odd minutes the team spent with the kids, they could live rugby,” said Mokuena, a former Springbok Sevens captain.
Nazeem Adams, the South Africa Under 20 assistant coach, said the players were humbled by the experience. “I used to teach in this area and it is great to see how the school uses sport and especially rugby to give the kids direction in life.
"You could see the principles in rugby such as discipline and teamwork are all at work here. The players had a great time during and are looking forward to the next legacy visit.”
The next round of Legacy visits are scheduled for Saturday, the day after the next round of IRB Junior World Championship matches, when players will this time share their skills and talent with the rugby teams of the various schools.