Poaching not issue for Otago schools

Otago Secondary Schools Rugby Council chairman Greg Heller is confident the poaching alleged in Auckland school rugby is not happening in Otago.

Heller's comments come in the wake of revelations 10 Auckland principals have agreed to boycott games against St Kentigern College in the city's premier school rugby competition, citing concerns the school is aggressively recruiting players from other school's first XVs.

It is an allegation often directed at Otago Boys' High School which Heller said was based on speculation rather than facts.

''In terms of some of the allegations levelled at St Kentigerns with their wide tentacles and grabbing all these players on scholarships ... that is not happening in our competition,'' Heller said.

''If we had a look at the 2018 competition ... there wasn't a hell of a lot between the top three schools.

''There hasn't been that poaching or outside recruitment that is blatantly going on [elsewhere]. I think it has been a bit of a myth that has prevailed for a long time.

''I certainly wouldn't give any credence to that.''

The situation in Auckland reached a critical point earlier this week when the coalition of principals were not satisfied with the response from head of St Kentigern College David Hodge.

The schools wrote to Hodge twice in November and on Monday asking Hodge to explain the school's recruitment policy.

King's College was also a concern but has agreed to make changes to its rugby programme

''It's a serious issue and it needed a serious response,'' Mt Albert Grammar School principal Patrick Drumm told the New Zealand Herald.

''We needed to take a strong leadership stand as a recruitment strategy like this is not what school sport should be about.

''The integrity and credibility of the competition is challenged by targeting elite players from around the country.

''We felt the time was right to try to have a moral and ethical discussion and, while we had a positive meeting with King's, that wasn't the case with St Kents.''

The initial letters invited the school to commit to new principles around the recruitment of players. But the last letter advised of an intended boycott.

''The 10 schools who have led the conversations with you are now of the view that they have given you fair opportunity to respond,'' the letter stated.

''It is the immediate decision of each of our schools that in 2019 our 1st XV rugby teams will not now compete against St Kentigern College.''

Napier Boys' High School principal Matthew Bertram said what St Kentigern had been doing was ''brazen'' and unprecedented.

Napier Boys' halfback was recruited by St Kentigern for next season but Bertram said the issue was wider than that.

''They'll just say the family approached them,'' he said.

Bertram said private schools like St Kents were tilting the playing field and going against what building a programme should look like.

''They're not building from the ground up, from year 9 to 11. They're going after the superstars and it's brazen.''

- Additional reporting by the New Zealand Herald.

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