Friday 29 April 2022: WBHS Deputy Headmaster and Head of Sport, Mr Peter van Schalkwyk, describes the story of the Wynberg Grey Weekend.
There are so many Wynberg traditional events our boys have missed out on over the last two years, but none more so than the Grey Derby experience. While our current Grade 11s have enjoyed a Grey derby here at Wynberg, it is sobering to note that only our current Matrics, in their Grade 8 year, have had the opportunity to travel to the Eastern Cape and experience the extraordinary spirit of ‘Grey away’. This means a full four of our grades (and their families, whether travelling in support, or supporting online from home) will undergo the experience for the first time. Those boys not going to Grey will be disappointed, but the numbers of Wynberg teams travelling are determined by our hosts. It has certainly made the event a little harder to organise because we cannot take things for granted or assume boys and parents will understand. It is all-new again, even for many of our staff.
The Grey Weekend started in 1996 with Grey hosting Wynberg in that inaugural event. The two Headmasters at the time felt that it would be a wonderful cultural and sporting exchange and determined to play it on a home and away basis every alternate year. The heart of this weekend remains the unique opportunity for boys across all age groups and levels to experience the camaraderie and school spirit of touring and making lifelong friendships both with their rivals in competition and their host families.
It started small with only about 300 boys undertaking the tour, but this year around 550 WBHS boys will be on the road to Grey next week, making it the biggest one yet. There has been very little change to the format and programme over the years, with the core winter sports, debating, and chess forming the annual nucleus of the weekend, but other sports and activities are enthusiastically included annually where both Schools have the capacity. The biggest change probably is that WBHS staff no longer get billeted by the Grey staff, but are accommodated in a Bed and Breakfast. This year some of our teams will play St Andrew’s College in Mhkanda, bringing a new milestone to this tradition.
While some boys might be apprehensive about spending the night with their Grey counterparts, a great many friendships have developed in this way over the years. While the event has obviously lost momentum during the pandemic, there is a trove of stories of boys hosted annually by each others’ families over their five years at high school. These friendships have often continued after they have left school as illustrated by the image and story below of Ryan Southern, a 2014 1st XV Rugby player.
As the only staff member of both Grey and Wynberg not to have missed a Grey derby since its inception, this return to Grey brings back many happy memories, and some interesting recollections:
- This year will be the 24th exchange between the two schools.
- The weekend has been cancelled three times, in 1998 because of heavy floods in Cape Town for the week leading up to the event, and of course in 2020 and 2021.
- Mr Larry Moser and I are the only staff still ‘in the saddle’ from the 1996 inaugural exchange, but Mr Moser has missed one or two along the way, and will again this year as he will be travelling with our junior chess players to their provincial trials.
- It took the Wynberg 1st XV 17 years before they won their first match against Grey, away in 2012. It is certainly a moment not to be forgotten by anyone present that day when Jarryd Sage scored the winning try in the last seconds of that match: 22 – 21. And Jordan Lamoral had his least-pressured attempt at the posts of his school career, with clock run-out and the ref’s whistle about to blast.
- In 2013 Wynberg won again at home. Mr CJ Velleman, now teaching at Wynberg, played in both the 2012 and 2013 Grey 1st XVs, captaining Grey in 2013.
- Our hockey teams have enjoyed much greater success over the years with the spoils quite even.
- This year we are participating in mountain biking for the first time against Grey, but we have also participated in surfing, fishing, and biathlon on a few occasions in the past.
- Except for one year when it happened in August, it has always taken place in late April or May. In most of the years hosted by Grey, the event has also coincided with their Reunion Weekend (the equivalent of our Heritage Week and Founders’ Day celebrations) and with the Mother’s Day weekend. We usually arrive back on Sunday morning of Mother’s Day.
We are all excited to be undertaking this experience again. It is a massive logistical operation and the convoy of buses will be a sight to behold, but please drop your son off, all our boys will be in safe hands! Our staff is just as excited as the boys. Many have never toured to Grey, while others are desperate to do it again. We trust that our boys will do us proud both on and off the field.
It is an experience that no other Cape Town schools offer, and it is something that we as the Wynberg community need to treasure.