South Africa: First football, now Rugby goes the reality TV route

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Following the lead set by Soccer Academy (produced by Ghana’s Metro TV), SABC2 is producing a new reality TV series called Up&Under. Says the programme's executive producer, Duncan Irvine of Rapid Blue: “We recognised a need in the country to find raw, undiscovered rugby talent, and a reality TV series is a great platform to do that.” Springbok wing and 2007 IRB player of the year Bryan Habana has thrown his weight behind the TV show, which is an initiative of the newly-launched Habana Foundation.

A total of 36 boys will be selected for an intensive eight-week camp, during which they will be moulded into running, tackling, scrumming, mauling, kicking and scoring machines, with Habana providing some valuable tips of the trade.

As the series unfolds, the viewing public will vote every week to save the players who have been put up for elimination. The player of the series, as voted for by the viewing public, will receive fantastic prizes to further his budding rugby career.

Irvine adds that unlike other reality shows, where contestants are often left to fend for themselves after the glare of the cameras subsides, Up & Under will reward not only the winner but will make a lasting commitment to changing the lives of the top 24 boys as well.

These youngsters will form the Habana Foundation's first intake and will benefit from quality secondary and tertiary education, as well as learning valuable off-the-field life skills such as public speaking, financial and legal skills and, of course, being tutored in rugby by some of the country's top names.

Up & Under is now embarking upon a nationwide search for grassroots rugby talent, chiefly targeting bright, hungry, passionate young players who have had few opportunities to translate their raw ability into something concrete and enduring.

A team of selectors will be criss-crossing the country this month to identify talented young rugby players between the ages of 16 and 18 to compete in the reality series. The regional selections start in the Western Cape on Wednesday, 13 August 2008, at Mbekweni Stadium in Paarl between 7 am - 11am. Springbok coach Pieter de Villiers will attend the first trials and cast his eye over the talent.

The second round of trials takes place at the NU1 Stadium, Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape on Friday 15 August. Then the talent search moves to Durban's ABSA Park on Sunday 17 August before it's the turn of Newcastle's Arbor Park Sports Grounds on Tuesday 19 August.

Thursday 21 August sees the selectors check out the rugby talent at the Nelspruit Stadium in Mpumalanga, and then travel to Polokwane to the Peter Mokaba Stadium on Sunday 24 August.

In Gauteng, the Northerns Rugby Club in Pretoria is the place to be for those aspiring to wear the green and gold on Tuesday 26 August, before the talent-spotters wrap up their recruitment on Thursday 28 August at Northern Cape High in Kimberley. The 11-episode reality series starts airing on SABC2 on Saturday, 20 September at 6.30pm.