School rugby team misses tour to France

LIZAHN WENTZEL

Bellville Technical High School’s (HTS) rugby team have their eyes set on an under-16 rugby tour to Monaco and France during the winter holidays in July, following the disappointment of being left in the lurch by a travel agent in March.

The team was all packed for the Six-Fours Rugby Club International under-9 to under-16 Easter Rugby Tournament in France, but found out at the last minute that their tickets, booked through travel agent Annabelle Smith, from the Travel Shop in Vredenburg, would not be forthcoming when they arrived at Cape Town International Airport on Thursday March 24.

West Coast Youth Rugby, which had also booked tickets through the same agent, found itself in the same boat. But they managed to scrape together money in time to book new flights to France.

It was a big let down for the young HTS players, as there had been much excitement about the tour among the school community, some even wishing the boys well on Facebook.

“HTS Bellville’s U16 Rugby Team is leaving for their French Tour on 24 March 2016. They are all so excited,” a post read on March 19.

The school sued Ms Smith to recover the R470 000. Ms Smith appeared at the Vredenburg Magistrate’s Court on Monday March 28, but the case was scrapped from the roll.

“We were told there was not enough information on the docket for the case to be heard. We waited all day at court,” said HTS principal Michael Koopman.

Shortly after the court appearance, the school heard the money had been paid over to a legal firm representing Ms Smith.

Her lawyer, Ockert Schoeman, confirmed the money had been paid over to their trust.

“We paid the money over to the two groups on Friday April 8 and regard this matter as finalised,” he told Northern News in an email.

Northern News tried several times to contact Ms Smith at the travel agency in Vredenburg, but the phone went unanswered.

Mr Schoeman’s secretary told us he would be speaking on behalf of Ms Smith.

On Monday April 11, Mr Koopman told Northern News the money had been refunded on Friday April 8.

“We are very happy we managed to recover the money, now the school can go ahead and plan for the upcoming tour,” he said.

But the school must raise additional funds to cover travel costs which have since escalated.

Mr Koopman said they had established a parent committee to handle the next tour.

“The committee will facilitate the process together with the school. We are looking at our options and have been approached by a few companies with regards to the upcoming tour,” he said.

Mr Koopman said it had taken the school about nine months to raise money for the tour through various fundraisers, which included a three-course dinner and a golf day.

“This was the school’s first international tour in 12 years. We wanted to give the pupils something to look forward to,” said Mr Koopman.

He said they had decided to use Ms Smith as she had a good reputation and had booked many school tours.

“We approached a few travel agencies and found her quote to be the most affordable,” he said.

Reflecting on the disappontment the school experienced when the first tour was called off, Mr Koopman said everything had gone smoothly until the last minute.

“We didn’t suspect anything, especially after the pupils visas were approved by the French Embassy.”

So disappointed were the pupils, they received therapy from the school’s consulting therapist, Dr Liny Jansen van Rensburg.

“The pupils were devastated when they found out they could not go on tour. One of the learner’s refused to unpack his bag when he returned home. It was very hard for the school and the parents,” said Mr Koopman.

But things are looking up again and with the money repaid, they hope to put the incident behind them.