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Oak Bay, SMUS set to renew Rees Boot rivalry

Annual game kicks off at 5:30 pm Tuesday at Wallace Field
Oak Bay and SMUS are set for the 29th Rees Boot Game. TIMES COLONIST

The older he gets the more Gareth Rees appreciates the honour represented by his bronzed-for-posterity old rugby boot.

The two high schools that have historically provided a great deal of talent for the Canadian national team will renew their rivalry today in the annual Rees Boot Game between Oak Bay and St. Michaels University School. The fixture is named after a rumpled rugby shoe once worn by the former SMUS and University of Victoria Vikes great Rees, who played in four World Cups and captained Canada in two of them.

The 29th Rees Boot game between SMUS and Oak Bay is today at 5:30 p.m. at ­Wallace Field on the University of ­Victoria campus.

“As I grow older, this game becomes more special to me because I see in these kids the same desire I once had when I was their age,” said Rees, 56.

“Especially since they come from two schools that have produced some of Canada’s best players.”

Rees can count himself in that company as many consider him Canada’s greatest player.

“This is a great fixture and there is no better rivalry, which is what high school sports is all about,” said Rees, inducted into the Canadian, B.C. and Victoria sports halls of fame and the international rugby hall of fame.

Ian Hyde-Lay, who has coached SMUS for more than two decades, retired after last year’s game and has handed the reins to Clayton Daum and Wonjin Kim. Pete Atkinson is head coach of Oak Bay.

“You could form a formidable Canada roster over the years based on Rees Boot Game alumni,” said Hyde-Lay.

Oak Bay won last year’s Rees Boot Game 29-25 and leads the series 15-12-1 all-time.

“A rivalry needs balance and this one has had that over the years,” said Hyde-Lay.

“Most seasons, both teams are very competitive and well-drilled.”

The game was the brainchild of former Oak Bay coaching legend Gary Johnston, also a former coach of Canada’s national team, who took one of Rees’ old playing shoes and came up with an idea for the rivalry nearly three decades ago.

“Gary bronzed it and I proudly paid for it,” quipped Rees, of the boot.

“I don’t think Gary gets enough credit for what he has done for Canadian rugby. He brought a professional attitude to it.”

But he never lost touch with the high school roots that helped produce many of Canada’s top players, a legacy that continues today.

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