Review Of 2017 (PT II) : Acorns, Apples And Whales!

Absolutely en-Chantin-g!  Groenberg full-back and points machine Chantin Jonas (white jersey) 
probes the gap between Aliwal North defenders Solomon Opoku Boaten (22) and Sharodyn 
Kouta (15) during his team’s 38-17 win on day one of TSRF 2017. (photo: Axnshots)

 

While the crops supplied to the country by the Boland, as broad as it is beautiful, play a considerable part in supplying the country’s dining tables, the flow of quality players from this sparsely populated province is not always as continuous as is the case in the urban centres.

This was not the best year for the Cavaliers at under 18 level, yet it would be foolish to overlook the outstanding contributions of a handful of schools, by no means all of them among the usual suspects, whose impressive campaigns have given the folk all over the area so much about which to be excited and even more of which to be hugely proud.

Even the excellent results of regional giants HTS Drostdy (who will be discussed in a separate article) – their local unpopularity and the sheer size of their resources forcing them to look elsewhere for appropriate opposition – would still not place them among the foremost performers in the province.

Top team Stellenbosch overcame the marginal inferiority of their win-draw-ratio of 14-0-3 to that of surprise package Groenberg (15-0-2) by accumulating a remarkable fourteen four-try bonus points, at an average of 33 points a game to their opponents’ 18.

The main contributor was scrumhalf Melkeano Davids, whose 147 points included seven tries, but he was not the only ballistic missile in Ben Malan’s silo.  Wings Chaldwin Ortell (11) and Pieter Helsdingen, centre Rudo Pretorius, hooker Chris Groenewaldt and Boland Academy Week full-back le Roux Kloppers (9 each) contributed generously to their total of 87 five-pointers.

While they will probably look back on their local wins against Paulus Joubert (47-24) and Klein Nederburg (32-3) with particular satisfaction, their opening salvo up in Potchefstroom against Stofberg (59-14) and Wagpos (40-14) provided as stable a springboard as anyone could hope for.

The special exploits of four players – full-back Chantin Jonas (179 points), right wing Joshua Steenberg (16 tries) and centres Leandro Prins and Marshall Schroeder (10 each) boosted the pride of Grabouw, Groenberg, to their lofty place on the performance table.

True, most of Anton Esau’s lads’ successes came at the expense of slightly less prominent schools, apart from their wins over Worcester Gym (18-14), Oudtshoorn (31-0), New Orleans (17-0) and Strand (28-27), but the fact that their only defeats came at the hands of a strong Buenos Aires CRC of Argentina (19-31) early in March and against fellow top achievers Hermanus (26-42) provides a far more accurate definition of their quality.

Why only one provincial player between these Stellenbosch and Groenberg teams?  The probable reason is that both included a large number of Under 19 players, the same obstacle to stardom that tripped up the very slick Weston team of a few years ago.

Hermanus (14-0-3) had no such age issues and were well represented at St Stithian’s in July by flank Michael-John Otto hooker Thys van der Merwe, prop Dehan Scheepers and scrumhalf Aphelele Madaka (Craven Week) and centre Lloyd April, flyhalf Lionel April, lock JW Human and loose forward J’hanco Botha (AW).

Centre Earl Bruintjies (13t) and Lionel April (125 pts) kept the scoreboard ticking over, while the opponents’ tryline appealed more to forwards Botha (9t), Jared Wilson (8t) and Scheepers (7t) than to the faster guys, amongst whom only Josh Engelbrecht (8t) made a splash.

The Whalers kicked off in style, downing Sentraal (FS) (31-7), Die Brandwag (EP) (24-17) and Upington (31-29) in the space of five days at Oakdale.and going on to see off Montagu (35-17), Punt (59-17) amongst others, which makes their early season 29-26 defeat away to Hugenote surprising.  Best result?  Probably the gutsy 21-28 home setback against Brackenfell.

Given that Charlie Hofmeyr (12-0-2) maintained their high profile by winning all their home games fairly easily, most notably against Overberg (37-17), Swartland (45-17) and Hermanus (26-21) and won away at DF Malan (17-15), Augsburg Gym (28-15) and Tygerberg (19-14), it was surprising that they tripped up at Hugenote (7-27) and Worcester Gym (17-26).

Although tighthead Athi Maginja, full-back Jared Manus (10t)(CW) and loosehead Storm Hanekom (AW) got Boland caps, the two go-to players were captain and flank Shalton Cobern (9t) and his deputy, flyhalf Phillip Koegelenberg, who ran up a total of 170 points.

The rise of little Hopefield (10-2) continued unabated, with very few sides in their vicinity coming out of fixtures against them unscathed.  Jan van Riebeeck watched them register 82 unanswered points, Dirkie Uys buckled 51-14 and Piketberg were also unsuccessful (25-14).

Away from home they beat Porterville 33-24, Labori 45-14 and almost surprised Swartland (10-17) in Malmesbury.  Not bad, considering the Rockies drubbed them 69-5 in 2016!

Dynamic scrumhalf Gregan Papier, who almost landed a snap drop from a line-out in the Swartland nailbiter,  scored 158 points and Revaldo Strauss notched ten tries, but no-one could impress the provincial selectors.  One can only wonder whether they might not have gone unbeaten, had Brent Manuel not set sail for Hugenote at the start of the season.

The exhilaratingly expansive game plan employed by that most endearing – and enduring – of coaches, Vos de Jager, paid early dividends for a resurgent Schoonspruit side (12-0-5) that hit the ground running, scoring around 200 points by the start of the Easter festivals.

Most of the March victims were unprepossessing local sides, but victories against Swartland (17-14), a Classic Clash thrashing of Piketberg (43-8) and hard-earned wins over Klein Nederburg (36-27) and Augsburg Gym (36-22) spoke volumes about their attacking class.

Flyhalf Alberto Damons registered 128 points, while the leading try scorers were flank Nathan Solomons (AW)(13), full-back Curt-Lee Klaasen (9) and centre Ralthon du Toit (8).

Most of the side leaves school at the end of the year, but that’s never proved an insurmountable problem to the Wesbank Warriors in the past!

Flank Keenan Opperman (AW)(8t) was the only provincial cap for dependable Montagu (12-0-3), but centres Maxwell Klaasen (135 points) and Jaco Joubert (9t), utility back Seravon Jooste (8t) and flyhalf Dawro Kock (8t) ensured that the lads from Muscadel Central kept up appearances in the upper reaches.

Undisputed champions in their region – thanks to emphatic successes against Robertson (23-12), Swellendam (55-7), Langenhoven High (22-0), Overberg (23-3), Bredasdorp (47-22) and Bonnievale (36-23) – they would probably regard their 24-12 triumph over powerful Stellenbosch as their best performance of the winter.

Porterville (10-0-4) put early defeats at the hands of big guns Bishops (10-34) and Ligbron (8-26) behind them to turn in an impressive set of results, masterminded in equal parts by coaches Cobus Louw, Callie Steenkamp and Marius van Deventer on the one hand and the destroyers-in-chief behind the pack, no. 8 Adriaan Haasbroek (15t) and halfbacks Boetie Opperman (4t) and Denzil Douries (172 pts).

The home defeats to Hopefield (24-33) and Augsburg Gym (5-25) in May provoked a mighty response as they drubbed Swellendam (33-0), Dirkie Uys (44-15), Montana (52-0) before downing archrivals Piketberg (26-16) in a fine unbeaten run in the latter stages of the campaign.

A somewhat later start than usual could account for Overberg (10-0-4) slipping a little by their own lofty standards - for example, the opening 5-7 defeat to Vredendal – and they did get outplayed a few times away from home (17-37 against Charlie Hofmeyr and 3-23 vs Montagu), but massive wins over Bredasdorp (52-0), Swellendam (62-5) and Labori (36-3) more than made up for the reversals.  

They earned much credit, even in defeat, at interschools (16-21 vs Hermanus), but would probably see their 38-14 trampling of Oosterlig at Oakdale as their happiest outing.

Lock Renaldo Matthee and loosehead Christoff Walker (both AW) may have gained the glory, but the points came from kickers Junior Spanellis (79 pts) and Jaco Conradie (51), with full-back Lee-Hano Swartz the top try-scorer with nine five-pointers.

Athol Ontong’s workmanlike Paulus Joubert side (9-0-4) mixed huge victories over English tourists AKS Lytham (68-0) and Foyle College (60-13) with unfortunate defeats away to Bergrivier (12-21), Stellenbosch (24-47) and New Orleans (18-28), the remaining results largely involving local league encounters which did not pose major difficulties.

Full-back Clayton Gordon’s 82 points helped pay the bills, while the tries of left wing Shane King (12), flank and captain Enslin Goedeman (8) and centre Charlton Lackay (7) kept the side’s heads above water.  And, lest we forget, they did take interschools honours against Noorder Paarl, 28-21, at Faure Street on August 19!

A variety of circumstances led to Bonnievale (6-0-4) only playing ten games, but they stayed true to their running style throughout, even if they were beaten at home by Overberg (17-20), Montagu (23-36) and Stellenbosch (15-29).  Away from home they whacked Bosmansdam (52-0), edged Dirkie Uys (26-18) and sailed past the White Ship of Piketberg (43-13).

Flyhalf Sylvester Taylor (79 pts) and right wing Jukadian Kleinveldt (13t) made sure that the scoreboard operators remained alert.

Three usually-prominent sides – Augsburg Gym, Swartland and Hugenote – had uncharacteristically ordinary campaigns.

Even the Boland caps awarded to flyhalf JP Viviers (CW), no.8 Marco Griebenauw (CW) and centre Chadd Fortuin (AW) couldn’t really compensate for a rather average winter for Augsburg Gym (9-0-6).

True, when they won, they tended to do in style (55-24 vs Landboudal, 55-19 vs Dirkie Uys, 25-5 vs Porterville, 38-10 vs Piketberg), but their six defeats, in particular, those against Voortrekker (FS)(10-45) and Schoonspruit (22-36) and Charlie Hofmeyr (15-29), just didn’t gel with their own high standards.

Hopefully, the team’s memories of 2017 will concentrate on the positives: the 204 points (12t) scored by Viviers, the cliffhanger 40-36 win over Driehoek and the 27-18 lowering of Vredendal’s colours in the season finale.

To be frank, Swartland (10-0-8) only edge archenemies Hugenote (8-0-8) on the Team Stats table by virtue of their having entertained three touring sides, all of whom they beat (UCS Hampstead 34-8, Stewarts Melville 29-17 and John Fisher 30-26) and, of course, thanks to the Rockies’ stunning, if rather unexpected, 26-22 interschools win.

Perhaps it’s unfair to bring up the comparison, but, in the wake of the siege-gun boot of Anton du Toit, the Malmesbury side’s fortunes tended to fluctuate along with the kicking form of pivot Ethan Diston, who saved his worst for the matches against DF Malan and Tygerberg, but who enjoyed a brilliant run in between, racking up 119 points, the six of which he registered while playing with a broken arm against the Blackies proving absolutely crucial. 

Hooker JP Groenewaldt (9) led the try-scorers, but the contributions of right wing Breyton Henkeman (8t), no.8 Dawson Humphreys and full-back Ryle Daniels (7t each) can’t be sniffed at.

The lads from Wellington had to do without coach Lance Sendin, whose SA Schools coaching position involved a lot more than a week off in August, for a large part of the campaign. 

The results suffered, particularly when there seemed to be an unwillingness to pick one set backline and stick with it.  The result was that outside centre Jaymian Steyn’s 92 points equalled the total of the next three players on the Blackies’ list: Manuel (32 pts), Joshua Everts and Marno Dirks (6 tries apiece).

Although the plus side shows three Boland players in flank Michael Goodall – whose activities were affected by injury – loosehead Zenon Erasmus, (both CW) and flank Keanu Adonis (AW), heartening victories over Hermanus (29-26), Charlie Hofmeyr (27-7) and a touch-and-go setback at the hands of Brackenfell (31-33), the most memorable of all would have to be their surreal 34-32 win over Rondebosch at the Wynberg Festival.

Robertson (6-1-6), who produced three Boland players in wing Runé Lucas, lock Dawid Oosthuizen (both CW) and tighthead Malan Gouws (AW) couldn’t maintain their early momentum and had to depend on wing Cheslin Arendse (132 pts) and Lucas (9t) to stay competitive.

Despite centre PJ Boltman’s Craven Week selection, Vredendal (7-1-6) finally had a low-key season after a long run of blockbuster sides and not even the efforts of no.8 Handré Rupping (CW)(7t) and centre Teigh-Jay Mannel (8t) could help Lutzville (6-0-5) reprise 2016’s achievements.

For the rest, it was a tough old time. 

Labori (9-0-11), for example, would have sunk without trace, were it not for flyhalf Carlton Theunissen’s 132 points and centre Jeandré  Olivier’s nine tries, while Piketberg (8-0-9), Klein Nederburg (5-0-8), Vredenburg (6-1-8), Worcester Gym (6-11), Bredasdorp (6-0-12), Dirkie Uys (4-2-9) and Emil Weder (3-0-5) will be happy that summer is here, as no doubt will Montana (2-0-15), who came within two defeats of suffering what would have been an eminently forgettable whitewash.

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