Review Of 2017 (PT V): Paarl Boys’ Even Higher!

Happy to get his hands dirty!  Paarl Boys’ High scrumhalf Eric Myburgh prepares to clear 
a ruck, watched closely by Thariq Abrahams (white head protector), during his side’s 
38-33 win over Boland Landbou at Brug Street in June. (photo: Poppie Terblanche) 

 

No longer satisfied by two seasons unbeaten in the cauldron that is South African schools rugby, the 2017 Paarl Boys’ High 1st XV (18-0-1), rose to the challenge mapped out for them by coach Shaun Erasmus and came within a dicey penalty of ending a third consecutive campaign with a 100% record.

The world high jump record may stand at 2.45 metres, but don’t bet against them raising that bar, too!  Their achievements frankly beggar description, so let their scores do the talking.

When other local schools were gradually preparing themselves for the Easter festivals, the lads from Auret Street headed for New Zealand, where they beat Sacred Heart (24-8), Gisborne (73-3) and Nelson College (75-12).  All these opponents glibly excused their defeats by noting that their season was only just beginning – not that the South African one was in full swing. 

History tells us that Christchurch beat them 38-36, despite a stunning fightback by the Winelanders, the clincher, a penalty by a player who had been substituted earlier in the game. 

Simply put: that’s the only way anyone could beat these superb athletes, who promptly returned home to honour their obligations at St John’s, where they thumped Eye of the Tiger (57-0), edged Affies (14-10) and demolished an NSW Selection from Australia (65-0).

On opening day in Cape Town – game eight – they dumped Outeniqua 47-16 as a warm-up for Wildeklawer, where Selborne (33-18) and Glenwood (30-12) were summarily dealt with.

After that, they might have been forgiven for considering the rest of the season as being something of an anti-climax.  Irrespective of whether or not they did, they dispatched Wynberg 67-25 before putting on a masterclass to beat Grey College 46-31 in Bloemfontein.    

Back in the Peninsula, they beat all their Premier A opponents (Rondebosch 73-7, Paul Roos 21-9, Bishops 25-0, Boland Landbou 38-33, SACS 37-17 and archrivals Paarl Gym 18-13), a hard-earned 36-31 away win over Oakdale in June rounding out their programme.  

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this team is that it only yielded six provincial caps : left-wing Thaakir Abrahams, no. 8 Francke Horn (cruelly withdrawn due to a medical condition) flank Vian Fourie, lock Adrian Alberts (the last two also being selected for the national schools team), prop Joshua du Preez (Craven Week) and loosehead MJ Strauss (Academy Week). 

Space forbids naming all twenty-four of their scorers, but full-back/flyhalf Abner van Reenen racked up 182 points (15 tries), Horne dotted down seventeen times before the end of the June, Abrahams score ten tries, centre Divan Enslin, nine, and lock/loose forward Cornell Kotze, eight.

The naked facts?  The team scored 815 points (124 tries) and conceded 281.  That says it all!

In a team in which no-one shirked his responsibility, other stars included scrumhalf Eric Myburgh, hookers Wilhelm Barnard and Cullen van der Merwe, loose forward Evan Roos utility back le Roux Malan, wing Stuart Tait, and wing Sabri Jacobs.

However, the brightest spot in a most prominent galaxy was the team as a whole, which definitely includes coaches Shaun Erasmus and Elmo Wolfaardt.  

The large gap between Boishaai and their Winelands rivals further underlines their brilliance.

Paarl Gym (10-0-5) had, by their standards, a very ordinary year.

They started comfortably, beating Stellenberg 31-19, before sliding past Affies 35-33 in a cliffhanger a week later.  They charted a safe course through the North-South Festival, recording victories over Garsfontein (46-17) and EG Jansen (39-10) and won a ding-dong encounter 20-19 at Paul Roos.

Disaster struck at Wildeklawer when they went down 19-31 to Grey College, two days after a convincing 26-7 triumph over Waterkloof.  A 43-21 success against Rondebosch boosted their confidence although, in retrospect, some cracks might have started appearing when Oakdale tested them before succumbing 27-31 on the Jan Kriel field.

What followed was the unthinkable: two defeats against Premier A rivals, 19-22 to SACS – after leading 19-0 at one stage – and 15-24 to Boland Landbou, with a 44-24 win over Bishops sandwiched in between.

Although Wynberg (103-12) felt the backlash in July, after Boys’ High took Interschools 18-13, the game against Outeniqua, which ended in a 24-27 defeat, was probably the last thing they needed.

Not even the selection of full-back Muller du Plessis, no.8 Henco Martins (both of whom were picked for the SA Schools squad), outside centre Dawid Kellerman, loosehead Hugo Pienaar and hooker Chris Rossouw for the WP Craven Week team and right-wing Stravino Jacobs, tighthead Adriaan Staples, lock Juan Beukes and flyhalf Ruben Scholtz for the Academy Week could mask the disappointment that clouded the closing stages of the campaign.

Martins (seventeen tries) and du Plessis (eleven) dominated the scorer's list on either side of kickers Ruben Scholtz (71) and Daniël Beukes (57 points respectively), while Rossouw (9t) and huge lock Adriaan Ludick (8t) were the next most prolific contributors.

As these statistics suggest, more tries came from the big men than the quick ones, which merely tells one that the backs didn’t have the same penetrative abilities as those of recent seasons.  However, that in no way detracts from the attractive high tempo game maintained throughout the winter.

Paul Roos (11-0-5) may have finished fractionally behind the Gimmies, but the Maroons have every reason to look back on 2017 with a large measure of satisfaction.

The Markotter was the venue for their pipe-opener, a 32-19 success against HTS Drostdy, after which the St John’s Easter Festival yielded a further three wins – vs Nelspruit (44-6), Helpmekaar (25-22) and Parktown (61-12).

The local season opened with a closely-fought 19-20 defeat at home to Paarl Gym before the team left for Wildeklawer, where its opening-day triumph over Affies (21-14) was tempered by a comprehensive 25-38 defeat at the hands of Waterkloof.    

Further disappointment followed when they went down to Grey High (20-22) in Port Elizabeth, but from then on only Paarl Boys’ High (21-9) and derby archrivals Grey College (30-28) could lower the Young Maties’ colours.

The other five WP Premier A-sides were all summarily dealt with, SACS (29-24), Rondebosch (52-15), Bishops (32-30), Wynberg (31-7) and Boland Landbou (33-24), all but the Bishops game being away from home, the last victory representing the first time they had beaten the Farmers at Windmeul for eight years.

It came as no surprise when centre Rufus Dercksen, loosehead Alex Mbete, tighthead Tristan Leitch, scrumhalf Gerado Jaars and flank Phillip van Dyk was chosen to represent Western Province at the Craven Week at St Stithian’s in July. 

What was a surprise is that no place could be found for the other wide men runners: outside centre Brendan Venter, right-wing Remy Engelbrecht, left-wing Regan van der Westhuizen and full-back Colia Louis, particularly when one bears in mind their considerable contributions  both to the scoresheet – Louis 150 points, Engelbrecht (ten tries), van der Westhuizen (9t) and Venter (5t) – and the elegant flowing style with which the team played.

Van Dyk (8t), hooker JJ Kotze (6t) and Dercksen (5t) also made sizable dents in opposition defences, not that this should be taken to mean that the hard labour put in by loosehead Cameron Dawson, lock Breyten Maritz and flyhalf Juan Mostert, to name but a few, should be ignored.

Although this is a review, be warned that a fair number of these exciting youngsters will be gracing our fields again in 2018, a treat for any true rugby fundi to savour.  

The fact that Boland Landbou (10-0-8) had the least successful season among the Winelands schools should be seen in context. Their record places them comfortably within the upper half of the table, not far behind Gym and the Maroons and only fractionally below Outeniqua. 

They might not have enjoyed the success that some self-proclaimed experts have come to expect of them, but, at the very worst, they are victims of their own relentless overachievement. 

An ordinary year for them?  Perhaps, but one in which they still managed to lower the colours of three of the country’s highest-ranked schools.

Like the other three schools in this article, the Farmers are long since resigned to having to travel great distances to face their most demanding assignments and all of them before the end of the first full week of May.

So it was that, after an undemanding 83-0 trouncing of Windhoek High, they headed to the North-South event in Tshwane, where they crushed EG Jansen 65-21 before running out of steam (and breath) against Garsfontein, losing 41-43.

There was just enough time for their bogey side SACS to maintain their impressive home record against Oloff Bergh’s men, beating them 22-18, before it was off to the Wildeklawer Spectacular in Kimberley, where they showed enormous character by coming back from a heavy 8-49 defeat at the hands of Grey College to edge Monument 24-22.

After six games they finally got to run out on their home turf, thrashing Bellville 64-16 before conceding defeat 16-19 to Framesby in their only really poor outing of the season.

The resultant introspection saw a rejigging of the team before the rest of the Premier A matches, which opened with a 62-15 drubbing of Wynberg, saw the momentum maintained in a rare 35-34 away win over Stellenberg and reached a high when they defeated their other hoodoo side, Paarl Gym, 24-15. 

Not even a superhuman late surge could see them beat Paarl Boys’ High (33-38) and comfortable victories over Rondebosch (29-14) and Bishops (48-14) couldn’t quite make up for surrendering a long winning streak at home to Paul Roos, who beat them 33-24.

A 17-18 setback against Grey High on day one of the Cape Schools Festival at Rondebosch was partly assuaged by workmanlike 47-0 triumph over Muir.  Which brings one to the match some think defines the season, interschools at Oakdale, which ended in a 12-14 defeat.

Eight losses there might have been, but only the pride of the Free State could claim to have beaten them soundly.

Three players earned WP Under 18 caps: wing Duren Hoffman in the Craven Week side and lock Herman le Roux and loosehead Albert Coetzee in the Academy Week squad, which le Roux captained.

The leading scorers were Hoffman (101 points, nine tries), scrumhalf Gavin Mills (93 pts) and flyhalf Darren Hendricks (83 pts, 7t) – the last two having taken over kicking duties after Hoffman lost his place in the fallout following the Framesby game – while left-wing Erik Lambrecht (10), full-back Luther McKay and inside centre François du Toit (8 each) were closely followed by loosehead Christiaan Olivier (7) in the try-scoring stakes.. 

If Hoffman’s omission from the side is seen as any sort of turning-point, it didn’t really show in the balance of a side which had already had to cope with the loss of centre Durin Nasson before the season had really got started. 

Originally a scrumhalf, Lambrecht fitted in perfectly on the left wing, young Sebastian de Klerk formed an elegant midfield partnership with du Toit and Hanro van der Merwe kept defences honest wide on the right.

Hooker Tiaan Drotskie, powerful lock Marko van Niekerk and loose forwards Thys Kitshoff, Franco Venter and Armand Adendorff filled out a pack that never shirked its responsibilities.

Quite a few of these players will be plying their trade again out at Windmeul in 2018, which is great news for this fiercely proud institution which is so close to the hearts of most neutral observers in the province.

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