Relatively Quiet Start To The New Term

Quagga-quake !  Outeniqua’s South Western Districts Craven Week lock
Corné Struwig muscles his way through the Hugenote defence during
his side’s 71-7 home victory on 19 May 2019.  (photo: Gavin Falck)

Although all the Western Province Premier A and B sides are in action on Saturday 13 July 2019, the match-ups generally offer very little to get excited about, which is pretty well the norm for the first round of fixtures after the mid-year vacation, especially with all the players involved in the midyear festivals coming down off their clouds to face normality again.

Locally, the only game that has the potential to turn into a nailbiter sees Bishops visiting second-tier high fliers Stellenberg, while, for the rest, Wynberg welcome Paul Roos to Hawthornden, Paarl Boys’ High hit the N2 to play Oakdale in Riversdale, Paarl Gym are at home to Rondebosch, Boland Landbou come to town to face SACS up in Newlands, while HTS Drostdy’s match against Outeniqua in George should be a close-run affair.

The disparity in the status afforded the Jade Brigade and their visitors this weekend has for a long time been something that exists only in the minds of the WP schools rugby officials.  Just as manager Brian Epstein or producer George Martin were often regarded as the fifth Beatle, so Stellenberg have for some years now been seen by most knowledgeable followers of the genre as a Premier A league side in all but name.

And don’t be fooled by the fact that the hosts only had two representatives in the province’s Under 18 sides last week while the Platinum Blues boasted six; many felt that neither of the northern suburbs side’s locks, Tyrone Rose or Mika Cowley, would have been out of place alongside full-back Tharquinn Manuel and scrum-half Conwill Conradie, while his age was all that deprived flyhalf Nivan Petersen of a second successive Craven Week campaign.

That said, Bishops have been in imperious form for a large part of the current campaign as they build towards what should be an exceptional team in 2020.

Interestingly, their WP Under 18 players were evenly distributed between backs (normally a Bishops forte) and forwards.  The fast men to get the nod were scrumhalf Liam Kloosman, flyhalf Sacha Mngomezulu and wing Luca Liebenberg, while no. 8 and skipper Isaiah Wharton, hooker Keagan Blanckenberg and lock Connor Evans did duty up front.

The attacking play is still there, but the willingness of the forwards to run at their opponents has caught several teams off guard this year.  By way of proof, lanky Grade 11 second-rower Sam Rudston is the side’s joint leading try-scorer with seven five-pointers !

If the hosts are to prevail - as they did against Rondebosch towards the end of last term - then they will have to have their wits about them in the second half, the period during which Wes Chetty’s band sucker punched Boland Landbou and Wynberg, both also away from home.

Wynberg haven’t had a season to write home about, being without a win against WP premier A opposition thus far.  This is unlikely to change, come Saturday, when Paul Roos start their build-up to Grey College’s visit to the Markotter on 17 August 2019.

The enormity of that task will not be lost on them, given their two defeats to the Paarl schools towards the end of last term.

We haven’t seen the best of no. 8 Jarod Cairns this winter and there can be no better opportunity for this talented loose forward to set the record straight than this outing.

The Maroons have had their injury problems at the back, but should still have too much weaponry for the locals to handle.  However, although wing Luke Burger has eleven tries to his name, with Ruben Labuschagne and Andrew Pegg doubtful due to injury, the next highest contributors in terms of tryline visits are front-row men Robbie Rodgers and hooker Meiring Ebersohn with eight and seven tries respectively.

Wynberg may have produced two WP Craven Week XV players in prop Philip Masanga and wing Ebenezer Tshimanga.  Unfortunately, getting the ball from the former’s area of operation to that of the latter is going to pose more than a few problems.  And it is very unlikely that skipper Devon Pretorius’s contribution from the kicking tee will be anything like enough to close the gap on the scoreboard.

While Boishaai would normally be rather apprehensive about a trip to Riversdale, the thoughts that will be foremost in their minds this time round will be on the upcoming interschools against Gym.

Their hosts have had a very average season by their own high standards, one which was torpedoed on its maiden voyage, so to speak, by early defeats to Stellenberg and San Isidro, the redeeming feature being that, such is the paucity of large schools in their region, quite a few of their players will have benefitted from the exposure gained at the national Under 18 weeks.

Lock Corné Raal, flank Vernon Paulo and centre Alwich van der Linde all featured strongly at the Craven Week, but they are not going to find their visitors in a generous mood as final preparations for the aforementioned showdown begin in earnest.

Pivot Kian Meadon, full-back Jacques Rousseau, centres Quan Horn and Tyler Bocks, wings Angelo Osch and Javier farmer, etc, etc the list of household names in the Brug Street team is, as usual, almost endless, at least more than enough to ensure a handsome away victory.

Paarl Gym finally return to their Jan Kriel field for the first time in almost three months to face a Rondebosch team riding high on confidence after producing a more than average number of Under 18 representatives.

Unfortunately, their hosts did even better and will be eager to show just why with Faure Street three weeks away.

The names of players is rendered relatively insignificant when one considers the simple fact that the winelands team is coached by master tacticians Pieter Rossouw and Helmut Lehmann. That alone guarantees a level of application that is hard to match, with the steady escalation of pressure after the water-break almost palpable.

Better sides than Rondebosch have buckled under the strain and, although Pieter Benade has worked wonders with this year’s squad, they are in all probability set to become just another statistic.

That said, if the local schools selectors are to be believed, the front row battle alone should provide fascinating viewing in a match in which both sides are sure to play their part in an entertaining seventy minutes.

And so to SACS versus Boland Landbou.  Believe it or not these two sides have more in common than their being in the WP Premier A league.  Yes; they each have only one league victory - a home win against Wynberg - to their credit in 2019.

The Young Ikeys, however, remain a relatively lightweight outfit in the big league, even if they saw off Tygerberg reasonably convincingly at Swartland last Thursday.

The return of efficient attacking players Duran Koevort and Rihaz Fredericks should bolster the offensive part of their armoury, but, as with Wynberg, supplying them with sufficient clean possession to make a difference could well prove a daunting task for their pack, who, with the notable exception of lock Jordan Thomas, are lightweight bordering on middleweight, in borrow parlance.

When it comes to expressing an opinion on Boland Landbou, I find myself in a quandary.

Not long ago, their coach sent me a sarcastic Whatsapp message encouraging me to continue my disparaging comments about his side’s performances as he found them very useful in motivating his charges.

While the tone and language he used might have revealed rather too much of his character, the fact that he had the gall to post it publicly on social media irked me more than the content itself.  The medium is the message, to quote Marshall McLuhan.

So, should I go on about how badly his side has performed of late - and boost their already strong chances against SACS - or should I praise them in the faint hope that they, as a result, play as poorly as has become their norm ?

Answer: neither.  Mum’s the word until an equally public apology is forthcoming.

Great news is that Outeniqua and HTS Drostdy have patched up their differences with the result that their annual fixture will take place in George this weekend, as was originally planned.

Bearing in mind the large number of players selected from both schools for their respective Under 18 sides for last week’s festivals in Bloemfontein, this should be an intriguing spectacle.  For once, the Donkeys have a backline capable of asking some really awkward questions of the Quaggas, with Messrs Galant, Jansen and Mostert all in fine form.

If you’re in the area, make sure you don’t miss it !

The only second tier offering of any note is Durbanville’s home match against Bellville, what with Parel Vallei visiting Tygerberg, Brackenfell hosting their annual clash with Hermanus,  DF Malan up against Kasselsvlei and Strand going back to Malmesbury for the third time in nine days to play Swartland.

If last weekend’s results against Muir College can be used as a yardstick, Bellville shouldn’t even bother to turn up in Durbanville, but, with the all-round form of flyhalf Jaco Oosthuizen and the very real boost their dedicated followers bring with them, one can never write off the Lions.

The only other attraction up in the Eagles’ nest this weekend is the match between Punt and Bridgton, scheduled for Friday in Mossel Bay.

The highlights of the Boland programme seem to be Charlie Hofmeyr’s visit to Hugenote - never a dull one, that - Labori’s home fixture against Hopefield and the Piketberg vs Augsburg Gym game at the former’s fields.

What’s on next week ?   Boland Landbou make the short trip into Paarl to play Boys’ High at Brug Street, Rondebosch host Wynberg and SACS entertain Paul Roos in their annual Young Ikey vs Young Matie face-off.

Elsewhere, Bishops introduce their exciting brand of rugby to the good folk of Parel Vallei out in Somerset West, Outeniqua welcome Paarl Gym and Oakdale trek all the way up to Cradock to play Marlow.

Article by: