HITTING THE HOME STRAIGHT
“Charlie and the Chicken Wing !” Charlie Hofmeyr outside centre Leighton Onrus
prepares to offload during his team’s surprise 23-25 home defeat against
Stellenbosch on Saturday 18 May 2019. (photo: Gail Barnard)
The dreaded day is upon us. Saturday 17 August 2019 brings down the curtain on the school rugby season with just about all the local schools involved in the razzmatazz of the build-up, not to mention the day itself.
Everyone’s interschools is important to them, but, unfortunately a lack of space and the in-depth knowledge required to run the rule over the possible outcomes of each individual clash prevent one from doing the entire spectrum justice. Just be aware, that, as far as this website is concerned, everybody involved is equally special.
The major focus in the Western Province will be on the Rondebosch vs Bishops and Wynberg vs SACS fixtures, although the Paul Roos vs Grey College match and the Premier B matches, particularly Durbanville vs Stellenberg, but also DF Malan vs Bellville and Tygerberg vs Brackenfell don’t lag far behind. Their Helderberg derby against Hottentots Holland successfully (34-32) negotiated, Parel Vallei head off to Summerstyrand in Port Elizabeth for their annual fixture with Pearson.
One week ago Bishops were contemplating facing Wynberg with a disjointed side, lacking five Matrics and two injured hookers. The resolve they showed in winning must have been brought great pride to the coaching staff, even Dylon Frylinck, himself a Wynberg alumnus.
This week the five absentees return and it is Rondebosch who seem to be facing up to the grim reality of fielding a seriously weakened team.
Word is that apart from SA Schools prop Bryan le Loux, who is injured and had to withdraw from the national side as a result, Lukhanyo Vokozela has been called up to the SA A squad, reserve front-rower Jason Johnson is still out following an injury incurred at Craven Week, lock Will McDonald is attending trials in Ireland, centre Matthew McLeod-Smith remains unavailable and wing Jake Tredoux went down with pneumonia last week.
And that’s not all, folks ! Academy Week pivot Kian Davis has been out with injury several times this term and trump card Conor van Eden was concussed against Paarl Boys’ High !
While the Platinum Blues looked understandably shaky when the pressure was ratchetted up in the Wynberg match, it is difficult to see the settled line-up reacting in quite the same way.
The duel to watch out for is definitely that involving Matt Gray and Sam Rudston, both in the line-outs and in loose play. Rudston has proved himself indispensable to the Bishops cause in all facets, particularly crossing opponents’ trylines, while Gray was hugely influential in the first round meeting.
Isaiah Wharton and Josh King, both highly mobile no. 8s, should also provide some intriguing moments.
The Bishops backline does seem to hold a few too many aces, but actually getting to play those cards is something else entirely !
Wynberg have improved so markedly in recent weeks that they must be favourites to beat SACS in the battle of the ancients, especially seeing that the game is on their Hawthornden turf.
Ebenezer Tshimanga, Rethabile Louw, Lezaine Davis and full-back Wandile Notshe all took turns at giving Bishops a torrid time last Friday and it is difficult to see Robin Aspeling, Thomas Doyle, Kyle Kreymborg and company keeping them in check for the full seventy minutes.
Cormac Faul and Daniel Spogter might not boast the physical presence of SACS’s Jordan Thomas when it comes to affairs of the second row, but energetic loosehead Tim Hoenson and juggernaut hooker Kamva Mgwali more than even matters out. Hopefully Wynberg flank Sipho Dyonase will have recovered from the knock sustained on the Piley Rees last week.
Paul Roos have really been flying beneath the radar since returning from the Land of the Rising Sun, while, despite beating both Paarl schools in upcountry meetings - which Paul Roos were unable to do - Grey College revealed just the slightest vulnerability in the somewhat unsuccessful contributions of their provincial caps at the national Under 18 weeks on their own fields in July.
Young Maties’ supporters will be hoping that their heroes’ strengths run considerably deeper than front-row grafters Meiring Ebersohn and Corné Weilbach. Maybe they can restore the Markotter to the feared status it normally enjoys.
A quick glance at the performance records of Durbanville and Stellenberg seems to suggest that the two neighbours have enjoyed equally successful campaigns in 2019. However, scratch the surface and a rather different picture emerges.
While the Durbeez have whacked quite a few local sides, they haven’t had anything like their way when it comes to outings on the national stage. What is more, they go into this clash rather undercooked, with only relatively easy games against Bellville and Milnerton on either side of a 57-19 hiding at the hands of Outeniqua in George.
The Jade Brigade chose by far the more difficult path when they sat down late last year. They can boast home victories over the likes of Bishops, Rondebosch and defeated a Diamantveld side that beat HTS Drostdy 32-26 last week on their own field. Oh, and when they played Outeniqua, they lost honourably, 10-15.
The Durbies may be used to scoring, but it’s been something like the annual sardine run: the fish virtually jump into your net or other receptacle. Granted, Patrick Kotze, Will Vraagom and Willem Jansen in the backs and Ronaldo Ismail and Vince van Dyk in the pack may have accumulated an impressive 51 tries between them, but they weren’t against teams of the same calibre as those with whom the Stellies have crossed swords.
Centre Hedley Hadlow’s fourteen visits behind enemy (try)lines and lock Tyrone Rose’s nine represent the fruits of very different labours and, in halfbacks Conwill Conradie and Nivan Petersen, they have two very astute playmakers.
Stellenberg may not boast the stand-out statistics their hosts do, but they will still be confident, come Saturday afternoon.
Neither the Bellville - DF Malan nor the Tygerberg - Brackenfell matches promise to dish up any particularly spectacular rugby, but the passions of the four schools are sure to be at fever pitch, considering the hours of preparation they put into crowd participation, starting with the first term athletics meetings.
DF were looking a changed team until Stellenberg whipped them 80-0, a result from which it is hard to see them recovering by this weekend. In flyhalf Jaco Oosthuizen, Bellville have a prolific points scoring machine who could conceivably swing things in his side’s favour all by himself.
Brackenfell have improved recently - they couldn’t realistically have gotten any worse - but the Tygers are notorious for pulling out all the stops for this occasion. Last year they registered a shock win at Brackenfell and will be dead set on repeating the dose this time around.
Parel Vallei have experienced something of a roller-coaster year, learning some tough lessons at the hands of more experienced opponents, while maintaining a winning habit against the usual suspects on their roster.
The Bulldogs should be able to add Saturday’s hosts, Pearson, to their list of scalps, provided that attacking kingpin Gethin Joseph maintains the try-scoring form that has seen him dot down eleven times in 2019.
The Swartland vs Hugenote interschools in Malmesbury would normally be regarded as one of the highpoints of the Boland schools programme, but neither side has performed anything like as well as even their most easily satisfied supporters would accept.
Home ground could just be the deciding factor in this one, but it could be anyone’s game, depending on which side (or either, for that matter) bothers to turn up.
There is, however, one meeting that does promise a very exciting battle. This very interesting prospect, quite probably the match of the weekend anywhere in the province, takes place in Ceres, where Robertson comes to town to take on Charlie Hofmeyr.
The Robbe have put together a string of very impressive results, including lowering unbeaten Hopefield’s colours in the latter’s own backyard.
Heino Warnich’s team has a very talented midfield, in which centres Dane Bezuidenhout and Maxwell Rhode have scored 21 times, many of which tries flyhalf Christof Viljoen has obligingly converted on his way to a tally of 104 points this season. Nor are wing Gladwin Arendse and mobile lock Taylor May that far behind, each having dotted down seven times.
The Charlies are always a tough nut to crack up in their mountain fortress, but they just haven’t been able to rely on any particular player to breach their opponents’ defence. Scrumhalf William Baron and wing McKyle Volmoer lead their try charts on seven each, but the apparent lack of a reliable tee-man has hampered them at vital stages of the campaign.
So, six months of dedicated coaching and practice are finally about to be subjected to the acid test. When it comes down to it, this is the time all schoolboy rugby players dream of: the opportunity to show their archrivals just who rules their neck of the woods.
Following in the footsteps of the knights of old, fifteen young men will carry the expectation of their fellow-learners, former pupils and, in many cases, the communities in which they live on their shoulders for seventy short - or long, depending on whether they’re on the winning or the losing side - minutes.
And yet, just as all the excitement builds to a climax on Saturday, after the frenzy of the interschools matches comes the inevitable anti-climax as normal everyday life resumes, with the sun continuing to rise and set.
Please note :
Since many of this week’s matches will be taking place in the mid-, even late afternoon, the complete scores may only be posted by Sunday morning.
There will not be a series of post-mortems covering the season. A single article will appear, probably at the end of next week, followed a week or two later by some reflections on the season.
Should any school require a list of its scorers, it may contact me and I shall forward it in Excel format.