Way to go, Tiny !  Boland Landbou lock Marko van Niekerk breaks through an attempted tackle
by Grey High flyhalf LJ du Preez (left) during the Farmers’ 17-18 defeat on Saturday 1 July,
day one of the 2017 Cape Schools Festival at Rondebosch. (photo Shaun Roy Photography)

Normally, champagne corks would be popping throughout the Western Province this week in celebration of another highly successful Craven Week campaign.  Despite the best efforts of Elmo Wolfaardt and the players selected to represent the area, this is not the case this time.

Instead, the remaining fixtures of the season, especially those scheduled for Saturday 29 July 2017, will have to serve as warm, flat beer that washes down the humble pie locals have been forced to eat. 

On the bright side, most of those people responsible for the sad state of affairs mentioned above will have no influence whatsoever on the rest of the schools rugby season.

However difficult it might be, let’s hold thumbs that this weekend’s list of potentially attractive match-ups provides the fare that helps raise everyone’s spirits.

All eight WP Premier A teams face each other in what is effectively a town versus country weekend. Paarl Boys’ High are at home to SACS, Wynberg visit Paarl Gym, Paul Roos entertain Bishops and Boland Landbou face Rondebosch on the latter’s Tinkie Heyns Field.

Boishaai’s match is significant for several reasons, not least of which is that this represents their final opportunity to prepare for next week’s interschools against Gym at Faure Street.

Just how well the Brug Street Boys can cope with the loss of the highly influential Francke Horn and Vian Fourie will be just one of the interesting subtexts going into the clash.  Another one will be the outstanding record SACS boast against the out-of-town sides. 

Wins against Landbou and Gym and an honourable defeat at the hands of Paul Roos – all up in Newlands, mind you – will have fuelled a growing belief that Saturday’s game represents the best chance in years of a southern suburbs side toppling the no.1 side in the country.

The most intriguing aspect will be the clash of styles.  Is there a chance that SACS’s bustling in-your-face game might unsettle their hosts or will the relentless Erasmus-Wolfaardt vice squeeze the life out of the Young Ikeys, as it has done against everyone else for years, before feeding on what’s left in the last quarter ?

Perhaps the most interesting individual duel will be that between the scrumhalves, Western Province Craven Week captain Lucky Dlepu and Eric Myburgh, so highly rated and yet so inexplicably overlooked.

The odds certainly favour the hosts, but will they be tempted to rest certain key players ahead of Interschools next Saturday ?

The likelihood of any such doubts befalling neighbours Paarl Gym are virtually nil.

Even a splendid victory over a star-laden Selborne side at the Cape Schools Festival is highly unlikely to fire Wynberg up enough to secure an away win against a school that has posted some big scores against them in recent years.

Agreed, the young Wynberg team has grown with every outing this season, but taking on a side full of players with recent provincial experience is bound to be something like writing matric straight after a six-week overseas holiday.

Much as it hurts me to say it, it looks like a very similar fate awaits Bishops when they try to storm the walls of Fortress Markotter.

The Young Maties may not boast their strongest combination in recent years, but they still have the combined ability to brush aside anything that the boys from Rondebosch can throw at them.

Then again, if Bishops swing the ball and the current national schoolboy trend of avoiding tackles like the plague continues, you can’t completely rule out a surprise result. 

Centres Rob Macdonald and George Spencer have proved such a handful in recent games that they will require close monitoring at all times.

A full Rondebosch side could conceivably pull off an upset against the Farmers, but that is a fanciful pipe-dream.  The injury list seems to grow longer every week down Oakhurst Avenue, with very few troops returning to the front.

The Landbou forwards are invariably a rather large handful and the likes of prop Werner Stanley and utility forward Jason Macleod-Smith and their pack-mates are going to have to be on top of their game to keep them in check.

Expect an interesting duel behind the scrum, too.  Bosch’s Jaco Barnard and Robbie Davis have the wherewithal to disrupt the rhythm of their Windmeul opponents Gavin Mills and Darren Hendricks.  Then again, a lot depends on whether the rest of the quick men come to the party.

One of the most eagerly-anticipated WP Premier B clashes is scheduled for Bellville, the hosts itching to utilize the opportunity to inflict a titanic reality check on their celebrated neighbours, Stellenberg, in what some might call the Transnet Test.

Centre and points machine extraordinaire Dan Aspeling would love nothing more than to celebrate his 200th point of the campaign with a home win against a Jade Brigade side liberally sprinkled with WP caps.

It may have taken a while for the Stellies coaches to reach the conclusion, but the inspired half-back combination of Jacques van Biljon and Corné van Romburgh has lifted the visitors’ attacking potential to a whole new level.

Up front, players like Janko Swanepoel, Josh Muller, André Hanekom, Johann van der Merwe and Heino Lombaard are certain to restrict the backline incursions of Bellville lock Xavier Haupt.

If lots of feeling equates to lots of points, expect a big score in this one !

If you’ve still got some petrol after the holidays, you could take a leisurely drive over the mountains to catch the HTS Drostdy match against Tygerberg.

Even if the Boland side never got off the showroom floor – and, boy, you’ll understand why in a short while – the Donkeys were richly represented at St Stithian’s earlier this month.

The fluidity of their backline is very special, as it should be with the outstanding talents of scrumhalf Romeo Eksteen, flyhalf Shaun Baxter and full-back Cohen Jasper.

The Tygers, who will welcome back WP Academy Week scrumhalf Thandi Payi, looked quite comfortable at Malmesbury, their confidence undoubtedly bolstered by the efforts of some their future stars such as no.8 Edja de Meyer and outside centre John-Henry Pienaar.

The Parow side would love nothing more than to be able to bring back a donkey’s scalp with them on Saturday afternoon.

Two promising matches – Hugenote vs Charlie Hofmeyr and Hermanus vs Brackenfell – top the bill in the Boland.

The Blackies can expect a stiff challenge from a Charlies team that showed last weekend in Malmesbury that it boasts enough quality second-stringers to maintain its fine record this winter.

Both prop Athi Maginja and utility back Jared Manus left the field with injuries against the Free State on the first day of the Craven Week and will be out for some time, while Hugenote prop Zenon Erasmus was, coincidentally, also injured in the same game.

The match could prove to be battle of the loose forwards, with Michael Goodall returning from the Craven Week for the hosts and Shalton Cobern and Zinzan Willemse in sparkling form for the Ceres side. 

It’s Brackenfell’s turn to take to the road for their annual meeting with a Hermanus team that is liberally sprinkled with Boland Under 18 players, not least of whom was the provincial captain and flank Michael-John Otto.

However, the result here is going to depend primarily on the Whalewatchers’ ability to tame a Brakkies backline that is filled with game-changers such as WP Craven Week pivot Quan Eymann, full-back Waylin Booysen, wing Marcqiewn Titus and centre Jade-Lee Andreas.

The defensive capabilities of the two Aprils, Lionel and Lloyd, will be put to a very searching test, come Saturday.

Otherwise, one shouldn’t sniff at Montagu vs Overberg or Stellenbosch vs Robertson, while Durbanville’s trip to Worcester Gym could yield an interesting result, given both sides’ iffy form of late.

Two fixtures dominate the programme up the Garden Route.  Hosts Oakdale are expected to beat Langenhoven Gym, while Oudtshoorn face a tough battle against a young, but very accomplished DF Malan outfit.

There are also sure to be plenty of Brtish and Irish schools teams in action in various parts of the province, but getting any schedules out of the tour agencies is like WP winning the Crav…  Let’s just say, it’s nigh on impossible. 

Next week, there’s Interschools, Boland Landbou vs Bishops, Stellenberg vs HTS Drostdy and Charlie Hofmeyr vs Hermanus to look forward to locally, while Oakdale go kudu (and Marlow) hunting in Cradock !


Date Team Score
2017-07-27 PUNT
2017-07-27 PW BOTHA
2017-07-27 HS HEXVALLEI
2017-07-27 VREDENDAL
2017-07-27 BREDASDORP