CAN GYM BREACH THE SACS DEFENCE ?


Immovable object vs unstoppable force.
  Paarl Gym loosehead Rohan Hamman
(centre) closes in on Paul Roos playmaker Kristoff Baard (in possession)
during last week's match at the Markotter. (photo: Inus Grobler)

Saturday 23 May 2015 promises the insatiable followers of schoolboy rugby in the Western Cape another bonanza of top-drawer fixtures that extends well beyond the WP Premier A division.

However, custom dictates that the preview starts at the top, because one suspects that some players and supporters of the major schools have very short attention spans.

If any-one had dared to ask the question contained in the title during recent campaigns, he would have been labelled an imbecile. That this is not the case this season is in itself high praise for a SACS unit that has shown an admirable combination of breathtaking verve and nerves of steel on its way to claiming some unforgettable scalps.

OK, so the last two may just have been southern suburbs rivals, but both were convincing displays on their opponents’ home grounds. And, before that, Boland Landbou left leafy Newlands empty-handed.

Heady stuff, indeed !

The Young Ikeys’ defensive pattern and unflappability has been an important component in their success to date, but even then they can’t be overjoyed at the prospect of hosting a Paarl Gym side that is gradually hitting its straps, as evidenced by their 23-21 win over unofficial world champions Paul Roos at the latter’s magnificent Markotter complex.

The positional tinkering done by master tactician Christoff Lötter in the wake of the defeat against Bishops have proved inspired.

George Lourens is completely at home as the midfield playmaker, paving the way for the outside backs to express themselves. Up front the interchangeability of Muller Uys and MJ Hayes has contributed a new dimension to an already ominously powerful Gym combination, while at the same time playing havoc with opposition coaches’ planning.

Toss the Tasmanian devils Johan Visser and Gustav Marais and rangy tower-of-power lock and skipper Ernst van Rhyn into the pot and you have the makings of a dangerously potent mix.

SACS might not have the big-name brands, but they don’t want for application in any department.

Singling out individuals is counter-productive when it is their very subjugation of self to the common cause that makes them so effective, but Liam Larkan is never far from the ball, while the rest of the pack aren’t far behind.

The scoring machines out wide – Tumi Mogoje, Athi Gazi and Ciaran Dayaram – have been ominously quiet recently. Saturday presents the perfect occasion for a backlash !

Up at Hawthornden the young Wynberg side will have its hands full trying to fend off a wounded Paul Roos team, who won’t need to be told that an away victory makes a wonderful ointment. Hopefully all the injured Bergers will be back and their die-hard supporters won’t be faced with a scary scenario like being 0-21 down to Strand last week, and that before half-time !

In typical Berg style, the emphasis is on the team, not the individual and so it is hardly surprising that the lads in the engine-room remain largely anonymous while their counterparts at the back happily waltz their way into school folklore as they spend the money earned up front.

The hosts are lucky to have the likes of Labib Kannemeyer – who, rumour has it, sleepruns at night – Dom Coetzer, Jordan Holgate, Dian Fourie and Mika Ekström to reap these rewards.

Not bad for a team which includes only two matrics !

Paul Roos will surely set out to banish all thoughts of the Gym game in their inimitable attacking way.

Loose forwards Malan Basson and Roelf Burger in particular have emerged from the Japanese jaunt as vastly improved players, while out back the Maroon Platoon boasts an embarrassment of riches. Centre Kristoff Baard, in particular, is establishing himself as the vital cog in a backline containing top performers of the quality of Nico Leonard.

All traces of the SANIX hang-over ought to be obliterated this weekend.

Paarl Boys’ High will run onto the Piley Rees field as favourites to beat a Bishops side that hasn’t been firing on all cylinders of late.

The Platinum Blues’ home defeat to SACS and iffy win against Brackenfell may be in part be due to the absence of kingpin Cornel Smit, but the rest of the side has more than enough talent to compensate for one man’s absence.

Eighthman François Stassen has been particularly prominent in recent outings, while the backline doesn’t need any invitation to run – even if right-wing Lubelo Scott might have discovered that marathon running is not his forte on Saturday ! The elusive ability of reserve threequarter Avela Biko was also most heartening.

However, it is up front where this game is likely to be decided: starve Bishops of good ball and you’re halfway there.

Boishaai’s history of top-rank front-row warriors continues unabated with props of the calibre of Wicus “The Smiling Assassin” Groenewald and Leo “Katjie” Kruger – who, one hopes, will be fit to play. Now locks Ruben de Villiers and willing apprentice Salmaan Moerat have emerged as quite probably the best second-row pairing in the local, if not national, schoolboy game.

Andreas van Wyk and Khanya Ncusane provide the bridge to a bad-of-tricks backline in which outside centre Manny Rass has been harnessing the astonishing speed and guile of wings Tyreeq February and Elester Becker.

Messrs Erasmus and Wolfaardt will have team repeatng the mantra “Don’t kick the ball at Bishops” all the way to the ground. If it sticks, the Strepies should stay top of the national pile.

Boland Landbou will be determined to continue rebuilding their reputation when they welcome PE side Framesby to the Farm. If last Saturday’s improvement continues, the Farmers should win this one.

Given their currently shaky form, Rondebosch may just be taking their visit to Tygerberg a little more seriously than might otherwise have been the case.

Two years ago their last golden team crushed their hosts 54-3 in Parow, so the Canigou Carnivores’ only have positive memories of the Tierberg field.

The Tygers may be coming off a massive 61-12 win away to Durbanville, but bitter memory has taught their supporters that that is no guarantee of a repeat performance seven days later.

Key players in the Tygerberg side are powerful no. 8 Juarno Augustus, fit again after a long period on the sidelines, and flyhalf Marco Stassen, on whose distribution the hosts’ hopes will rise and fall.

Gone are the glory days of Edwin Sass, Justin Geduld, Travis Ismaiel and their fleet-footed comrades; now it’s very much a case of the current crop trying to establish some kind of form so that they can build on their confidence.

Bosch will be keen to banish thoughts of two home defeats in a row and a backlash of the type seen in 2013 is in the offing.

Word is that Zain Davids may pack down at flank again. The effects of this will be two-fold: considerably stricter enforcement around loose and tight exchanges and, hopefully, more time for Nic Potgieter’s backs to show their conventional attacking capabilities. Playing Davids at 13 may scare the wits out of opposing coaches, but his unpredictability arguably has a somewhat similar effect on his fellow-threequarters.

One of the Premier B clashes of the season takes place at Brackenfell on Saturday when Bellville arrive on a mission to show what a difference the twelve months since last year’s 12-23 home defeat to the Brakke can make.

The visitors have gelled into a fearsome outfit, their gargantuan front row (Marco Joubert, Kevin Goddard and Carlu Sadie) creating an attacking platform which is finely tuned by classy half-backs Jurgens van Schalkwyk and Marco Visser to ensure that lethal weapons Tian Boonzaier and young Alec Heydenrych can wreak tryline havoc.

The Brakke are not a team of stars, although loose forwards Jean-Marc Fuchs and Amil van Heerden never fail to impress, and will need to be extremely alert at the back if they are to deny their northern suburbs neighbours the opportunity to exact vengeance for last year.

Two Boland clashes look interesting.

The bigger one by far sees Hugenote scoot through the tunnel that bears their name to play a HTS Drostdy team that is faltering somewhat. If one can use these two sides’ recent defeats at the hands of Worcester Gym (Hugenote 13-38 at home last weekend, Drostdy 18-20 away the week before) as a yardstick, the Donkeys might have the last hee-haw.

In the much smaller fixture Augsburg Gym’s visit to tiny Lutzville is evidence of how times and fortunes can change. The two schools haven’t met for some time, largely, one would imagine, because of the dinosaur footprint the Clanwilliam side has left on the landscape in recent years. This year Lutzville are aiming for a David vs Goliath re-enactment. Regardless of the result, you have to admire their guts !

The main SWD fixture should result in a comfortable home win for an Oakdale side liberally sprinkled with Craven and Academy Week caps against Oudtshoorn visitors Langenhoven Gym.

Next weekend the province’s main attraction is the Outeniqua vs Oakdale game in George, while, down south, Paul Roos visit Rondebosch and Wynberg welcome Bishops.