CAN OUR SCHOOLBOYS SAVE WESTERN CAPE RUGBY ?
“Whoa ! Look at the size of him; and he’s just the scrumhalf !” Several Charlie Hofmeyr
players can’t help staring at Hermanus scrumhalf Aphelele Madaka (9) during
their 12-24 away defeat in July 2018. (photo: Gail Barnard)
If the saying that a fish rots from the head down is to be believed, then, judging by the administrative farce now showing at Newlands - although the venue may soon change - and the Stormers’ lack-just-about-everything-especially-lustre Superugby opener, the dear old Western Cape may not have very long to go before it is consigned to the dirt bin at the back of SARU’s restaurant.
And so, it is with great relief that we hear the sounds of schoolboy rugby growing ever louder as March approaches.
The purpose of this article is to point out the numerous highlights contained in the pre-season programme so that everyone can get out and rectify the skewed perception of the state of the game down South.
Saturday 23 February 2019
As is the custom the first outings for many schools take place at the well-organized CL Baard Auto Rugby Day in Hopefield.
While you are unlikely to spot any of the big guns and might have to be content with only a smattering of light artillery, the spirit and excitement at the season having started more than makes up for their absence.
The schools play shortened games, which is ideal for the coaches to iron out any wrinkles in their sides before the following weekend and thereafter.
Saturday 2 March 2019
The Old Mututal Insure Agri Boland Landbou Rugby Day and Produce Market - try saying that with a mouthful of yoghurt - provides the spectator with the opportunity to catch a whole lot more teams, many of them from quite large schools, in action, while including a massive marquee in which one can purchase refreshments and farm-fresh vegetables.
In other words, something for mom and the kids too !
While most of the matches are shortened affairs, the two feature games are very enticing, with Stellenberg down to play HTS Drostdy and the hosts, Boland Landbou, set to take on Bellville in the latter stages of the morning.
If you're not a fan of large crowds, Dirkie Uys are testing the water out in Moorreesburg with their first Tiger Fest, which will involve, inter alia, the 1st XVs of the hosts, Piketberg, Porterville, Swartland and Curro Langebaan playing 25 minute matches.
There is also the Loerie Festival at picturesque Wittedrift High School outside Plettenberg Bay, at which the wraps come off most of the South Western Districts side, with the notable exception of Oakdale, Oudtshoorn and Outeniqua.
Even this early, there was a problem. Nico Malan indicated an unwillingness to play Outeniqua and the fixtures had to be rejigged. The Humansdorp side will now play Punt, while the pride of George find themselves without a game following the withdrawal of Argentinians Pueyreddon.
That’s still not all. Hugenote host Tygerberg and Charlie Hofmeyr travel to Bellville to face DF Malan in their annual pipe-openers, while Montana and Schoonspruit set off for the heady heights of Tulbagh to play the two local schools.
Saturday 9 March 2019
By now the ball is really rolling as three events open their gates to the masses.
This year’s Brackenfell Sports Day is chock-full of big-name boytjies, courtesy of Monsieur Stokkies Truter.
The big attractions start with Strand vs Labori and build up with Wynberg vs Milnerton, SACS vs Bellville, Oakdale vs Stellenberg, Paarl Gym vs Durbanville and Brackenfell vs Outeniqua.
In other words, if you’re a neutral and you’re trying to find a side to cast your weight behind, you can’t go wrong at the Brakke’s kennel.
Of course, these are only the sharp part of a very large iceberg. There are too many sides to mention from the lower strata also coming to strut their stuff.
In the watchful embrace of the impressive Winterhoek Mountains, the Porterville Bulfees begins with primary schools and junior age-groups on the Friday after which most groups camp out on the school hostel’s lawn before traipsing the 300 or so metres back to fields for the big guys.
This is unofficially known as Paarl Boys’ High’s weapons launch as many of the school’s teams play various opponents. The main game should have been Paarl Boys’ High vs Framesby, but the Port Elizabeth side decided against coming, meaning that Boishaai will now face HTS Drostdy in what promises to be an absolute humdinger.
Ironically, all these two schools’ other teams are scheduled to meet later in the season, the 1st XV match being the only one missing….
The other games aren’t that shabby either, with, inter alia, Tygerberg running out against the locals and Hopefield taking on Overberg.
For those further afield, there is the annual Lutzville Rugby Day, which will feature the 1st XVs of the host school, neighbours Vredendal, Vredendal Secondary, Clanwilliam Secondary, Worcester Gym, Augsburg Gym, Vanrhynsdorp, Monument Park, Cederberg Academy and Nuwerus. The fixtures will only be made known on Monday 25 February 2019, after which date they will appear on the relevant section of this website.
In isolated matches elsewhere on the day, Groenberg host Schoonspruit in Grabouw, Punt travel to Hermanus, Piketberg welcome Montagu and Swartland lock horns with DF Malan in Malmesbury.
Unfortunately, the Western Province doesn’t have the monopoly on problems.
Johan Els, long-time headmaster and 1st XV coach of Bonnievale, raised a pertinent issue that may also threaten other schools. While the Boksmart auditors are very efficient when it comes to school rugby, the process seems virtually non-existent regarding club rugby in the pretty province.
Just last weekend a Grade 9 pupil at Bonnievale was injured playing a club game, quite possibly in breach of the BS guidelines.
Els has raised the matter - which, judging by the correspondence into which I have been copied, has been both prompt and effective - simply because his school is so small that it can hardly afford to lose even one player in an incident that could so easily have been avoided.
Hopefully all turns out well for the Dairy Farmers; as far as WP goes, hold thumbs, please !
NB : Wynberg and World Schools Festival fixtures now up (Tuesday 26 February 2019)