Two shades of Grey.  Paarl Boys’ High centre Noegh Hayward (in possession) tries
to force his way past Grey College flyhalf Zander du Plessis (left) and flank
Raynardo Gouveia (right) during last Saturday's match at Brug Street,
won 34-20 by the Bloemfontein side. (photo: Poppie Terblanche)

After the palpable excitement of last weekend, this Saturday might seem something of an anti-climax, but that would be underestimating the fierce competitive spirit that throbs in the heart of every 1st XV rugby player.

The headline attractions are the two all-Premier A fixtures – Bishops vs Paul Roos and Rondebosch vs Paarl Gym – backed by a supporting cast of three matches in which second-tier teams face each another – Bellville vs Brackenfell, Monument Park vs Tygerberg and Strand vs De Kuilen.

Otherwise SACS host Durbanville, while Boland Landbou, Wynberg and Stellenberg all hit the N2 – the last-mentioned to face Outeniqua in what promises to be the match of the weekend – and Paarl Boys’ High enjoy a week of recovery after the rigours of hosting Grey College.

The belief that people don’t come to watch Bishops win, but to see them play has proved as true this season as at any other time, but, as the Platinum Blues and their adherents start to dream, a new statement has gradually started to replace that cliché.

With six games behind them – one less than the other Premier A teams – those in the know are warning that one mustn’t get too excited about this team until they’ve played at least one of the out-of-towners.  And, after last Saturday, this week’s visitors Paul Roos have firmly established themselves as the best of that select group.

They truly are a team with no discernible weaknesses as their five-try explosion against Paarl Gym showed.  Their four tries were equally shared between second-rowers in the scrum and the wings, which is about as evenly-spread as you can get.

The Maroons have a monstrous front row with Hanru Jacobs and eight-try hooker JJ Kotzé in imperious form, while their backline is anchored by two intelligent players in flyhalf Juan Mostert and full-back Kade Wolhuter.

The fact that the Young Maties have scored a remarkable 74 tries in their eight games is the kind of statistic one might expect of a side that runs from all parts of the field.  Like Bishops.

The hosts’ threequarters have become more penetrative with every game as the halfback pairing of William Rose and Jordan Meyer grow used to each other.  Bingo Ivanisevic has proved a handful out on the left wing, while full-back Liam Kloosman’s growing confidence can be seen in his willingness to join the line on attack.

This is going to be a riveting tactical battle, a must-see for all students of the genre.

Through no fault of their own, Rondebosch have had two weeks to mull over unremarkable defeats at home to Wynberg (19-31) and away to Boland Landbou (12-67), while their visitors will be itching to atone for last Saturday’s televised 32-13 thrashing at the hands of Paul Roos.

Last week I maintained that Gym couldn’t play as ordinarily as they had in beating Welkom Gym in Kimberley 24-7 in Kimberley on the Monday.  They didn’t, but they were still thwarted by the precision of Paul Roos and that will have hurt.  Big time.

Rondebosch have put in some very average performances since an impressive showing at St Stithian’s and will need their defence to shape up ahead of the northern Paarl unit’s arrival.

Ross Stone is reliable as is full-back Dalvon Blood, but the midfield has been suspect and will need to tighten up if they are to contain Dawid “Duffy” Kellerman and Stephan du Toit. 

On the other hand, if there was one department in which the visitors were found wanting against the Maroons, it was their defence out wide.  Only Saturday will tell whether Bosch can take a leaf out of this chapter of the Paul Roos playbook.

When it comes to the tight exchanges, Juan Beukes, JJ Rossouw and Mark Etzebeth are brutal up front, which is not particularly good news for Seth Christian – the prop with a kick – and Chulu Mputing.

One can only hope that Mark Lindenberg’s troops rally to the cause on the Tinkie Heyns paddock.  If they don’t, things could get mathematically ugly.

If there’s one thing you can be sure of it is that the SACS vs Durbanville match will not see a repeat of the 100-0 scoreline of 2017.

A rather unsatisfactory draw away to Hugenote last weekend apart, the Durbeez are a whole new kettle of fish this year, particularly out back where Mondrey Titus and Luciano Petersen run things from behind the pack and an inventive backline boasts game-breakers Len Pelser and Juanré de Klerk, both of whom ask serious questions of opposing centres.

In contrast, the Young Ikeys have looked to their tight forwards to establish a platform from which they can attack.  Ethan Burger, Josh Barrett and Jean Minnaar have formed a lethal triumvirate in an area where the hosts could quite possibly take the game away from the northern suburbs side.

Boland Landbou seem destined to return to their role as country-cousin also-rans after losing to Wynberg at the weekend.

In this light, a trip to Port Elizabeth to face a Framesby team just returned from the rigours of the SANIX event in Japan could prove just the tonic for Oloff Bergh’s troops.

That said, the Farmers contrived to lose their home match against the same opposition under very similar circumstances last season, so all bets are off.

Although virtually the whole of Wynberg travels to take on Grey High in a wide variety of different sporting codes, it is no secret that success in the 1st XV game is the major prize.

The way this Berg team is going about its business – in terms of attitude as much as results – it would take a very brave or very stupid soul to bet against the lads from Lovers Walk taking the laurels.

In a side which deliberately avoids conferring star status on any of its members, it is difficult to ignore the rampant form of hooker Jason Alexander, whose unremitting good work definitely goes a long way to underpinning the side’s performances.

Clean line-out work by skipper Mika Schubert and Liam Lotz and the dynamic input of flank Inga Halu and his willing apprentice, Reece Bryce, has meant that the backs have received more than enough quality ball to express themselves.

Grey on their home turf are never pushovers, but this game could conceivably be Berg’s for the taking.

Poor old Stellenberg !  I mean that figuratively, of course: the school is located in an extremely affluent area and is half my age, but still. 

One could pardon them for wondering if they’re actually going to be involved in what passes for a close contest this season.  In eight starts they’ve thrashed Parel Vallei (74-10), Strand (76-0), Noord-Kaap (52-12) and Brackenfell (47-0), but been on the receiving end against HTS Drostdy (19-36), Menlopark (10-42), Monument (19-41) and Glenwood (13-52) !

That said, the omens are good that this will, indeed, be the elusive nailbiter.  One has to go back to 2014 to find the last one-sided meeting between the schools.  Outeniqua romped home 37-12 in George on that occasion, subsequent to which the Quaggas have won 22-16 (away) and 34-27 (at home), but lost last year 38-43 on the Stellies’ turf, results which, interestingly, serve as a very good indication of the steadily improving state of Jade Brigade rugby. 

Up front Divan Batt’s side boasts powerful props Jason Jansen and 2017 WP Craven Week hooker Josh Muller, two excellent locks in Dylan de Leeuw and Tyrone Rose and energetic loose forwards Ethan Paulsen and Khyro van der Westhuizen, whereas the George side has two very burly front rowers in hooker Eldon Lotz and Jaco Gerber, experienced Pieter Ferreira behind him and the relentless Braam van Huyssteen plying his trade in the rucks and mauls.

The Outeniqua backline never fails to excite.  This year’s vintage includes Aylen Schabort and Zinedine Robinson at half-back, Hendrik Hattingh and Darren Fortuin in the midfield, Ridge Gaffley and Herschelle Otto on the wings and Matthew Thorne, who loves nothing more than attacking from full-back.   

Stellies has two capable scrumhalves, Keegan Joubert and Conwill Conradie, to service pivot Nivan Petersen, while centre Eugene Bosman has been in try-scoring form recently, as have wings Yowan Jonkers and Tharquinn Manuel.

Mmm, a trip up the Garden Route has suddenly started to look rather appealing !   

Of the WP Premier B fixtures, only the Bellville vs Brackenfell match looks promising, and even then only if the Brakke are able to reduce their seemingly endless list of injuries.

The Lions had things as easy (49-8 vs Parel Vallei) as their visitors found the going tough (0-47 vs Stellenberg) last week.  While their neighbours might not return home victorious, they are at least sure to provide Deuvajio Solomons’s team with more of a challenge.

Tygerberg should be too good for hosts Monument Park.  Although but the Kraaifontein team have upped their game considerably this year, which is always something encouraging, they lack depth in crucial areas, relying largely on the try-scoring exploits of brilliant flank Frank Kalonji and the tee work of centre Branden Pretorius.

Just a few weeks ago, De Kuilen would have been odds-on favourites to beat a Strand team that has been struggling this campaign. 

However, two wins for the Kuile over SWD opposition in Oudtshoorn were followed by a disappointing defeat away to Swartland last Saturday, while, on the same day, the Helderberg side turned their fortunes around by recording a comprehensive 32-19 home victory over Charlie Hofmeyr in the wake of humiliating home defeats to Stellenberg (0-76) and Bellville (8-43).

If De Kuilen can sort out their goalkicking woes, this could be a close-fought contest.

The Boland programme offers some intriguing fare, top of the bill being three traditional showdowns between Piketberg and Schoonspruit, Hopefield and Vredenburg and Calvinia and Vredendal.

The first four of the above teams have all been enjoying relatively successful seasons, while Vredendal, not at their best this year, are likely to be staring down a wide barrel.  

If the White Ship is to repel the Schoonies boarders, it will have to hatch a plan to shut down the Malmesbury side’s potent backline, in particular scrumhalf Ajay Larey, centre Caylo Markus, wing Manuel Geduld and lanky fullback Connor Mahoney.

On a normal day Hopefield would be favoured to come out on top against Vredenburg, but the absence of inspirational scrumhalf Gregan Papier with a hand injury might serve to level matters somewhat.

Elsewhere Worcester Gym welcome a Hugenote side that does not always travel well and Charlie Hofmeyr entertain Swartland. 

The Bosvarke have a trump card in the form of prolific tee-man Ussiëll Langeveldt, so the Blackies would be well advised to be on their best behaviour in the rucks and mauls. 

Neither the Charlies nor the Rockies have been able to maintain any sort of consistency, so a win in their clash is pretty much up for grabs.

Not too far away, Montana will be hoping to keep Robertson winless in Red Wine Central, while in-form New Orleans host Groenberg and Riversdale’s Langenhoven High face a stern test when tough nuts Montagu come to town.

Apart from the Outeniqua-Stellenberg face-off, the main game in the land of the Eagles should see Langenhoven Gym secure a home win in the Oudtshoorn derby.

What’s up on 19 May, then ?  Most eyes will be on the two major attractions – Paul Roos vs Paarl Boys’ High and Oakdale vs Paarl Gym – but HTS Drostdy at home to Outeniqua, Boland Landbou’s visit to the Piley Rees for a date with Bishops and Stellenberg’s arrival in the southern suburbs to play SACS are certainly not anything at which to sniff.


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