MMMMM…(YAWN)…THE SLEEPY CAPE AWAKENS !
“After the fox !” Outeniqua scrumhalf Abré Minnie tries to evade a pack of Paarl Gym pursuers
during the Quaggas’ 8-11 home defeat on Saturday 20 July 2019. (photo: Gavin Falck)
One of the favourite taunts levelled against the gentlefolk of the Mother City by its inland cousins, in particular the rat-racers of Gauteng, is that everything happens so slowly down south that the binnelanders sometimes wonder why we don’t walk with a half-reclining gait that matches our sedate (somnambulistic ?) style.
They’ve actually got a point this time round, with the local season only really getting under way on Saturday 14 March 2020, rather than a week earlier. But, even then, the blokes up in Tshwane are partly to blame, as you will see below.
Having accepted invitations to the Afgri Prestige Schools Rugby Day at Loftus Versfeld on 14 March, Boland Landbou and Stellenberg - two of the schools which have, of late, provided seventy-minute entertainment out at the Windmeul warm-up event - have opted not to expose their squads to full matches on that day.
While we are touching on the subject of sleep, it is heartwarming to know that one of the matters that is keeping the High Schools Challenge hopefuls upcountry awake at night is the dawning of the nasty realization that they will be obliged to field thirteen sides for their entry to be approved. That requires a whole lot more than a cursory visit to the Malmesbury area, for example !
And so it is that the local season begins on a rather peaceful note with two rugby days packed with shortened games.
However, if you’re desperate enough, you might consider heading up to Knysna on Friday 21 February 2020 to watch the local school gets to grips with Sporting of Mar Del Plata from Argentina. I find it difficult to understand the South Americans’ continuing fascination with the more remote parts of the Southern Cape, but if it floats what’s left of their fleet, good luck to them.
Saturday 29 February 2020
The first festival is the CWL Baard Auto Sports Day on Saturday 29 February 2020 in the delightful town of Hopefield.
What originated in 2007 as a fund-raising event for a tour to Argentina has grown exponentially and is set to feature some 28 schools who have indicated that they will be attending.
The majority of the teams will be the usual Boland suspects : Charlie Hofmeyr, Worcester Gym, Swartland, Porterville and Augsburg Gym, with a few Cape Town sides tossed in for good measure.
Ice-cold beer will be available at the Sports Club, where die-hards can also view the day’s Superugby, while there will be a wide assortment of eats on sale throughout the day, which is scheduled to run from 08:00 to 17:30.
Oops, almost forgot, there is also a full programme of netball scheduled.
Saturday 7 March 2020
The Old Mutual Agri Insure Boland Landbou Rugby Day at Windmeul is basically an upmarket version of the Hopefield shindig, the Farmers’ presence in the Western Province set-up at least ensuring that there will be a broader representation from the peninsula schools.
Many would argue that, now that it’s reverted exclusively to shortened games, the high point of the day is the mountain of farm produce fresh from the ground for the tammies (tannies, meisies and sussies) to ooh and aah over.
Tuesday 10 March 2020
If you still feel the need for more shortened games, the annual Newlands Day should fill you to overflowing.
The positive aspect is that it does feature all the WP Premier A teams plus a generous sprinkling of Premier B and lower league sides.
Saturday 14 March 2020
Now we’re talking.
First on the list comes the Porterville Bulfees, simply because it features the first huge match of the new season when Paarl Boys’ High take on Monument barely a week before the former’s trip to Ireland gets under way.
It will be intriguing to see how the Brug Street boys handle the level of commitment required while at the same time avoiding tour-threatening injuries.
Of course, many will be thinking of the four local sides - Boland Landbou, Stellenberg, Paarl Gym and Outeniqua - who will be strutting their stuff at the Prestige Day in Tshwane.
Then there’s the Brackenfell Rugby Day, which features Bellville vs SACS and Oakdale vs WP Talent Identification Programme, with added spice in the form of Durbanville vs Strand and the hosts against what promises to be a crackerjack Swartland side.
In a galaxy far, far away, the Lutzville Sports Day, which is bound to attract its usual list of suspects, also takes place.
There are several individual games, the most eagerly-anticipated of which sees Wynberg travel to Trappespark to face a HTS Drostdy team now in the hands of a new regime.
Week ending Saturday 21 March 2020
By now you will be wondering when the other two members of the WP Premier A division, Rondebosch and Bishops, are going to stop idling and engage their gears.
The former will be embarking on an inland tour, which starts with a match against Hilton College on Wednesday 18 March, before moving on to a meeting with Michaelhouse as a Superugby curtain-raiser at King’s Park in Durban on Saturday 21 March 2020.
From there the touring party moves across for two matches, the opponents for which have yet to be confirmed, at the Namibian Desert Festival on Wednesday 25 March and Friday 27 March 2020 respectively.
Some might question the wisdom of what appears to be a very lengthy journey traversing the bottom of the continent, but closer inspection reveals it to be nothing short of a masterstroke for several reasons.
Firstly, the party will consist of two squads, the 1sts and the Colts. Apart from playing the corresponding Hilton Colts, the latter will also relieve a lot of the pressure on the senior group by playing two fixtures, against Port Natal and Windhoek Private School on 20 and 23 March respectively, that the flagship side would otherwise have had to play.
Secondly, after this excursion, the school is done with travelling for the year, in other words they are giving the Easter festivals a miss. With fixtures against Paul Roos (4 April) and Boland Landbou (18 April), not to mention the Wynberg Festival on the weekend of 25 April, their programme is daunting enough already !
Thirdly - and most obviously - those fringe players who might not have made it into the 1st XV tour group will get a chance to press their claims for promotion in front of the senior coaching staff.
Neighbours Bishops will be playing two matches at the Grey High School Festival in Port Elizabeth. The first of these, on Saturday 21 March, is against St Andrew’s, which means that for the first time in a very long time - if ever, actually - the Platinum Blues will be playing this huge derby away from home in consecutive years.
Last year’s game provided a sobering result. In fact, when a source told me that the team “just didn’t pitch up” at last year’s 22-42 drubbing, his comment ironically left one wondering whether that might not have been a bad idea, as it turned out.
On Monday 23 March the visitors will take on Dale College.
SACS will also be in the Windy City, but only for one game, on 21 March against hosts Grey High, after which they head off up to Gauteng for the World Schools Festival.
Somewhere during the week Paarl Boys’ High head off to the Emerald Isle for what should prove to be three pretty taxing outings.
Friday 20 March also sees the opening salvo in the Worcester North-South Festival, hosted by HTS Drostdy, with the Donkeys in action against Ben Vorster.
Saturday 21 March 2020
This is D-Day for a whole host of festivals, ranging from the rather low-key TSRF, through the one at Oakdale all the way to the heavyweight North-South Festival in Tshwane.
The other three winelands schools will be joined by Stellenberg, Durbanville and Durbanville at the last-mentioned above.
Hopefully, the matches will be streamed live by some thoughtful outfit or other. The rugby promises to be of at least as high a standard as the Easter and Wildeklawer Festivals, which follow two and four weeks later respectively.
Later in the week, Affies host the World Schools Festival, at which the province will be represented by Oakdale, Paul Roos and SACS.
As you can well imagine, the fixtures are far too numerous to mention. Best consult the appropriate section on this website and prepare adequately to indulge your sporting passion.
In closing, the Parktown tragedy’s ramifications seemed to have reached as far as Cape Town when one school was briefly forced to withdraw from the TSRF because someone in the chain of command was unhappy about the potential risks involved, but fortunately a happy resolution to the situation was quickly reached.