2019 : THE HERE, THE THERE AND THE, UM, SOMEWHERE
“What a feeling !” Paarl Gym captain Marco van Rhyn’s body language says it all
after his side broke the drought to beat Paarl Boys’ High 18-17 at Faure
Street on Saturday 4 August 2019. (photo supplied by Paarl Gym)
The reason for conflating the customary three or four articles analysing the success stories and the failures at the end of each season into one is simply that this procedure has, over the course of several years, become rather boring.
One can usually single out the same seven teams - alphabetically: Boland Landbou, HTS Drostdy, Oakdale, Outeniqua, Paarl Boys’ High, Paarl Gym and Paul Roos - every time and be reasonably certain of hitting the jackpot more often than not.
These schools are all the proof you need of the expression “success breeds success”; they unfailingly tend to perform the best on both the local and the national stage simply because, being regarded as the production line of Craven Week players and, therefore, those with the potential to attain higher honours, they “attract” (in the broadest possible sense of the word) an endless supply of talented youngsters.
But this year provided a few shocks, the first being that the success of these schools is roughly the reverse of the order set out in the second paragraph.
It came as a breath of fresh air to a public that has grown so used to the “same old, same old” rankings that things underwent a slight shake-up in 2019.
Firstly, Paarl Gym finally slew the Boishaai dragon, both these schools gave Paul Roos horns and all three of them dealt summarily with Boland Landbou.
Gym’s success is all the more notable because they only have two-thirds of the intake of their neighbours and less than half of that of the Young Maties. For that reason alone, winning interschools tasted particularly sweet.
Paarl Boys’ High weren’t far behind, but second place is second place, even if the Brug Street Boys produced more provincial Under 18 caps.
Much was expected of Paul Roos, based largely on their U16 side of 2017, but they never really caught up with the Paarl sides after being psychologically lulled into a false sense of security by a string of easy wins against overseas opponents both here and in Japan.
Boland Landbou didn’t so much fall off the bus as forget to make copies of its scheduled stops. Insiders may point to inadequate recruitment for the 2015 intake, but when you toss in the huge numerical disadvantage that they start with, it becomes all the more apparen. Of all people, they should know that what you reap depends on what you sow !
Bishops and Rondebosch both started promisingly - as in “beat Boland Landbou” - but that achievement lost its cachet when other schools did the same. The Platinum Blues looked good as the season built to a climax, but their version of the Trojan Horse sank - or, rather, drowned - them against St Andrew’s, after which they were a shadow of their former selves.
Bosch showed great defensive technique and pulled a massive rabbit out of the hat when they had more front rowers selected for the province than Boishaai, but injuries, er, hurt them, despite which they pulled it all together to down Bishops heroically at the end.
Wynberg and SACS were really just also-rans, competitively that’s all they normally are, although the Berg really gelled nicely for the second Bosch game and actually finished higher on the Premier A log than the Farmers !
The Premier B tier was always going to be a dogfight between neighbours Durbanville and Stellenberg, the former registering a glorious triumph in their interschools for the first time in a very long while despite internal issues.
That the Durbeez achieved this despite playing generally inferior opposition to the Jade Brigade makes their achievement all the more surprising. Think about it, if Angelo Osch hadn’t moved to Paarl, he would have been on the winning side at interschools…. (OK, he probably wouldn’t have been picked for Western Province, so it all balances out, I suppose).
Tygerberg, who have perfected the technique known as “maddening inconsistency”, and Bellville were the best of the rest, the latter spurred on by points machine Jaco Oosthuizen, who scraped over the 200-point mark on the final day.
Strand, Brackenfell newcomers Parel Vallei and DF Malan all had their moments, but these were few and far between. The Helderbergers made the jump up, but found out the hard way just how much higher the standard required to compete in the higher leagues is.
South Western Districts
The inverted success rates up the Garden Route were nothing short of astonishing, with both Outeniqua and Oakdale running into heavy weather during the winter months.
Outeniqua might have had high hopes after trouncing Brackenfell, but the festivals took their toll. However, a miraculous turnaround saw the Quaggas put a 64-7 defeat to Grey College behind them to whack Noord-Kaap 50-7, after which they finally enjoyed a run, mostly of home games, to end with a 7-6 record.
Oakdale had no such luck. A poor start saw an improvement of sorts, but a defeat at the hands of Outeniqua in the big local clash, and home reversals against Framesby, Grey College and Boland Landbou in the last three games cemented a rather forgettable six months.
So, it was up to Langenhoven Gym to seize the initiative, which they did to very good effect, finishing with a commendable 10-3 split, the only real blot on a very neat copybook being an incomprehensible away defeat to Bredasdorp. Of course, it does need to be borne in mind that they conveniently didn’t play either the Quaggas or the Bulle !
Oudtshoorn didn’t play enough games for a realistic appraisal, but the other side from Ostrich Central, Bridgton, raised those famous feathers high with nine wins in thirteen starts, three of those defeats coming at TSRF 2019, after which only Langenhoven Gym could better them.
Langenhoven High ruled in Riversdale, almost by default, winning seven matches and losing the same number, and Knysna’s season almost mirrored Oakdale’s, although again, they faced vastly inferior opposition.
Once again forced to adopt a nomadic lifestyle to fill out their fixture list, Worcester’s HTS Drostdy started well with five festival wins on the road before reality kicked in and they only won two more games, both at Trappespark, where Framesby did the unthinkable by beating their hosts.
Any comparison of the fortunes of the other Boland schools is rendered spurious at best as, in many cases - at least, the most successful ones this season - their high success rate comes from their not playing the same - read “challenging” - opposition.
Hopefield is the exception in that they did play at least a few mainstream teams, but Ashton Secondary, Cederberg Academy, New Orleans and Schoonspruit can claim little more than “big fish in a small pond” status, much as I enjoyed watching all of them.
Vredendal, who made a marvellous recovery after a terrible 2018; Robertson, who ran them a close second in the Lazarus stakes; Charlie Hofmeyr and Montagu were all there or thereabouts when the final whistle sounded.
In fact, judging by the scores and reports, the games between the last three, plus the Hopefield vs Robertson fixture, were as competitive as any matches in the entire Western Cape this year.
The fact that Piketberg, Groenberg and Weston boast higher win records than Hermanus can only be put down to some inexplicable blow-outs by the Whalers - amongst them against Groenberg, funnily enough (but they aren’t laughing) - which left them with an 8-1-7 split.
Tiny Vanrhynsdorp (6-3) could conceivably have been higher placed, despite the loss of at least one star player to a leading northern suburbs school, had two sides not withdrawn from fixtures against them.
Stellenbosch and Bonnievale showed that they are only human with very average returns for a change, while Klein Nederburg, Lutzville and Dirkie Uys remained good middle-of-the-road performers.
Worcester Gym and Labori both just scraped over the 50% performance coefficient, but it was strange, and sad, to see Swartland and Hugenote perform so poorly along with Porterville and Overberg, for both of whom the wheel of fortune described a rather unfortunate 360 degree circuit.
Bredasdorp had a tough time of it, while Augsburg Gym struggled almost as much as in 2018, just keeping their heads above the water occupied by perennial minnows Paulus Joubert, Vredenburg and Montana, although the second of these confounded everybody by winning all three games plus the Trophy at TSRF 2019 and then losing all fourteen of their subsequent starts !
There you have it, but you can rest assured that not one of the teams mentioned above gave less than their best on every occasion they pulled their 1st XV jerseys over their heads. Likewise, the coaches are to be applauded for instilling in their charges all that is positive about the game, which invariably made huge demands on their time. Everyone deserves the rest !