BULLE BUILDING FOR THE SEASON AHEAD
Centre of attention. Oakdale no.13 Kurt Eybers plans his escape from two Drostdy
defenders in last year's match at Trappespark. (photo: Marlene Theron)
It’s a pretty safe bet that the question on the lips of all Oakdale supporters is whether their team of 2015 can go one step further than their immediate predecessors.
At the beginning of last season the Riversdale outfit was touted as potentially one of the strongest sides in the Western Cape. Unfortunately, home defeats to Paarl Gym (13 -27) and Paul Roos (11-24) and a poor closing fortnight, which saw them edged out by Framesby (16-20) and archrivals Boland Landbou (7-13), both on the road, dulled the shine.
Nevertheless, in explosive counter-attacking full-back Ruan Barnard and centre JT Jackson, whose talents as a playmaker and kicker were rewarded with SA Schools selection, they indisputably boasted two of the most influential backs in the province.
Finding replacements for them, now that they have matriculated, was always going to be a priority for Malan du Plessis and new forward coach André Otto and, apparently, that search is still on.
The rest of last year’s backline, except for wing JP Coetzee, is back. No. 9 Eckard Leicher, his bazooka-booted halfback partner Boeta Hamman and the outside centre/left wing combo of twins William and Kurt Eybers are hardly headless chickens, but the skill-set Jackson brought to the team doesn’t grow on trees, even those at a very successful agricultural school !
Four of last year’s pack will form the nucleus of the Bulle’s traditional strongpoint.
Bustling loose forward Renaldo Ferreira’s physical presence will be vital to the side’s ball acquisition and retention. In this regard he will be relying on the support of flank Bertie de Bod, who, although not always a starter, nevertheless enjoyed plenty of game-time in 2014. The other seasoned veterans are second-rowers Ewan Coetzee and his sometimes overzealous partner Adré Smith.
Their winter really kicks into gear with the Mutual and Federal Agri Oakdale Rugby Festival at Easter, prior to which the team travels to Uitenhage to play HTS Daniël Pienaar (Saturday 21 April 2015) and Stellenbosch, where they play HLS Jacobsdal at the Paul Roos 150 Day a week later.
This year’s festival sees an expanded field accommodating thirty 1st XVs, this at the expense of the handful of Under 14 teams that used to make up the numbers in the past.
It doesn’t require much scrutiny to notice that the increased attendance brings with it several top-class outfits, representing no fewer than eleven unions.
WP : Bellville, Monument Park, Durbanville, Brackenfell and Strand;
Boland : Montagu, Hermanus, Overberg, Bredasdorp, Augsburg Gym, Vredendal, Dirkie Uys and Labori;
EP : Die Brandwag, Marlow, Pearson, Muir and Kirkwood;
SWD : Oakdale, Langenhoven Gym and Knysna;
N Cape : Diamantveld and Upington;
Griffons : Welkom Gym and Voortrekker (Beth);
North West : Potch Gym;
Valke : Kempton Park;
Blue Bulls : Centurion;
FS : Sentraal (FS);
Namibia : Windhoek Gym.
The full list of fixtures for Day One, Thursday 4 April 2015, on which the Bulle take on Windhoek Gym in the main match, is available in the Fixtures section of this site.