FIXTURES ’21 : WE LIVE IN HOPE
The real Ronaldo ! Durbanville hooker Ronaldo Ismail thunders into a Stellenberg defender during the Durbies’ titanic 46-39 home Interschools victory on Saturday 17 August 2019. (photo: supplied)
If the 2021 fixture list that can now be found in the appropriate section of this website is anything to go by, it doesn’t seem that even the COVID-19 pandemic has been able to dampen the spirits of schools rugby organizers throughout the Western Cape, to most of whom I am indebted for their unstinting co-operation in facilitating the publication thereof.
And that tireless group includes WP master organizer, Howard Wilson, who sent out what he cautiously dubbed the “Semi-Final Fixture List” in the first week of November, which is considerably earlier than is normally the case.
The list is, however, by no means complete. Fixtures still outstanding include those of the northern Boland (Augsburg Gym, Vredendal and Lutzville will be issuing an integrated list later this month), the smaller SWD schools, various festivals and the regional Boland leagues (the Wednesday fixtures in that province) which traditionally appear comparatively late in the day. These will be added in as they become available.
However, before you start making hotel bookings or travel plans, be warned. While the fixtures are just about as good as final, there may still be a few changes in the WP Premier A and B teams’ games. That “Semi-“ prefix is there for a reason. However, the rest are as good as written in stone.
Right, now let’s look at the interesting features that appear on this very concentrated landscape.
The first thing that strikes one is the long overdue reintegration, albeit gradual, of HTS Drostdy into the WP Premier A scene.
The isolation to which the Donkeys have been subjected in recent years, during which they have been forced into a nomadic Haarlem Globetrotter-like lifestyle, seems at last to have been consigned to memory.
As a result, the Worcester giants, now in the capable hands of Sylvester Booysen, will be visiting Boland Landbou (17 April), Paarl Gym (12 June) and Paul Roos (31 July). They also visit the Mother City to play Durbanville (27 March), and Tygerberg (14 August). Were it not for Galpille’s visit to Grey College on 8 May, the Donkeys might even have found themselves an opening in Paarl Boys’ High’s programme.
An interesting addition to the usual schedule comes on 20 March, which is now effectively Opening Day, with Wynberg visiting Outeniqua in George. Then, just a week later, on 27 March, a date which the shift in the terms has rendered something of a rest-day before the exertions of the Easter weekend, Paul Roos welcome Oakdale to the hallowed turf of the Markotter.
The relatively late alterations to the schools calendar have meant that both the Porterville Bulfees, at which Boishaai will be playing Welkom Gym, and Brackenfell Sports Days now take place on 20 March.
Following the recent example of Parel Vallei, who took the brave step up to the WP Premier B battleground, several sides seem to be taking the initial steps along a similar route. Milnerton, Fairmont (five matches each) and Melkbosstrand (three matches) will be testing their strength against various members of the local second tier fraternity. In fact, the Millies will also match wits with SACS up in Newlands on 31 July.
And so to the elephant in the room.
The fact that there has been no schoolboy rugby for an entire year really ought to sound a note of caution for schools who might be overkeen to return to the ways of the old normal with scant respect for the circumstances that have shaped what is likely to be a very different “new normal”.
Driven no doubt by the overarching quest to be the top boys’ school in the country, the traditional big guns seem perfectly willing to submit their players to a nightmare start to what can only be described as a campaign.
The programme for the first month or so of the 2021 season makes no allowance for the intensity of the punishment the young bodies are bound to endure after such a long lay-off, irrespective of fitness drills, conditioning and the like.
While the fixture list is just as merciless in its treatment of all the teams, let’s take Paarl Boys’ High’s schedule as an example.
Saturday 20 March vs Welkom Gym (in Porterville)
Thursday 1 April vs TBA (Monnas Centenary Festival)
Saturday 3 April vs TBA (St John’s Easter Festival)
Monday 5 April vs TBA (St John’s Easter Festival)
Wednesday 7 April vs Noordheuwel (North-South Tshwane)
Saturday 10 April vs Monnas (North-South Tshwane)
Saturday 17 April vs Outeniqua (in George)
Friday 23 April vs Affies (Wildeklawer in Kimberley)
Monday 26 April vs Glenwood (Wildeklawer in Kimberley)
Saturday 1 May vs Rondebosch (away)
Saturday 8 May vs Grey College (first home game of the year at Brug Street)
That’s eleven matches in the space of just seven weeks, with five of them coming in a hectic five-day period ! Plus, the majority of these opponents will surely number among the heavy hitters of South African schools rugby.
And Ole Gunnar Solksjaer complains about Manchester United’s programme !
Mentioning the two alongside one another is strangely appropriate as the bottom line is ultimately exactly the same : if you want to be top dog, you must be prepared to do the hard yards. Then again, the footballers do receive obscene salaries for their trouble !
Whether any of this will actually take place ultimately depends on the Department of Basic Education and our adherence to the necessary safety measures. Time to hold thumbs !