THE WAIT OF EXPECTATION
Happy times ! Rondebosch's Jamie King (centre) and Zain Davids (right) trot back
to the halfway line after King had scored in the 2014 home game against Bishops.
(photo: Peter van As)
As a new year at the grindstone begins for most adults, schools rugby followers enter that most frustrating of periods, what I have decided to call the wait of expectation. Don’t worry, the players themselves aren’t about to get away scot free; they are already experiencing the flip-side of the coin – the weight of expectation.
Ever since the end of the 2014 season, all involved have been declaring how their schools’ dented records will receive plenty of panel-beating prior to game-time 2015.
Now is the time for one to take a realistic look at how likely this is to materialize.
As the days trickle by, so that interminable wait becomes more and more fraught with anxiety. The frustrating thing is that there is nothing whatsoever anyone can do about it !
The more oppressive weight, that experienced by the players, is only partly alleviated by the practices and gym sessions that started shortly after the end of last campaign.
Even so, being human might not be considered an adequate excuse when it comes to crunch time, especially when you consider the baggage accumulated over previous years that has to be cleared away in the course of the winter ahead.
And so, rather than simply listing all the returning WP Premier A combatants, this article will outline the hopes supporters are pinning on these teams for the new season.
The lightest load will, in all probability, be the one on Wynberg’s shoulders.
It was obvious early on that the team of 2014 was going to be the school’s best in several years.
The Southern Suburbs clean-sweep and a confident victory over Noord-Kaap may have been the only tangible – for want of a better word – high points, but few would disagree that the whole level at which the unit operated was quite remarkable.
Their patient supporters are likely to be slightly less demanding than the team management during the rebuilding phase.
Bishops are in the happy position of not having to achieve extraordinary results in order to please their most discerning fan base.
All the Platinum Blues need to do is play the game in the time-honoured Bishops way, running the ball wide in their sometimes apparently carefree manner. If they win along the way, well, that’s a bonus.
Every game brings with it new opportunities to dazzle and win more hearts. Backs like Cornel Smit, Tristan Leyds and André Manuel are unlikely to disappoint.
Fate has dealt a body blow to a distinctly upbeat SACS squad that lost only three or four players at the end of the 2014 season.
Matters entirely removed from rugby have deprived them of several of their potential stalwarts for this campaign. What is worse is that those who are no longer with them will in all likelihood be playing against them for other suburban Premier A schools.
Not that such events will in any way impact on their loyal, if long-suffering, following. Graeme Wepener and Rian van der Westhuizen, an old hand returning to the fray, deserve the highest praise for their sanguine approach. However, even they will admit that a disproportionate amount will be resting on flyhalf Jordan Chait.
They seem to have had to shoulder enough of a load already – and the first term hasn’t even started !
Neither Paarl Gym nor best buddies Boys’ High will be more encumbered than usual this season.
Gym might just enjoy the upper hand, come Interschools 2015, but they will know better than most that the tide is about to undergo a radical change with the approaching decelopment of the Boishaai Gold Class into the 1st XVs of the next few years.
The northern Paarl outfit does not have anything – OK, maybe Johan Visser and Taigh Schoor – to crow about, which everyone by now fully understands means zilch because even a pretty ordinary Gimmie side is capable of demolishing most opponents anyway.
The Boishaai Under 14 groups of 2012 and 2013 cost a tidy sum to assemble, but their results have shown that the investment, for that is what it was, was worthwhile. The former group oozes talent like a coalminer does sweat and, under careful management, will be their ruthless machine after a 2015 spent paying their dues in the open age group.
The first wave will have the rare privilege of serving its apprenticeship under the expert tutelage of übercoach Sean Erasmus and with powerful enforcers like Ruben de Villiers, Wicus Groenewald and Leo Kruger to show them the ropes.
Paul Roos should be blissfully free of any baggage this time round.
Not for them the overwhelming demands of realizing the huge potential implied by their no. 1 national ranking at Under16 level in 2013.
The introduction of several of those budding stars last campaign was so successful that the way has been paved for the seamless integration of the remainder into a team already riding the crest of a wave alongside a talented surfer called Nico Leonard !.
On the other hand, both Boland Landbou and Rondebosch find themselves toting the heavy stuff.
The fact that neither of them lost many players to the recent matric flush has been paramount in a lot of people’s minds since relatively early last winter.
The Farmers only said goodbye to a lock, a prop and a centre and have made-to-order replacements queueing up to audition. Toss in the steadying influence of outrageously talented Jondré Williams in the crucial scrumhalf position and you can understand why seeing their name creeping closer on the fixture list is likely to cause rising levels of anxiety amongst opponents.
Their pride has taken too many body blows in the recent past and long lazy days out at their spectacular Windmeul campus will have afforded them plenty of time to mull over their long memories, many of which they will be intent on obliteraing this season.
Many aficionados believe that this could finally be Rondebosch’s year in the sun, a contention supported by several positive signs.
Ranked sixth nationally at U16 level in 2013, they, like the Maroons, saw several of their number thrust into action to combat an horrific injury list last time round.
They will also have learnt from the sad fate that befell Bellville in 2014, when the northern suburbs’ highly successful Under 16s of the previous year found the transition into the senior age-group, even in the Premier B tier, a whole series of bridges too far
They will also be mindful by the solid position their 1sts found themselves in in June 2013, only to have their entire season nosedive after half-time in the Cape Schools Week match against Muir.
Perhaps most importantly, though, will be the resolve that comes with knowing that this group made successive southern suburbs clean sweeps for three consecutive seasons, starting in 2011. An additional boost is that Mark Lindenberg, who guided them through the first and last of those years, is likely to be helping Clinton van Rensburg with the coaching duties.
Hardly a pedigree to frighten the giants from the Winelands, you might argue. But, then, others might say that, in Zain Davids, they have a monster of their own.
You never know, maybe Great Expectations could be reinvented as a reality show this winter !