“Do I go around him, under him or just through him ?” Rondebosch hooker Suhaib
Ajmoodien ponders the threat posed by SACS no. 8 Alex Halvorsen during
their sides’ 28-28 draw last Saturday. (photo: Robert Gad)
It’s just as well that Friday marks the beginning of an out-weekend for the Winelands schools: with Brug Street girding itself up for what could quite well be a season-defining clash between Paarl Boys’ High and Grey College, one wouldn’t bet on even the local players pitching up for their games, forget about the spectators.
The rest of the fixture list has co-operated nicely too, three of the southern suburbs schools facing Premier B opposition and the fourth, Wynberg, being free due to an unfortunate double-booking with Durbanville, who end up visiting Bishops.
The last-mentioned above, Bellville vs Rondebosch and SACS vs a Tygerberg side that lost at home to bitter rivals DF Malan on Saturday hardly constitute an exciting programme.
In fact, the best of the other matches on offer appear to be Stellenberg’s trip to Outeniqua, a suddenly intriguing second tier clash between said surprise package, DF Malan and Brackenfell and the much-anticipated Boland showdown between Swartland and Charlie Hofmeyr in Malmesbury. Even Porterville’s home fixture against Bonnievale is potentially very exciting.
I have very little first-hand knowledge of either side set to do battle in central Paarl, but it is hardly a secret that, in this quasi-professional era, the match represents considerably more than forty or so youngsters tearing around a rugby field.
The stakes are as high as they can get at this level. Anywhere.
On the one hand, Grey College have an outstanding pedigree which indisputably places them on top of the South African schoolboy rugby pantheon if you take the last, say, ten years into consideration.
In 2015 various factors saw them ousted from the no. 1 spot, one of the most crucial matches being their 19-21 home defeat at the hands of Boishaai, for whom prolific outside backs Manny Rass and Tyreeq February crossed the line.
Now the boys from Bloem find themselves in a position to wrest back their perennial initiative by dishing out exactly the same dose: downing the Strepies on their home paddock.
They have learned the hard way that there can be no more emphatic way of announcing your resurgence than by knocking a side unbeaten in two years off their perch in front of their own supporters.
Psychologically, one couldn’t ask for better motivation, especially when one takes into account the perceptible shift in the number of SA Schools caps away from the Freestaters and towards their opponents.
The fact that the greatest burden of responsibility lies on the capable shoulders of towering Boishaai captain Salmaan Moerat, son of a very well-known local family, should be some reassurance to the good folk of this Winelands paradise.
Hopefully, he can put in as influential a performance as he has been doing week in, week out in recent months, but that still leaves plenty for his team-mates to do.
The Quaggas dispatched the Struisies with consummate ease last weekend (50-7 in Oudtshoorn), but coming up against relatively unpretentious opposition such as Stellenberg seven days later could be a two-edged sword.
Will the fuss surrounding the big local clash have left the side feeling relaxed and over-confident ? Can’t they afford to be, bearing in mind Stellenberg’s recent defeats at the hands of Paul Roos and Paarl Boys’ High ?
Don’t believe it for a minute ! Robert Gerber will have the pride of George as mentally ready as ever. A 25-point haul by no. 12 JP Duvenage underlined his inestimable value, while Darryle Kameel, Damian Bonaparte and even reserve full-back Ishaad Snyman outside him all contributed to the thrashing meted out to their neighbours.
Stellenberg started the last two weeks well aware of the hurdles that awaited them and have shown commendable spirit despite the setbacks. Their captain, François du Plessis, now finds himself with a twofold task: he must keep his side’s heads up and take on the job of bottling up his Quagga counterpart, Duvenage.
The forwards have acquitted themselves fairly well of their duties, but the inexperience of the three-quarters cannot be hidden. Fortunately, the whole school community has bought into the Jade Brigade’s learning curve.
They must remain patient; they’re getting there, but there’s still a fair way to go.
It’s hard to see any of the Premier B sides putting up any more than token resistance on their visits to the southern suburbs, but the all-second-tier game between hosts DF Malan and Brackenfell has suddenly become quite intriguing.
DF may have won by 60 and then lost by 70 at the Wynberg event, but it is their other recent exploits that have had the local fraternity sitting up. If trouncing De Kuilen (45-10) was a small step in the right direction, then bearding the Tygers (22-19) in their own den was the stuff of world long-jump records.
Brackenfell, however, are nothing if not consistent as creditable showings against both Bishops (23-30) and Paarl Gym (24-38) will attest. Add to that the very real possibility that this is going to be the best peer-group opposition that they are likely to face this season and you have all the ingredients of an absolute humdinger.
The Brakkes’ halfbacks, Branden de Kock and Quin Eymann, may well prove the difference, especially given the impressive performances of Keith Chiwara, Gerhard Swanepoel and Siya Ntuntwana outside them.
DF also boast players who’ve been through the rigours of a Premier B campaign, although three of them – Carlo Geyer, Daniel Luise and Brandon Thomson – ply their trade in the pack.
Nevertheless, midfielders Ruan Thysse and Edrich Laubscher seem to have struck up a productive enough understanding with right wing Tasriq Mynhardt to pose a credible threat to the hosts’ tryline.
Next it’s off to Malmesbury, where two of Boland’s in-form outfits, Swartland and Charlie Hofmeyr, face each other.
It is no coincidence that the home team’s success reminds those of us with good memories of the Rockies’ wonder years when Pieter-Stef du Toit and younger brother Johan were in the vanguard of their hard-driving forwards.
Why not, you ask ? Well, Swartland 2016 features the last two du Toit brothers, Anton, in his second season at centre and raking in the points with his fiendish left boot, and flank Daniel, who sparkled on his top-flight debut last week against Bellville.
Local backs to attract positive reviews include Antonio Muller and Pieter Hamman, while coach Martin “Junior” Dyason can call on a typically workmanlike group of big guys up front, with try-machine captain Charlie Gerber dictating matters from the back of the scrum.
The Charlies have only lost one recorded fixture this season – 10-20 to Overberg a fortnight ago, although the Grey Cherries did put upwards of 70 on the board against them up in Graaff-Reinet – and will be taking to the field buoyed by a 30-20 home victory over fellow high-flyers Augsburg Gym last Saturday.
Scrumhalf Greagan Baron is very much the ringmaster – he notched twenty of his team’s points from the tee against Augsburg – but there’s an abundance of talent outside him. Centres Ruben de Manielle and Zinzan Visser and wings Ayoob van Wyk and Ashley Franse have fully utilized the many chances they have been given to visit their opposition’s in-goal areas.
With forwards of the quality of locks Ruan Visagie and Jason Esterhuysen and loosehead Igné Erasmus also putting their hands up, the stage is set for a battle royal.
Don’t for a moment think I’m being sarcastic when I recommend the Porterville-Bonnievale game.
These two sides represent their charming rustic communities with a passion of which many vastly larger schools would be envious. Plus their records are just as impressive as their spirit.
The current Bulle crop includes nifty full-back Deodan Jacobs, exciting scrumhalf Boetie Opperman and workhorse flank Rossouw Burger.
That said, they will have their work cut out keeping the Dairy Farmers at bay.
The visitors always boast an abundance of speed at the back. This year’s vintage includes potent centre partners Steven Stallenberg and Cheslin Kortje, while bustling wing Nilon Maarman and terrible twins Rion (loosehead) and Christo (no. 8) Cloete add extra punch to the team. In fact, the absence of injured flyhalf Elton Mfundisi seems barely to have affected them.
If you need more proof of the threat they pose, ask Barrydale, who were on the receiving end of a 61-14 – nine tries, of which Stallenberg scored four – thrashing at their hands earlier this week.
It is games like this which shape my special respect for the schoolboy game in the heart of the Boland. You could do a whole lot worse than pop in at the picturesque field in Partyville, but be warned, you might just not want to leave again !