Help is at hand ! Kept in check by two Labori tacklers, Worcester Gym hooker Reevan Strydom
maintains possessionas Blake Coetzee (left) and Jacques Groenewald arrive in support
during the sides’ match at the Mutualand Federal Agri Boland Landbou
Rugby Day on 18 March 2017. (photo: Brakkies Sport Fotos)
End of the first term, beginning of rugby season, whatever: it’s time for the largest two 1st XV festivals in South Africa !
The Mutual and Federal Agri Oakdale event in Riversdale and the tenth edition of the Tony Stoops Rugby Festival at new home Brackenfell both run from Saturday 1 April to Wednesday 5 April 2017.
In accordance with tradition these two gatherings will see the vast majority of the leading Boland and South Western Districts teams as well as the second-tier Western Province outfits out to stake their claim to their share of this winter’s limelight.
All Oakdale really needs to up their already-proud profile is a really large hotel capable of accommodating the large numbers of parents and girlfriends who would love to cheer their favourites on, while, taking full advantage of the timing of the Easter weekend, the TSRF organizers have managed to put together a really absorbing programme for the A Field on Saturday 1 April 2017.
Although all the fixtures are available elsewhere on this site, it would represent a serious dereliction of duty on my part were I not to point the highlights of the much-anticipated first day match-ups.
You couldn’t wish for a more attractive encounter than the 8:45 start on Oakdale’s lush Populierbos field. Neither Vredendal nor Overberg of Caledon ever field anything less than very well drilled units, which invariably see them high on the Team Stats list come August. Both schools may be in the Boland, but their geographical separation means that they hardly ever face each other.
A short walk to the main field, De Eike, where neutral spectators would be well advised to remain for the remainder of the day, will offer you the chance to see up-and-coming WP B leaguers Durbanville face largely unknown Oosterlig from across the Vaal at 9:55. The Durbies are approaching the season with such confidence that they will even be visiting Outeniqua in George !
Next, Clanwilliam’s Augsburg Gym face Driehoek from Vanderbijlpark. The very idea of a non-competitive agricultural school is ridiculous and JP van Rhyn’s youngsters will be sure to give it horns.
Still on Die Eike, Hugenote of Wellington, who have apparently managed to secure several new faces, drawn no doubt by the lure of playing under SA Schools coach Lance Sendin, will have to be in fine form to keep the strong Voortrekker side from Bethlehem in check.
After lunch the 14:00 kick-off features Windhoek Gym, who have established a formidable reputation, against Uitenhage’s Die Brandwag, a school well known for always punching above its weight.
The Potchefstroom Gym–Bellville clash has the makings of a battle royal, the northern suburbs side being able to call upon the experience of Dan Aspeling (192 points in 2016) and elusive runner Alex Heydenrych to add structure to last season’s promising Under 16 side.
In the last match of the afternoon session Welkom Gym should hold enough aces to see off Lichtenburg of the North West Province at 16:20.
Whew ! Time for a bite of supper before the two feature matches.
At 18:00 the Wildeklawer Spectacular’s hosts, Diamantveld of Kimberley, can expect a very physical encounter from the miners of Rustenburg, another NW side, before hosts Oakdale take on Valke biggies Kempton Park.
The White Bulls do not have many of last year’s squad to call on, but centre Jay-Cee Nel is expected to be a crucial cog in their wheel, not that sturdy prop Dian Bleuler and second-rower JC Lourens are likely to hang back !
Having the entire local community turning out in force to cheer them on will surely buoy up the lads, who are probably just glad to be playing South ASfrican opponents for a change after two very tough fixtures against overseas tourists.
After that, it’s just 36 hours before the second day’s matches get under way. Maybe they’ll let spectators sleep over on the lush grass; it’s probably just as soft as local mattresses !
The usual interesting mix of visitors to the Spur Tony Stoops Rugby Festival has been considerably spiced up by Rondebosch and SACS’s acceptances of invitations to play their season-openers on the first day before going off to prepare for their Easter visits to Johannesburg.
Hosts Brackenfell kick off proceedings at 8:30 when they play Oudtshoorn, their second SWD opponents in as many weeks, but considerably less daunting than last weekend’s visitors, Outeniqua.
Even so, the local side’s hopes will be largely dependent upon the unpredictable talents of flyhalf Quann Eyman, a member of the 2016 WP Craven Week squad and recent acquisition Raven Smit.
Next up is an intriguing contest between Eastern Cape journeymen Nico Malan and Pionier, who hail from Vryheid in Northern Natal, about as far from the Peninsula as you can get and still be in South Africa !
While the lads from Humansdorp have earned their spurs over the last decade or so with consistently good results, often against schools with impressive credentials, the latter has been raising its own profile menacingly over recent years. This might well turn out to be the most riveting clash of the opening day.
Don’t read too much into the mixed fortunes enjoyed by Worcester Gym (48-0 vs Punt) and Tygerberg (8-7 vs Bellville South). Both teams are rebuilding so picking a winner for their 11:00 kick-off is that much more difficult. Expect a battle that could well be decided beforehand, thanks to the input of the two wily sets of coaches.
The two teams paired in the early afternoon fixture at 12:15, De Kuilen and Porterville, should, just as in the two games before theirs, be fairly evenly matched.
Several players from both teams toured Portugal with the Tony Stoops Rhinos last September, the potential stand-outs being the Bulle’s scrumhalf Boetie Opperman and loose forward Rossouw Burger. Last Saturday’s game against Bishops showed that they don’t breed weaklings in the shadow of the Winterhoekberge and the Cobus and Callie crew will be keen to prove their pedigree against the Kuils River outfit.
Following the saying that the best should always be saved for last, the action reaches a peak in the two mid-afternoon games.
At 13:30 SACS will unveil their mean machine against Ligbron Academy from Ermelo. The visitors gave a good account of themselves at last year’s event, but will have to take a whole flight of steps up if they are to threaten the Young Ikeys, who feature several familiar faces, particularly in the backline.
Lucky Dlepu, David Hayes, Jordy Hop, Zolani Masembathe and Michael Abrahams gave notice last year of their capabilities. New coach Nick Maurer rotates smoothly into the position so capably filled by Graeme Wepener, so it is hardly likely that there will be any dilution of the team’s attacking potential.
The final fixture sees Rondebosch face last year’s Team of the Festival, Pietersburg.
The Limpopo side has already suffered at least one heavy defeat this season, but as they say, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Write them off at your peril.
Bosch won’t, even though their team is laced with an arsenal of experienced campaigners. The backline has a formidable look to it, with captain Robbie Davis at 9, van der Bijl Blake at pivot, Zakka Sallie and DJ Falconer in the midfield and Ross Roode wide on the left.
The pack is hardly a bunch of raw recruits, either, as Suhaib Ajmoodien and Chulu Mputing return in the front row, lanky Braden Tredoux slots in again at lock and Cal Smid keeps the opposing half-backs honest from the back of the scrum.
In these tough economic times the unfailing support of the Spur Group, as personified by their marketing guru, Khakhi Diala, has enabled this gathering to continue to offer festival rugby to a group of schools who would normally not be in a position to experience the camaraderie it generates.
Both events are the culmination of a great deal of planning. Please get out there and add to these celebrations of all that is good in the game !