This large, but relatively sparsely-populated province has always been renowned for being the source of some of the country’s most impressive coloured rugby players.
However, the past few years have not been without their difficulties as the coloured schools traditionally regarded as providing the backbone of the provincial sides have all seemed to be experiencing difficulty in unearthing top talent.
The results of Klein Nederburg, New Orleans, Schoonspruit and Weston have been uniformly unspectacular, which has meant that the selectors have had to cast their net ever wider.
This year’s team has been constructed around four players from HTS Drostdy (who could be excused for feeling a little hard done-by, given their crackerjack coloured backline), a similar number from Swartland, three from Hugenote and the rest of the players coming from eight other schools.
Two of the 2015 management team, head coach Atholl Ontong from Paulus Joubert and manager Martin Dyason of Swartland are at the helm again this year, with experienced JP van Rhyn of Augsburg Gym filling out a triumvirate that is going to have its work cut out for it from the get-go.
The team :
15. James Mao-Cheia (Hermanus). An elegant, effective last line of defence, Mao-Cheia was an obvious choice, given his solid performances at the 2015 Academy Week. The biggest pity is that the mediocre form of the Hermanus team has deprived spectators of his deceptive pace in running the ball out of defence.
14. Bradley von Turha (HTS Drostdy). This dynamic little flyer set Boland tongues wagging when he notched ten tries in next to no time, but only really gained recognition throughout the Western Cape with his brilliant five-pointer early in the match against Bishops.
13. Berto le Roux (HTS Drostdy). Le Roux has proved to be a very dependable defensive pillar for the Donkeys this season, for the most part as full-back. His counterattacking skills must have tipped the scales in favour of his selection alongside Anton Du Toit in the midfield.
12. Anton du Toit (Swartland). The third of the Du Toit olive-growing dynasty from Riebeek-Kasteel and the only one who does not play in the scrum. His emergence at 1st team level was delayed by injury last season, but since then he has been instrumental in the Rockies’ run of good form. Has an excellent eye for the half-break and will be first-choice kicker with his siege-gun left boot.
11. Caleb Dingaan (Weston). A nippy youngster who, like Mao-Cheia, has found himself with little opportunity to showcase his speed and side-step in a largely unsuccessful Weston team. Impressive performances during the extensive trials phase ensured his selection.
10. Lloyd April (Hermanus). An interesting choice in this position, seeing that he plies his trade at inside centre for the Whalewatchers. One can only conclude that, talented as he is, he will most probably be used more as a distributor than an attacking option.
9. Rick Jordaan (Klein Nederburg). An interesting survivor – the only one, in fact – from last year’s Craven Week side. His selection then raised some eyebrows as he was accustomed to playing flyhalf, but his successful adaptation to his new role made him a certainty for this year’s team.
8. Charlie Gerber (Swartland). The Swartland captain suddenly shot to prominence at his school’s 2015 Winter Festival, after which his try-scoring exploits and leadership (both on and off the field – he is headboy) have marked him as an exciting prospect. Not known for his speed, his deceptively-lengthy, determined stride has seen him wreak havoc against most opponents.
7. Charl Schoeman (Worcester Gym). Schoeman’s entry into the fray this season was frustratingly delayed by injury. The burgeoning success of the Bosvarke since his return is no coincidence. A well-built player, his driving play around the sides of the tight-loose will be integral to his team’s chances of success.
6. Michael Goodall (Hugenote). His exceptional speed has, perhaps to his detriment, seen him recently deployed at outside centre for the Blackies. Was the talk of the Wynberg Festival when he scored all three of his side’s tries against the very powerful Jeppe team, one of them the result of a seventy metre break which saw him outpace the cover defence.
5. Albert Liebenberg (HTS Drostdy). While, on first impression, one might regard the Donkeys’ captain as a beanpole, the massive workload he undertakes in the engine room soon forces doubters to re-evaluate him as a siege engine. His major asset is at the line-outs where he can be lifted to remarkable heights.
4. Stiaan Basson (Vredendal). Coming from an institution renowned for its tough, uncompromising forwards, the very mobile Basson never puts in less than a 100% effort. The rewards of his efforts have included seven tries, the most by any forward (second most overall) in his very successful school side.
3. Cohen Kiewit (Hugenote). Has risen from Academy Week reserve in 2015 to first choice in the Boland front row along with identical twin, Kayden. Tall and very solidly built, he has the perfect build for a modern prop and supplements his imposing size with a very effective scrummaging technique.
2. Niel Burger (Swartland). A tough-as-nails, take-no-prisoners hooker, as mobile and indefatigable as front-rowers from Malmesbury have tended to be over the years. Has a very accurate line-out throw and a lightning-fast hooking boot.
1. Kayden Kiewit (Hugenote). Despite being marginally shorter than brother Cohen, Kiewit brings just as much strength to the table. His willingness to carry the ball intelligently into contact and set up clean second-phase ball makes him the natural choice to partner his twin.
16. Henry Hagen (Vredendal). A very capable hooker, Hagen will be the first to acknowledge that his selection probably owes much to his team-mates in a juggernaut pack. Nevertheless, his individual contributions, not least his resilient competitiveness, justify his selection in their own right.
17. Igné Erasmus (Charlie Hofmeyr). A solidly-built youngster, Erasmus has been at the heart of a scrum that has provided the Charlies threequarters, who traditionally spread the ball wide at speed, with the clean possession on which it thrives.
18. Gerrit Bester (Dirkie Uys). A particularly daunting sight when moving at full speed, Bester has been one of the stand-out performers in a Moorreesburg side that is otherwise of pretty average size. The momentum he builds up makes him extremely difficult to stop.
19. Jan-Ernst Terblanche (Swartland). Another player whose season started late due to a nagging shoulder injury, Terblanche has proved to be a major force in an impressive Rockies pack, both with his vital line-out contribution and his foraging in the loose.
20. Bron-Lee Mouries (HTS Drostdy). After several 1st XV appearances for the Donkeys in 2015, Mouries has become a regular choice at lock under new coach Renier de Villiers. Not the tallest of forwards, he uses his momentum to plough through opponents. Needs to control his sometimes volatile temper.
21. Hanreco van Zyl (Stellenbosch). The younger brother of Riaan, whose all-round ability helped Stellenbosch to much local success in 2012, Van Zyl has a very deceptive running style, jinking with the ball held in a taunting manner in front of him. May well turn out to be a crucial asset since he is quite at home – and has turned out for his school – in any position in the backline.
22. Keenan Williams (New Orleans). Essentially a flyhalf, Williams has been responsible for some of the more creditable performances by his side this year, notably their narrow but fiercely-contested defeats against the three Northvaal sides at the Drostdy North-South Fest.
23. Shandré Pietersen (Bergrivier). Highly-regarded as a candidate for a starting berth, but has been retained in the crucial utility back slot. A highly elusive runner with an easy glide off either foot. Will definitely add an extra element of speed when utilized.
The quality of their performance on opening day against mighty neighbours Western Province will unfortunately go a long way to determining how this side will be remembered. Rest assured, no-one is more aware of this than the players themselves !