Stop getting me down ! Porterville centre Kenwill Douries tries unsuccessfully
to evade a Bredasdorp tackler during their match at the Mutual and Federal
Afri Boland Landbou Day last Saturday. (photo: Brakkies Sport Fotos)
Last weekend there were only two destinations on the local Western Cape schools rugby map, on Saturday 25 March 2017 there are thirteen, including four festival days of varying sizes.
The delightful dusk setting of Friday’s Gym-Stellenberg match served to whet everyone’s appetite for the Mutual and Federal Agri Boland Landbou Rugby Day, already a compulsory event on the Western Cape calendar.
Suffice it to say, these two pillars of the local game pulled out all the stops to ensure that the season kicked off with a resounding bang. The intense interschools programme on Friday segued smoothly into a day on which numerous sides took to the four fields out at picturesque Windmeul for encounters that proved no less thrilling for their short duration.
Of course, for some the rugby was merely a sideshow as a sumptuous breakfast was on offer in the clubhouse, while fresh produce and numerous stalls – offering both food and the latest in agricultural technology – beckoned to the huge crowd and several proud learners even paraded several of the school’s impressive cattle around the field.
No-one will be more aware of the sudden acceleration in proceedings than Paarl Gym, who welcome Tshwane giants Affies to the Jan Kriel ground.
While the home team managed to beat Stellenberg without having to pull out every last stop, one or two players seemed to look a bit weary towards the end. Granted, this was the northern Paarl team’s first outing of the year, but their opponents arrive with two very tough assignments behind them, having seen off Diamantveld (45-10) and highly-rated Helpmekaar (funnily enough, also 31-19).
It’s almost a pity that two such prominent sides should have to cross swords this early in the year, but you won’t hear the spectators complaining !
The best of the other stand-alone fixtures seem to be traditional openers DF Malan vs Charlie Hofmeyr, Durbanville vs Swartland and Hugenote vs Hermanus.
The Durbies and DF are trying to raise their profile this season, but, while the former shouldn’t have too much difficulty seeing off a very young Rockies side, the latter will need to have their wits about them against the Charlies. The Blackies-Whalers clash also promises to be a close-run affair.
Other games see Stellenbosch host Hottentots Holland, Piketberg at home to Montagu and Mossel Bay’s Punt visit Worcester Gym. The only visitors likely to set out for home with smiles on their faces are Montagu, but even they are due for an off-year after continuous recent success.
Only a few of the 24 1st XVs on show at the Brackenfell Sports Day qualify as big fish in the Western Cape, but, as with the Spur Tony Stoops Rugby Festival a week later at the same venue a week later, the Brakke have always been far more concerned with encouraging widespread participation.
The A Field offers interesting fare throughout, the best of the morning matches promising to be Bosmansdan vs Bonnievale. It never ceases to amaze one how the Dairy Farmers always seem to produce very capable teams despite the school’s size. Saturday will tell us whether they can extend their run.
The lunch-time match pits Strand against Bredasdorp. The Helderbergers always seem to accumulate some good results, only to fall away inexplicably later in the year. It’s early in the campaign, so Bredasdorp are likely to have their hands full.
Much of the attention in the 15:00 match between Bellville and Milnerton will be on how smoothly the northern suburbs side manages to integrate last year’s backline stars, Dan Aspeling and Alec Heydenrych, into a very proficient Under 16 unit stepping up into the big league. Odds on favourites they may be, but this is their only chance to prepare for their annual Oakdale excursion.
Hosts Brackenfell will also be taking the field for their first outing of the year. However, they aren’t lucky enough to have WP C-tier opponents. Outeniqua quickly silenced all those who expressed doubts about how their relatively inexperienced side would function with a convincing 59-19 win over Bloemfontein’s always-willing Sentraal up at Brandfort two weeks ago. The locals’ defences are likely to be subjected to a very searching test.
There are two small annual sports days out in the Boland.
The decision by Stellenberg not to participate in this year’s Lutzville Sports Day has meant that the two matches on offer both appear to be relatively one-sided.
Neighbours Vredendal shouldn’t have too much difficulty dealing with Kraaifontein’s Monument Park, a plucky outfit long since resigned to the fact that any player who shows signs of promise will soon be spirited away to one of the higher-profile establishments.
Lutzville themselves can’t expect any favours from an Upington side whose players often have the advantage of exposure to interprovincial competition simply because they effectively constitute half of the selection pool for Griquas Country Districts. The school’s size doesn’t seem to affect the hosts’ powerful netball squad, but the first rugby team isn’t always quite as lucky !
The menu at Porterville is admittedly also pretty sparse, not that that ever seems to deter the large crowd that descends on the Bulls’ beautifully-situated home ground.
Namaqualand are expected to beat Worcester’s Montana, but the Hopefield-Langenhoven High clash ought to be a nail-biter. The Dasse beat improving Knysna 28-0 at the Wittedrift Loerie Festival a fortnight back, while Hopefield will be looking to sustain the remarkable resurgence in the game in their picturesque town.
Stellenberg’s presence will surely boost the attendance figures as their faithful followers get a second chance to run an eye over the side before the Jade Brigade head up to the demanding North-South event in Tshwane. Oudtshoorn got whacked 43-19 by Framesby up in Somerset East on 11 March, so they will be hoping to fine-tune their combinations before a TSRF meeting with Brackenfell on 1 April.
The main game, fortunately scheduled for early evening, is a classic David vs Goliath encounter between the proud hosts and Bishops.
Whether or not Bishops finally realized that the location was ideal for a good tight practice is moot; the Bulls will be fully intent on showing the southern suburbs lads that Paul Roos isn’t the only dangerous side that wears maroon jerseys. Are they likely to pull off a shock win ? No. Are they going to give it horns trying to do so ? You betcha !
A visit to this hospitable oasis is like celebrating Christmas nine months early (or three months late, if you’re really laid back). For my part, at least, the rugby is just a convenient excuse for taking a break in this stunning piece of countryside.
Last, but by no means least, the Paul Roos Day offers four high-level contests out at Fortress Markotter.
The De Kuilen–Langenhoven Gym game might be hard to predict, with the Lions from Oudtshoorn aiming for a rugby renaissance after a few fallow years. The Kuile are committed journeymen in their own right and won’t be lying down for anybody.
Oakdale’s strength is difficult to gauge, considering that they have only a shaky 17-15 win over San Isidro from Argentina behind them, but, if their opponents are indeed the (rather than a) French Under 17 team, their prospects will be a whole lot clearer by Saturday night.
Boland Landbou are definitely going to hold too many aces for Windhoek High to handle, the main point of interest being the composition of Oloff Bergh’s back division.
The most interesting aspect of the main game is that Paul Roos have opted to play HTS Drostdy at all, given the rather frosty relations between the two in recent years.
Not too much can be read into the Maroons’ 56-7 canter against Swartland in Malmesbury; the Donkeys, on the other hand, had a rude awakening, losing 13-21 to San Isidro last week.
Looks like a home win, but it’s by no means certain.
Finally a note to stats freaks. As I fully intend to spend both Friday and Saturday nights in Party Valley, you will have to wait until Sunday afternoon for all the detailed scores to appear on this site.
If you don’t understand, come out to the town where CEX is on all the local numberplates and see for yourself.