When the schoolboy experts discuss the merits to visit certain school rugby days or festivals never once do you hear the name "Graeme Rugby Day" ever mentioned. This is about to stop as I visited Graeme College on Saturday and what a wonderful experience it was. As well organised as the best it certainly was but whereas the other mainstream festivals have become so professional Graeme still manages to do it with a feeling of coming home. From the gentleman at the gate to the ladies selling pancakes to the organising committee to the barman everybody but everybody was glad to see and assist you unless they are very good actors. The pancakes must be said was the best I ever tasted, please forward the recipe. With all the good I have to also criticise, that queue at the pancake table needs more ladies to help to sell. Regtig.
But what makes this rugby day so special apart from organising and staff is the manner in which the games all ensured very close and hard fought matches. Not one game did the loser give up in any way and gave the best up to the end of each match.
The first match saw Muir storming in the lead with great interplay between their forwards and backs taking them into a lead of 12-0. Muir's Cicelo Tole must be one of the brightest stars in the Eastern Cape breaking the line at will. After about 20 minutes Cambridge started to took control of the match scoring their first try to trial 12-7 a half time. The second half saw the sides trading penalties and with Cambridge leading 18-15 they scored a try at the end to win deservedly 23-15. An entertaining match of two halves with Cambridge forcing Muir into mistakes.
The 2nd match went more or less like everybody expected with Nico Malan beating Union 50-18. Although the difference in score may indicate a one-sided match it was not with Union scoring late in the second half with well-structured play and determination. Big score yes humiliated definitely not. Our player of this match must go to the no4 lock od Nico Malan, Eric Louw who worked tirelessly and ran like a centre giving the chance.
And then the match many came to see and to myself the match of mysteries. Dale and Brandwag played rugby one would expect from the other side. Dale who must have been one of the smallest sides attending ran hard at their opponents and plays a very physical game whereas Brandwag who have a very large forward pack spread the ball and never used their forwards. Brandwag looked to have the game in the bag after establishing an early lead with Brandwag's inside centre Franco Venter giving the defence of Dale a lot to think about. Then Brandwag's forwards started to go in slow motion giving Dale the chance to do some catch-up. After a late Brandwag try giving Brandwag a 21-14 lead Dale launched attack after attack scoring the equaliser after the time was up.
Unfortunately, the Queens vs Framesby match produce little points with Framesby the eventual winner 6-3. Both sides have impressive forwards and good backlines but it did seem that all the schoolboy excitement was coached out of them with both sides resorting to a boring Super18 type of game plan.
Grey High School in playing their first match of the season came up against a very impressive Marlow. Where the previous match was a bore these two sides really brought all the kitchen hardware with. In a face paced but a physical game. Grey scored the first try to lead 8-6 at the break. Both sides gave their all and the draw 11 all is a true reflection of the day. Without any emotion attached this was the game of the day with Grey High's no 8 and 15 impressing. Marlow's have match winners in (8) Dirkie Ferreira and (13) Vivian Kapp. I must add although a lot of players caught the eye during the rugby day the name of Vivian Kapp must be mentioned again and again. This boy showed exceptional skill and is our man of the day.
The Kingswood vs Pearson game again resulted in a very close game played by two sides giving their all. Kingswood only managing to take control in the last 15 minutes and after trailing for a long time scored the match-winning try to win this exciting match 12-7.
St Andrew's playing an exciting type of rugby running the much heavier Hudson side of their feet scoring 4 unanswered tries. Hudson only managed to score a late try to lose the match 31-7.
And then for the big one. Nobody gave Graeme College any chance to win this match. But the started like a house on fire and completely dominated Selborne in all the facets of play. When Selborne managed to get hold of the ball there were 15 willing bodies waiting to defend. Sometimes three boys would tackle one Selborne player. Everybody expected the boys from Graeme to give up after Selborne scored the first try of the match and fortunately that everybody did not include one boy from Graeme that was on the field. The struck back almost immediately with their own try to level the score seven all. Then disaster struck and Graeme could not convert three easy penalties that would have given them a 9 points lead. Half time saw Graeme in complete control doing everything right but scoring. The second half saw Selborne slowly taking command with Graeme's defensive effort keeping them from scoring tries. After trading penalties, Selborne was leading 13-10 when they scored what everybody thought was the winning try to lead 20-10. Again Graeme did not read the script and started one onslaught after the other on Selborne's try line. Eventually, their no3 scored in the corner for an unconverted try. Graeme losing the game 20-15 but certainly won the heart off all the spectators.
To all, myself included that did not think the Eastern Cape schoolboy rugby is substandard to the rest of South Africa, think again. The Eastern Cape's schools will and should compete with the rest of the country. And after trying to determine who will end up as the no1 school in the Eastern Cape, I have one answer, there is no clear favourite and anyone playing Graeme College must bring their best otherwise ................
Thank you, Graeme College I will be back.