Running free. Boland Landbou scrumhalf Gavin Mills cuts through the Bellville defence during
his team’s 64-15 home win on 6 May 2017. (photo: Marilize Jordaan)
The local high school's rugby programme for Saturday 24 June 2017 may be a short one, but try telling that to the protagonists in the three local derbies.
Although SACS host Wynberg and Bishops welcome Rondebosch, the fixture that is probably going to attract the most attention will be at Brug Street, where national giants Paarl Boys’ High face Winelands neighbours Boland Landbou.
It’s not that the two southern suburbs matches aren’t special; what makes the Farmers trip to Boishaai is the quixotic – pessimists might say unrealistic – expectations the visitors always seem to have ahead of this clash.
However, before you laugh off the Windmeul Warriors’ hopes of victory in a match away to a team whose form, results and general aura appear to reinforce an aura of impregnability, have a look at this clash’s recent history.
In 2009 I was lucky enough to attend Landbou’s stunning 23-19 win, inspired by a remarkable display by fly-half Tiaan Radyn, who scored all the points via a try, a dropped goal and five penalties. Their relentless performance oozed such character that its memory has become ingrained in the visitors’ folklore.
None of the three subsequent matches has favoured the Farmers – Boishaai winning 19-12 in 2011, 24-13 in 2013 and 29-24 in 2015 – but the scores themselves tell the story of closely-fought encounters.
While one can’t really argue against an unbeaten run as long as the hosts’, Landbou has managed to construct a solid recent platform from which to mount a credible challenge. The sterling successes away to Stellenberg (35-34) and, just two weeks ago, at home to Paarl Gym (24-15) have consigned the messy home defeat to Framesby to ancient history.
The fact that the locals don’t have any perceptible weak spots is hardly unlikely to faze Oloff Bergh’s youngsters, mainly because their positive attitude stems almost entirely from confidence in their own ability to succeed, rather than from the forlorn hope that their hosts will have an off-day.
Every duel will be crucial, but none more so than the one between the half-backs. Boishaai have the criminally-underrated Eric Myburgh and full-back-turned-pivot Abner Van Reenen, whereas Landbou has young guns Gavin Mills and Damian Hendricks. Experience versus youth in a nutshell.
What tips this contest in the hosts’ favour is the presence of forager supreme Vion Fourie and the almost superhuman Francke Horn in their loose trio. Horne’s judgment calls have been eerily unerring this season, plus he’s contributed no fewer than a chart-topping seventeen tries to the cause. That’s two more than van Reenen and Paarl Gym’s Henco Martins.
The rain could be a great leveller, but the Farmers won’t be looking to the clouds for any help: their strength beats inside their own chests.
SACS versus Wynberg? Gotta be the Young Ikeys, case closed, right?
Well, their results would certainly seem to support this theory. After all, SACS has beaten both Boland Landbou and Paarl Gym (OK, these games were on their home turf, but still…) amongst others, something which no-one else has managed this year. In fact, Nick Maurer’s squad has only lost once in 2017, 24-29 to Paul Roos.
Makes for a pretty convincing CV by anybody’s standards.
Wynberg hasn't done remotely as well, their four victories coming at the KES Festival and at their own shindig a fortnight later. They haven’t got as far as beating any Western Cape side at all, their most recent failure being a 47-5 thrashing away to Stellenberg.
Despite the weight of statistics and the accompanying overwhelming odds, one thought must be nagging at the minds of the Newlands side’s brains trust. They might have swept all but the Maroons before them, including running up a century whitewash against Durbanville, but they haven’t managed to beat either of their fellow southern suburbanites, Bishops and Rondebosch.
That said, even though they haven’t lost to them either – both matches ended in draws – the knowledge that this presents the one ray of hope to the lads from Lovers Walk might just bug them, a little like a recurrent toothache.
Frankly, that appears to be the only source of hope open to the visitors on their trek up to what is sure to be a typically damp SACS field.
It hurts to have to say this, but the visitors haven’t shown enough signs of resurgence anywhere except in the front row, where James Alexander and Luthando Woji have caught the eye, and, on occasion, in the loose phases, in which old warhorse Cameron Bowes has found a willing apprentice in lively Inga Halu.
The backline has been disrupted to the point that one wonders whether anyone actually knows who is going to play until just before the kick-off.
SACS have seemed ominously stable all round, even when they have been forced by injury to play without captain Lucky Dlepu behind the pack. The integration of new players, when required, has been smooth and seamless, more as the result of design than of luck.
It’s been that sort of season and, if Hayes, Hop, Zeederberg and Abrahams out back have anything to say about it, there really doesn’t seem to be a cogent reason to think that Saturday will turn out otherwise.
For those with cold feet, either literally or figuratively, SuperSport One (DSTV 201) will show the match live at 13:55.
Bishops host Rondebosch at a time when the former school’s thoughts, and most likely those of the entire local schoolboy rugby fraternity, are on far more serious things than rugby.
First team coach Richard Smith suffered severe head injuries in a burglary at his home on Tuesday morning. After initial surgery, he was reported to be in an induced coma, although the surgeons at the Vincent Pallotti Hospital were cautiously optimistic that they had succeeded in relieving the cranial pressure.
The thoughts and prayers of everybody connected with the school are with Richard’s wife and children, who, while mercifully spared physical assault, have been severely traumatised.
That such a mind-numbing random act of violence should befall such a charming, passionate gentleman is beyond comprehension.
As coincidence would have it, Rondebosch head coach Mark Lindenberg played in the same Bosch 1st XV as Smith twenty years ago, leaving him understandably distraught.
Should the game take place, current form would tend to favour the Platinum Blues, even though their last outing saw them beaten convincingly 25-0 by Paarl Boys’ High, also at Saturday’s venue, the Piley Rees.
Bosch might have had the better of their 14-14 home draw against SACS, but prior to that, the heavy home hidings handed out to them by Boishaai (73-7) and Paul Roos (52-15) plus the 21-33 at Stellenberg hardly constitute the foundation on which to build a challenge.
Perhaps the two teams’ results, coming fairly soon after each other, against the top-ranked school side in the country might provide some indication of what is to come?
But, allow me to jog your memory about just one of the weird and wonderful things that have a habit of happening when these two face off on the same piece of lawn.
It’s the last match of the 2014 season, at the Piley Rees. To the surprise of many, ace Bosch loose forward Zain Davids runs out in the no.12 jumper, an outrageous positional switch which looks like a masterstroke as he breaks clear in the closing seconds, only for Sam Mitchell – a lock, of all people – to bring him down fifteen metres shy of the tryline. Bishops 21 Rondebosch 20. Game over.
OK, the St Andrew’s game might be the derby as far as Bishops is concerned, but very few of Saturday’s crowd will have made it to Grahamstown to witness this year’s triumph. For those who didn’t hit the N2 and for every Bosch learner, this is The Big Show Part One.
Nerves a little unsteady? Don’t fret, this game will also be broadcast live on DSTV Channel 201 from 11:55 am.
Elsewhere, Brackenfell will be hoping that their four WP Under 18 players deliver the goods when they welcome third-tier Milnerton. And don’t forget the enticing DF Malan vs Tygerberg clash on Tuesday.