Putting a lot more than just his hand up ! Outstanding Paarl Gym and Western Province
Craven Week loose-forward Muller Uys secures possession at a line-out during his
team’s narrow 17-13 win against SACS in April. (photo: Sharon Laurenson)
Despite all the often-repeated claims – to which yours truly pleads guilty too – that, on any Saturday, spectators down south are spoilt for choice as to which top-class match to attend, the third school term begins relatively quietly as everyone settles down after the thrills and spills of the mid-year inter-provincial tournaments.
Unless you are prepared to hit the N2 to Riversdale where Oakdale welcome Paul Roos, the most interesting local fixture appears to be Boland Landbou’s trip to the Piley Rees to take on the Platinum Blues.
OK, Rondebosch do head off to Brug Street to face Paarl Boys’ High and Paul Roos will be rolling out the welcome mat for Wynberg, but, to be honest, neither of these matches promises quite the spark of the Farmers’ urban invasion.
Early last June Oloff Bergh’s side staged a stunning comeback to beat Bishops 39-38 at Windmeul, a victory which effectively changed the course of their season. Having already lost 0-39 at home to Paarl Gym and 24-29 away to Boishaai, Landbou gave notice of a sea-change with a confident 37-16 of Framesby.
After the Bishops match they went on to record home wins against Wynberg 47-14 and Paul Roos 24-17 and edge out Rondebosch 30-28 away. Only a 19-21 defeat at Oakdale marred a great closing run.
After trouncing Eton 62-10, the hosts struggled somewhat against South African opposition at the Independent Schools Rugby Festival earlier this month. The question marks that were raised after their 31-24 win over Hilton were duly underlined by the 24-34 defeat to a very slick Kingswood team.
The rugby-loving public rightly regards a visit to watch Bishops play as a treat, but, in amongst the sublime backline movements were moments of at best rather over-optimistic run-at-all-costs indiscipline. Even at an institution which believes that the journey itself takes precedence over reaching one’s destination, carelessness is still as close to brilliance as madness is to genius.
The visitors are in a very good place mentally, only defeats at bogey-team Paarl Gym (14-34) and at home to Boishaai (24-31) having registered brief blips on their radar.
The backline has clicked around Janlo Steenkamp and Henlu Maree, something which will only be reinforced by the experience gained by Deon Carstens at Craven Week. Their loose-forwards – Heinrich Brendel, Athi Magwala and Kevin Reed – hunt together and a front row that includes Stefan Alberts and Christiaan Olivier is never going to be an easy, er, pushover.
Captain Jean Pienaar was outstanding for Gus Firth’s side at the ISRF and will be welcoming the return of versatile Academy Week cap Seb Prentice at flank, while Luke Viljoen put himself about with telling effect in all phases.
Although the backs always look dangerous, particularly when Brandon van der Westhuizen scythes through from full-back, they must rein in their occasional tendency to throw the ball about willy-nilly when under pressure.
Why predict a result when an exciting contest is all everyone is hoping for ?
The Oakdale – Paarl Gym match is going to be massive.
The hosts can only be brimming with confidence after last Saturday at Craven Week when an Eagles side liberally sprinkled with Bulle representatives sent neighbours Eastern Province packing 64-12.
Props André Posthumus and Dian Bleuler put in fine performances throughout the tournament, while WP van Heerden was in the thick of things all the time.
Full-back Darren Adonis further enhanced his reputation with a second fine week and Zinedine Booysen proved a lively handful at the base of the scrum.
Paarl Gym might not have produced nearly the same number of Craven Week representatives, but that won’t faze them, knowing as they do that the competition for places in the WP squad is indisputably fiercer than anywhere else in the country.
If Muller du Plessis cast a heady spell whenever he touched the ball on the left wing, then namesake Muller Uys was pure magic on the side of the scrum.
As if that’s not enough, captain Zak Burger, whom many thought should have been chosen for the Craven Week team, will be ultramotivated to demonstrate both his leadership and distributional skills as the crucial run-in to Interschools moves towards its inexorable climax.
The northern Paarl unit will take heart from the narrowness of the victory Oakdale eked out over Paul Roos (23-20), but will be equally determined to give as good, if not better, an account of themselves against the Bulls as neighbours Boishaai did (35-21) at Brug Street early last month.
With the strengths of both sides so evenly matched, a fascinating contest is in the offing.
The only possible advantage Rondebosch can have going into the match in Paarl is that most of their opponents are likely to be coming off the high of representing unbeaten WP Under 18 teams last week.
It’s not that the impeccably polite young gentlemen of Boishaai ever look down on their opponents, however unprepossessing they may be, it must just be very difficult for a group that has conquered so many mountains to conceive of getting tripped up by a mole-hill.
With Manny Rass, Khanya Ncusane and Salmaan Moerat already ingrained in the WP Schools Rugby Hall of Fame for a year now, several new heroes have made a strong argument for inclusion. The names of mighty Adam Neethling, lightning-footed Daniel Jooste, the predatory Charl Serdyn and the unshakeable Gianni Lombard will still be on everybody’s lips long after the end of August.
By comparison, Bosch’s only recent heartwarming memory is the home win over Bishops, which seems to have taken place ages ago. Mike Mavovana might have given the broader South African public some glimpses of his wicked acceleration last week, but that hardly holds a candle to the Winelands wonders.
Bottom line : last week’s exertions notwithstanding, Boishaai are simply not going to slip up as they focus on 7 August.
Out at the Markotter the Young Maties should have the better of luckless Wynberg, providing that their ace-in-the-hole flyhalf Damian Vermeulen takes the field.
The Craven Week side always looked considerably more dangerous when he was pulling the strings and the welcome experience picked up at Kearsney by Tristan Leitch, Jesse Johnson, Ben-Jason Dixon and Aydon Topley will just serve as the cherry on the top.
It’s been a traumatic year for Wynberg both on and alongside the field, the result being that the side has never really seemed to have it in them to express themselves with the kind of fluency of which they are undoubtedly capable.
Hardly any names come to mind as regular headline-grabbers, even though little Mr Fixit Labib Kannemeyer has set the pulses racing on sadly infrequent occasions.
Even though Paul Roos have, for the most part, flown below the radar this campaign, they have never given their faithful home supporters cause for concern when they play at the Markotter and they aren’t about to start this weekend.
As for matches featuring the WP Premier B sides, Brackenfell’s home game against Hermanus, Worcester Gym’s trip to Durbanville and Swartland’s trek to Strand all promise attractive fare. Bellville will be up against it when SACS arrive out north and De Kuilen can’t be relishing the arrival of Stellenberg.
Although there’s little to enthuse about in Eagles territory, apart from the Ostrich Valley derby for which Oudtshoorn jog down the road to play Langenhoven Gym, there are a few potentially exciting match-ups out in the Boland.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you could do a lot worse than pay a visit to Caledon for Overberg’s home game against Montagu. These two schools prove tough nuts to crack year after year. In fact, it’s a crying shame we don’t get to see them closer to the heart of the Mother City.
Close-fought affairs are also on the cards when Hugenote visit Ceres to play Charlie Hofmeyr and Dirkie Uys host Porterville in Moorreesburg.
Now we just have to hope that the weather doesn’t interfere too much !