Maroons’ Visit To Gym Tops This Week’s Bill

Choice Shots 24

We’re here, but, um, where’s the ball ?  The Paarl Gym defence presents a united
front against Boland Landbou last Saturday. (photo: Marietjie du Toit)

There might not be as many exciting match-ups as there were on the opening day of the local schools rugby season, but there is still more than enough to get people outside and off to watch their teams of choice.

This weekend’s offerings include three WP Premier A match-ups – Paarl Gym vs Paul Roos, Boland Landbou vs SACS and Paarl Boys’ High vs Bishops – plus a major inland clash between HTS Drostdy and Oakdale.  That said, very few would deny that the first of these will be the focus of attention for most serious fans.

After having to wait until June for their first home game last season, Gym will be taking to their Jan Kriel field for the third time this year.  Unfortunately, in a clash of this magnitude, that will be scant comfort to Pieter Rossouw and Helmut Lehmann’s squad. 

Gym left it late before engaging the afterburner against Boland Landbou last Saturday and will be under no illusions that, although they dominated exchanges on the day, the scoreline was somewhat flattering.

The northern Paarl unit only hit their straps in the last twenty minutes when the pack started to dominate its opponents, a luxury they won’t be able to rely on against Paul Roos.

Towering lock Adriaan Ludick, his partner Raymond Nel and the very workmanlike front row of loosehead André Booysen, hookers Bernard Swart and Michael Houndsome and sturdy tighthead François Staples were eventually inspired by the workrate of no.8 Muller Uys.

But any thoughts of potential superiority in this department against the Young Maties were dealt a serious blow by the commanding performance by the Maroons forwards, who contributed four tries against a highly-skilled Grey High team.  Flank Henré du Toit powered his way over twice, while hooker Daneel Steinman and lock Phillip van Dyk also each notched one five-pointer.

Things get even more interesting when one looks at the backs.

Gym have been a treat to watch with flyhalf Theo Boshoff and full-back Wian van Zyl exhibiting an almost telepathic understanding, something which has helped showcase the sublime talents of centre Wian van Niekerk and speedy left wing Muller du Plessis.

No sane person has ever harboured any doubts about the talents of the Maroons’ backline.  However, the presence of scrumhalf Tiaan Coetzee and two SA Schools players, pivot Damian Willemse and the mercurial Joshua Vermeulen at full-back has been further reinforced now that David-Ley Moses and Lyle Hendricks have started expressing themselves, creating a fearsome spearhead in the process.

So, two packs who are quickly finding their feet face off against one another while two sparkling backlines are just champing at the bit to show that they are the best the province has to offer. 

A great game is guaranteed, plus you can catch it on DSTV channel 210 at 13:50.

Boland Landbou are fast becoming the modern equivalent of the Greek mythological character Sisyphus, damned by Hades to spend his life pushing a boulder up a mountainside only to have it roll back down again.  They seem to start every year with rich expectations, more often than not among their hopeful supporters, until harsh reality kicks in.  The fact that in the last two years this has happened at the hands of Paarl Gym hasn’t made things any easier, either.

So they must be regarding SACS’ visit to the beautiful Farm on Saturday as a golden opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: firstly, to put the disappointment of the Gym game behind them and, secondly, to beat a side against whom they last beat in 2012.

The Farmers’ problems last Saturday revolved pretty much entirely around the forward exchanges.  In a reprise of the 2015 fixture they seemed determined to win little, if any line-out ball and their anticipated powerhouse forwards played second fiddle to their hosts for the most part.

Hopefully experienced flank Heinrich Brendel will have more confidence in his injured shoulder, while imposing props Christiaan Olivier and Stefan Alberts can give the Newlands lads a torrid time.

Their backs didn’t have enough possession for one to form any real impression as to their penetrative abilities, but half-backs Deon Carstens and Janlu Steenkamp acquitted themselves quite satisfactorily of their defensive duties.  Right wing Duren Hoffman showed plenty of promise and Durin Nasson on the left showed blistering speed on the sole occasion which he was given to score a deserved try.

Just because SACS aren’t Winelands heavyweights doesn’t detract in the slightest from their perennially optimistic attitude to the game.

While neither of their best-known forwards, hooker-turned-flank-returned-to-hooker Liam Larkan and no. 8 Alex Halvorsen, may be particularly large, two minutes of hand-to-hand combat with them would be quite long enough to dispel any thoughts of their being weaklings.

Despite not having the relevant statistics to hand, I’d happily wager that Larkan must have had one of the highest turnovers-won records in local schools rugby last season.  The game will also have special significance for Halvorsen as another branch of the family has close connections to the Farmers.

The Newlands backline is a relatively unknown quantity on the local stage, but outside centre Jordy Hop has proved himself to be a pretty reliable kicker and supplemented that with two sparkling tries against Durbanville last Saturday.

The odds do favour the hosts winning this time as there is just too much riding on the game for anything less to suffice.

Placing Bishops’ trip to Brug Street third on this list might seem rather peculiar to many, but, even a passing glance at the form book will tell one that the Rondebosch side is up against it.

The Platinum Blues have not boasted consistently large packs in recent seasons, the quick reshuttling of good ball to their unfailingly enterprising backs being fundamental to their style.
This year is no exception, particularly since a knee ligament injury in a pre-season friendly sidelined influential captain and no. 8 François Stassen. 

Flank Jean Pienaar is proving himself a more than capable stand-in, but it’s out back that the cracks are starting to appear.

Flyhalf James Macdonald, centre Seb Prentice and wing Lubelo Scott all boast extensive 2015 experience, but that doesn’t explain away the team’s astonishing 44-0 demise against a Grey High side who showed themselves to be far from superhuman against Paul Roos in their last game.

Toss in the fact that, even though Angus Firth’s charges love to entertain crowds everywhere with their running rugby and exhilarating tries, the odd conversion is also welcome.  Not this year, however. The statistics tell one that, in the four games in which they have actually scored, only three of their nineteen tries have been goaled.  Oh, and ironically it took a penalty to see off Westville 27-24.  Such wastefulness is hardly something one wants on one’s CV when a face-off with Boishaai is looming.       

Maybe the comparison is a little inappropriate, but the Strepies have, over the last thirteen months, been doing what Leicester City have been recording during the current Barclays English Premier League season: winning games relentlessly, often narrowly, but winning them all the same.

The success of 2015 is being maintained with the help of a handful of very accomplished veterans – captain and SA Schools lock Salmaan Moerat, flank Charl Serdyn, loosehead Reece Bezuidenhout, SA Schools A no. 8 Khanya Ncusane, scrumhalf Cameron Dorfling, pivot Rayhaan Lombard, left wing Urgene Johannes and SA Schools outside centre Manny Rass.

These lads have shown not the slightest inclination to let last season’s impressively high standards lapse, the late surge which saw them pip Outeniqua 29-27 in George a week ago serving as adequate proof to those who aren’t easily convinced.

Should Bishops glean enough possession to run the ball against even such an imposing line-up, they might conceivably score a few tries, but the narrow 30-23 margin by which they beat humble Brackenfell at the Piley Rees on Saturday does not bode well.

Perhaps the rustiness which comes with not playing as regularly as they might like will be HTS Drostdy’s biggest problem when they face the refreshing attacking skills of Oakdale on Trappespark in Worcester on Saturday.

In try-scoring sensation Bradley van Thura on the wing, lock Bron-Lee Mouries and lofty flank Albert Liebenberg they have three steadying influences, while scrumhalf Dimitri Moffatt seems to be finding his range from the kicking tee.

That, regrettably, is unlikely to be enough to hold off a finely-honed Bulls machine.  Never short of a powerful pack, this year’s group has already managed to weld together a formidable backline, which is hardly a problem when you’ve got as wise a head as Darren Adonis at full-back.

However, the Riversdale Rampagers will tell you that theirs is a game strategy which depends not on stars, but fifteen youngsters who swell with pride each time they pull on the jersey.

Things don’t look promising for a Drostdy side which hosts Outeniqua a week later.

Rondebosch trundle off to De Kuilen brimming with the confidence that only a comfortable win against Wynberg can give.  It is unlikely that the Kuile, who are a pretty cohesive unit this season, will repeat their July 2011 14-13 win over Bosch, but the game promises to be a anything but a whitewash.

Much chastened by last Saturday’s result against Rondebosch, Wynberg host a Tygerberg side who can upset anyone on their day.  As a matter of fact, in 2013, the last time they visited Hawthornden, the Tygers did just that, 39-36. The locals won’t have forgotten that ! 

There seem to be very few close contests in the offing in the Boland, the pick of the crop being Upington’s visit to Clanwilliam to play Augsburg Gym, Hermanus’s home fixture against Hugenote and the meeting between two of the province’s rising stars, Hopefield and Porterville, at the former’s ground.

What’s up next week ?  Rather a curious mix, probably drawn up with an eye on the approaching Wildeklawer fun and games.  The most interesting prospects seem to be Paul Roos vs Rondebosch and Tygerberg vs Bishops.