Southern Suburbs Super Saturday!

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Running interference.  Paarl Gym's Wian van Niekerk tests the Outeniqua defence
while Theo Boshoff (second from left) keeps an eye on his Quagga counterpart,
Darryle Kameel (10). Gym won the encounter 59-42. (photo: Arenda Staples)

The excitement on the final day of the local schoolboy rugby season always revolves around who will wear the crown among the city slickers.

So it comes as little surprise that the outcome of this battle will be foremost in the various supporters’ minds, with SACS having established themselves in pole position via their stunning 28-10 success away at Rondebosch, their only realistic rivals for the title.

The time-honoured finales see Wynberg host SACS in the clash of the elder statesmen, while Rondebosch take a leisurely stroll across the suburb to play Bishops at the Piley Rees. 

There are also two keenly contested Premier B interschools events featuring Stellenberg at home to Durbanville and Tygerberg visiting arch-rivals Brackenfell.  Plus Steinhoff and the Maties have put together a nice little package at Coetzenburg to fill the gap left by the Burger Trophy finals, which are mercifully a thing of the past.

No competition worth its salt can lack an element of unpredictability and events of the last two southern suburbs derby weekends have been no exception, with SACS very much at the forefront on both occasions.

No-one would have put money on Bishops crushing the Young Ikeys 43-28, even at the Piley Rees, but then, just when Rondebosch had started popping their knuckles in anticipation of SACS’s arrival on 20 August, Graeme Wepener’s lads upped the ante by cruising home 28-10.

Same suburb, very different result !

SACS have had a relatively injury-free 2016 and have a formidable look, one that was apparent as early as their highly creditable 13-17 defeat at Paarl Gym in April.  Their blend of recognizable players and those perhaps less well-known, but just as capable, has stood them in good stead.

The forwards have shone as a unit, even if Messrs Larkan and Halvorsen tend to receive many of the accolades.  The contributions of the other big men cannot be underestimated, particularly the superior line-out work of captain James Brewer and the versatility of Lance Steytler, relishing his relocation to the side of the scrum.

Lucky Dlepu has quickly learned when to and when not to bring his backs into play.  They too pose a very real threat against the Berg, with experienced Nick Redelinghuys inside go-to man Jordy Hop.  Justin Bendeman and Yanga Tolashe on the wings and full-back Michael Abrahams have also all contributed tries to the scoresheet in the last fortnight.

Wynberg haven’t been idle of late, either.  Their eye-opening win over Boland Landbou must have made their faithful followers wonder what their side might have been achieved earlier in the season.  Although the 23-17 home defeat to Bosch would have had the doubters smiling smugly, they responded again, reversing a 38-7 first round defeat with a handsome 31-21 win over Bishops.

Berg have flown very much under the radar this year, but few will doubt the commitment of captain Steve Matthew and Callum Steyn among the loose forwards. 

Among a backline formerly best known for the exploits of minute Labib Kannemeyer, currently being used at full-back, flyhalf Dom Coetzer has been a major campaign contributor recently, while centre Christian Colborn weighed in with two timely five-pointers against the Platinum Blues.

The happiness brought by the victory over SACS having suddenly been dampened by their defeat at Hawthornden, Bishops at least know that their home clash against neighbours Rondebosch is just that: an interschools showdown devoid of any statistical possibilities as far as they are concerned.

The memory of the agonizingly close (a couple of centimetres, no more) 15-14 defeat against their visitors back in June will surely spur the Platinum Blues, as similar situations will have done to many other schools this season, to press the memory delete button and redeem their fairly ordinary campaign with a spirited last stand.

And spirited it will be with thousands of former pupils vying for bragging rights over the auld enemy.

The open style of play for which Bishops is famous relies naturally on exhilarating backline skills and it is not surprising that this is where Saturday’s team must consider themselves to have the edge.

True, they haven’t always fired on all cylinders this year, but an occasion such as this Saturday can only fuel their determination and hopefully, with it, their confidence.

Halfbacks Harry Makin, whose goalkicking has been a revelation this season, and James Macdonald have had an uninterrupted season together, while the understanding between centres Rob Macdonald, younger brother of James, and Craven Week cap Lubelo Scott has had all the time it needs to gel.

No-one will be more aware than these players themselves that they are the key to releasing the potent forces that are fullback Brandon van der Westhuizen and left-wing Seb Prentice, whom necessity forced to spend a long spell on the flank, who have notched fourteen and fifteen tries respectively in 2016.

Bishops forwards rarely hog the limelight, but the sterling work done by Luke Viljoen, Byron Cranswick, Christian Stehlik and Jean Pienaar, to name a few, cannot go unmentioned.

However, this is where Rondebosch will be looking to establish some superiority. 

Matthew Grobler, Braden Tredoux, Hylton Goatley, captain Garth Shenker and Cal Smid make up a fiery back five in a solid-looking pack, one that functions at its best when foraging together.

Injury has regrettably robbed Bosch of influential centre Van der Bijl Blake for far too much of the current campaign, necessitating unavoidable shuffling, which has seen fly-half Sam Cragg redeployed to the midfield.  Hopefully, their presence alongside one another on Saturday should bolster the team’s midfield sufficiently to counter the Bishops threat.

The expected return from international duty of Mike Mavovana will go a long way to offsetting the loss of Amani Minani, but looks certain to allow DJ Falconer, whose penetrative running has impressed this season, to slot in alongside Blake.

Mavovana is unlikely to let the exertions of the last two weeks detract from his dazzling spontaneity and he would love nothing more than playing a decisive role in his last outing for the school.

Two healthy yet passionate encounters; what a fitting way to end the local Premier A season !

The two second-tier derbies taking place also deserve attention.

Stellenberg and visitors Durbanville have both enjoyed noteworthy seasons, most particularly because of the outstanding efforts both have made to field more teams than before at a time when many schools in the area are experiencing something of a decline.

The Jade Brigade have acquitted themselves most commendably in this challenging breakthrough season.  Casual observers will say that they bit off more than they could chew, but they took any criticisms in their stride, rode it out and have come out of it all the better for the experience.

Perhaps the key to their success at this late stage can be attributed to the return to fitness of inspirational scrumhalf Ricardo Duarttee and the move from full-back to flyhalf of the elusive Evert Carstens. 

Their combined presence is sure to have an influence on the players outside them, particularly wings Angelo Davids, who has visited the whitewash nineteen times this year, and evergreen Lance Jurgens.

While the team gelled spectacularly last Saturday to thrash Tygerberg 68-5, they will be wary of their neighbours, who have had a very industrious winter.

Like the Stellies, the Durbies’ strength is in the midfield.  Hopefully nuggety scrumhalf Lenel van Niekerk will be fit so that Jean Aucamp can return to the position of pivot, in which role he contributed four tries against DF Malan two weeks ago.

The kicking form of centre Reynier van Rooyen and the two great tries scored by wings Cole Fisher and Irvin Fredericks against Paarl Gym last Wednesday can only boost the visitors’ confidence.

Over the bridge from Cape Gate, Brackenfell welcome Tygerberg with the hosts more determined than ever to record a win.  They got as far as drawing 22-22 in 2014, but have lost all the other games since 2011, in which year they were clobbered 61-12.

Fortunately for them, things look very different this year with the Tygers returning some rather indifferent results, among them consecutive home defeats to DF Malan (19-22) and Durbanville (0-28) in May.

The free-running Tygerberg backlines of recent years are regrettably little more than distant memories these days, a point that the management seemed to concede when they switched to a forward-oriented game in the second half of their defeat away to Swartland.

Their props, Didi le Roux and Handré Jooste, have definitely been the most reliable performers this season and one can only hope that the injury Le Roux picked up during last weekend’s 68-5 drubbing at Stellenberg will be sorted out by Saturday as this is possibly the only area in which they look superior to their hosts.

Tiaan de Wit in the second row and loose forwards Marco Whitmore and Tiaan Schonken will have their hands full, given the outstanding form of the hosts’ Jean-Louis de Lange, Ruan Combrinck and rising star Sean-D van Binsbergen.

The Brakkies backline oozes confidence all the way from long-serving scrumhalf Branden de Kock to full-back Keith Chiwara.  Flyhalf Quan Eymann has established himself as one to watch next year, having put his Craven Week experience to good use and wing Siya Ntuntwana has worked tirelessly for his eleven tries.

Do the hosts want this one enough ?  You betcha !

The Steinhoff Maties programme at Coetzenburg offers a last look at some of 2016’s foremost combatants in the Boland, while the main game between HTS Drostdy and Die Brandwag of Uitenhage may even throw some additional fireworks into the mix.

The Easter Cape side gave visitors Outeniqua a truly torrid time a few weeks ago. Let’s just say that it took some very contrite apologies to defuse what could have boiled over into a nasty situation. 

The Donkeys won’t need much motivation to perform as they attempt to atone for their 52-15 defeat at Brug Street last weekend.

Nevertheless, come Saturday night, there’ll be no more looking forward to, only back at another exciting winter.