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Choice shots 27

Making those hard yards ! Boland Landbou flank Henro Meyer shrugs off the Bosch defence on his way
to the tryline in last Saturday’s match, which the Farmers won 48-15. (photo: Marilize Jordaan)

Although some of the really big encounters scheduled for Saturday 14 May 2016 might well be a long way up the N2 – Framesby vs Boland Landbou, Grey High vs Wynberg and Oakdale vs Paul Roos – there are still plenty of exciting match-ups scheduled throughout the Western Cape.

In the southern suburbs SACS host Rondebosch and Bishops welcome a HTS Drostdy side whose Classic Clash win over Worcester Gym last weekend provides further evidence that the sleeping giant of Boland schools rugby is waking up.

A few clicks up the N1 Paarl Gym head out to Brackenfell and a tad further Stellenberg visit Brug Street to renew their acquaintance with a Paarl Boys’ High side, fresh from a weekend off, who will be using the game to make final preparations for the visit of Grey College on 21 May.

That’s by no means all, either.  There are three intense derbies to choose from: Oudtshoorn vs Outeniqua, Vredendal vs Calvinia and Piketberg vs Schoonspruit and a mighty clash between two of the Boland’s top performers, Charlie Hofmeyr and Augsburg Gym in Ceres.   

SACS are breathing fresh air into the Premier A tier this season with their in-your-face approach largely spearheaded by the talents of centre Jordy Hop, whose flair and unpredictability can, in part, be ascribed to his only having played rugby in this country for some fifteen months.

Last weekend Bishops were relatively easy prey as the Young Ikeys celebrated the return to full fitness of hooker Lance Steytler, who contributed a try just to put the icing on the cake.  Loose forwards Liam Larkam and Alex Halvorsen also got in on the act, as did skipper James Brewer.  For once the only back to cross the tryline was increasingly confident scrummie Lucky Dlepu.

Bosch haven’t had much success to date against top-level local opposition, having had to rely largely on the trickery of right wing Amani Minani and full-back Mike Mavovana to keep the scoreboard operators awake.

They didn’t look at all shabby in their two outings up at Wynberg, even if flyhalf Sam Cragg was redeployed to first centre and then full-back at Hawthornden.  Their young pack is nothing if not willing, hooker Suhaib Ajmoodien in particular already looking like a seasoned Premier A campaigner.

Unfortunately SACS have oodles of hard-earned street cred and their urgent – and thus far pretty successful – attacking style may well prove to be Bosch’s undoing.

The Platinum Blues showed brief signs of a return to their trademark style against Tygerberg a few weeks back, but have lost their three subsequent outings, hardly ideal preparation ahead of the arrival of a Donkeys team massively psyched up by their win against the Bosvarke last Saturday.

Up front the two teams may turn out to be very well matched.  Neither has any gigantic ball-carrier to lead the charge – the closest would be the Worcester side’s lock Bron-Lee Mouries – and line-outs are a cause for concern to both teams, despite the visitors having the very lean but very tall Albertus Liebenberg in their ranks.

So it looks like the battle might be won or lost at the back and here things get very interesting.

Bishops are renowned experts in the art of backline play, but only if they get enough ball to move up through the gears.

Flyhalf James Macdonald will need to be in top form if he is to unleash the talents of hard-running Russell Goodwin and Murray Bruce out wide. His partnership with Harry Makin seems finally to be gelling and the attacking threat of full-back Brandon van der Westhuizen is a glowing positive.

Drostdy, on the other hand, have become accustomed to feeding off every scrap they get. 

Lynthen Barties is a sound flyhalf, Timothy Allies grows in stature at outside centre with each appearance and Bradley von Thura on the wing has 17 tries under his belt.  One must also consider the emerging talent of utility back Dimitri Moffat, who has forced himself into contention for the kicking duties. 

If this contest boils down to the winner being the hungrier side, the spoils could well be heading out through the Huguenot Tunnel on Saturday afternoon.

Northern suburbs sides Brackenfell and Stellenberg both have mountains to climb against Paarl Gym and Boishaai respectively.

The Brakke have been registering very creditable results, the most recent being a 27-19 success against Windhoek High, but very little can prepare them for the rumbling monster that is Paarl Gym.

The fact that the overwhelming majority (34/44) of the visitors’ tries have come from their backline tells the story of a side well aware of its own strength.  They are all highly accomplished, but keep a special eye open for full-back Wian van Zyl and scrumhalf general Zak Burger

The northern suburbs lads have unearthed a great talent in flyhalf Quan Eymann to supplement
the proven abilities of scrumhalf Branden de Kock and players such as Gerhard Swanepoel, Siya Ntuntwana, Keith Chiwara and Stefan Bender are all well aware of what to do with the ball.

The problem is that that knowledge will be useless if Ruan Combrinck, Jean-Louis le Grange, Donovan Bouwer and company up front are prevented from providing anything more than a trickle of possession.   

It is mildly amusing that Paarl Gym asked Brackenfell to host their fixture on Saturday.  Last year Gym had to wait an eternity for their first home game, but this campaign they have had such an abundance that they are concerned about the state of their grounds ahead of the national weeks they will be hosting in the midyear holidays.  Corne Kannemeyer’s troops sure ain’t complaining.

All the strides and smaller steps that they are making every week notwithstanding, Stellenberg came to earth with a bit of a bump at home to Paul Roos last week and can’t count on a very focused Boishaai side showing them any mercy.

Sure, the comparatively lightweight Stellies forwards do their work well, but the quality of players such as SA Schools lock Salmaan Moerat, no. 8 Khanya Ncusane and flank Francke Horn has already been tested repeatedly at the highest level this year and has still to be found wanting.

One fears that the lesson given last Saturday is going to be underlined in a variety of colours this week, but hats off to Divan Batt’s squad for taking on the big guys this season. 

Strangely enough, thoughts of the upcoming Grey clash might even give the Jade Brigade a minuscule advantage in that both the Boishaai coaches and their players will be intent on ensuring that none of the key personnel pick up any injuries.

The well-rounded if unspectacular Paul Roos side is going to have to step up a gear if they are to defeat an Oakdale side, who, while producing some relatively moderate results recently, did restrict mighty Grey College to a creditable 48-23 victory margin at Wildeklawer in its last outing.

The home side’s strength traditionally lies up front where workhorses such as André Posthumus, Marko van der Merwe, Hanno Olivier and WP van Heerden are more than just the next standard bearers for the school.

It is no secret that the Paul Roos pack is not physically daunting; however, ergonomically they lack nothing.  Hooker Daneel Steinman has frequently caught the eye and locks Ben-Jason Dixon and Jesse Johnson more than make up for the lack of bulk with their enormous work-rate.

The Young Maties might actually have the edge out back, thanks to the inspirational option-taking of flyhalf Damian Willemse and full-back Joshua Vermeulen, although their Oakdale counterparts, Xavier Swartbooi and Darren Adonis respectively, will be intent on proving their vulnerability. 

The venue itself, with every learner in full voice, often gives the Bulls a slight advantage, but with all those proud Maroons accompanying their flagship side, even that edge might be cancelled out.

In the Friendly City – probably so-called because that’s the only games their cash-strapped provincial sides can afford to play – Boland Landbou and Wynberg face very different opponents.

Framesby have slipped somewhat is the national rankings since the halcyon days of Ernst Stapelberg and may well find their hands full, given the new-found confidence displayed by their visitors’ backline, which seems to have found its optimal combination.  

Wynberg were there to see what Grey did to Bishops at St Stithian’s and will doubtless also
have had the benefit of watching the tape of the Powder Blues’ game against Paul Roos.  It is going to require a steely performance from the lads from Lovers Walk to pull this one off.

Of the other fixtures mentioned (some traditional, others simply local), one stands out above the others and no, it’s not the surprisingly early Struisies-Quaggas derby in Oudtshoorn, which the team from George should win.

The young Augsburg Gym side has taken advantage of an admittedly favourable fixture list – which is hardly their fault as they are obliged to play the other teams in their geographical area and didn’t get to pick their opponents at the Boland trials – to run the ball with aplomb, recording some admirable results made all the more impressive by the accurate tee-work of pivot JP Viviers.

They make the short trip to Ceres to play a Charlie Hofmeyr side for whom winning had become a habit until last week’s surprise loss to Overberg.  Scrumhalf Greagan Baron is very much the catalyst in their success, both in the matter of contributing points and in creating a sound attacking platform.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that this could well turn out to be the game of the weekend !

PS : Take a look at the Fixtures for July and you will find the sumptuous menu for the Independent Schools Festival to be held at Bishops from Saturday 2 to Wednesday 6 July 2016.

Those participating include Kearsney, Michaelhouse, St Andrew’s (Grahamstown), Hilton, Kingswood, St Stithian’s, hosts Bishops and Eton from England, arguably the most famous school in the world.