Getting rid of the cobwebs. Paul Roos inside centre Lyle Hendricks exploits a gap in the Swartland defence during their pre-season friendly last week at the Markotter. (photo : Inus Grobler)
There may have been the odd game here and there in the last two weeks, but Saturday 12 March marked the long-awaited unofficial start of the 2016 schools rugby season in the Western Cape.
Around fifty schools were in action, most of them taking part in the various rugby days presented by Brackenfell, Porterville, Paul Roos, Lutzville and Paarl Gym.
Riding the wave of excitement, so to speak, yours truly managed to watch four matches in the three days starting on Thursday 10 March.
GYM JUMPSTART THE SEASON
On Saturday the lure of Paarl Gym proved too much to resist. The two main games were just the tip of a very large sports extravaganza organized with the attention to detail one has come to expect of the Gimmies family.
The expectant atmosphere, charming hospitality and delightful camaraderie of the occasion provided a memorable start to the season, which was massively enhanced by a magnificent display by the hosts, who thumped HTS Drostdy 52-0.
Any doubts that the transition from Christoff Lötter to Pieter Rossouw as backline coach might have a discernible effect on the Gimmies’ play in that department were emphatically banished as the crowd was treated to some stunning, penetrative running by their very dangerous fast men.
The halfbacks, captain Zak Burger and Theo Boshoff in the crucial position outside him, provided a flawless platform, leading to the optimal use of every piece of possession by the likes of the two Wians – centre Van Niekerk and full-back Van Zyl – and the human bullet that is left-wing Muller du Plessis.
The first try came as early as the fifth minute, slick interpassing putting no. 8 Muller Uys in near the uprights for Boshoff to convert.
Two scintillating runs by Du Plessis had the crowd on their feet, but they had to wait for quarter of an hour before Boshoff sliced through to dot down and double the lead to 14 points.
The Donkeys were by no means content just to sit back and soak up the punishment. Captain Albertus Liebenberg was a literal and figurative tower of strength in the lineouts and, were it not for hesitation amongst the backs, they could well have got on the board, given the number of petty penalties the hosts were conceding.
The only other score of the first period came when right wing Reinhardt Louw capitalised on shaky defensive work by the visitors to cross the whitewash, giving the hosts a 19-0 advantage.
Six minutes after the very welcome water-break Boshoff cut the Worcester backline before slipping the ball to Van Zyl, who slipped through untouched to ensure the bonus point. Four minutes later only an overcooked grubber prevented the Du Plessis-van Zyl partnership from piling on the pain.
The fifth five-pointer deservedly went to the tireless big men up front, loosehead André Booysen finishing off a blindside move in the 49th minute. Boshoff continued up his kicking form to make it 33-0.
Seven minutes later inside centre Wian van Niekerk accepted the opportunity to dart through a slightly disordered defence to help push the score to 40-0 with the conversion.
Next came the undoubted highlight of the match came seven minutes later when Man of the Match Du Plessis put on a blistering burst of speed to run round the despairing Drostdy defence to pile on the agony (45-0).
Perhaps the Donkeys’ day was best summed up by the way they squandered a gilt-edged opportunity to get on the board. Awarded a penalty on the hosts’ 22 metre line, the kick intended to set up a five-metre line-out sailed into touch in goal.
Du Plessis gained possession after the drop-out to surge seventy metres upfield, setting up another try scoring opportunity for Booysen. Boshoff;’s conversion closed the scoring at 52-0.
It’s a great pity that the 2015 WP Craven Week team laid claim to the copyright for the term “jaw-dropping” with their romp against EP at the Markotter last July. This performance ran that a close second.
Win, lose or draw, this Gym side is going to entertain crowds wherever they go. If they can cut out the occasional unforced infringement, they could be an ominously potent force this season.
Drostdy suffered from too many moments of indecision, both on attack and in defence, every one of which came back to bite them. Once they sort out what appears to be stage fright, they will be prove to be more than challenging opposition.
The early game was a very close tussle between Hermanus and Vredendal, both of whom eagerly accepted the invitation to cross swords at what is geographically pretty well half way between the two schools.
It’s a pity that confusion over the length of each half caused dissatisfaction and might very well have cost the Whalers the game.
Vredendal led 8-5 at the break, thanks to a try by lock Gideon Toua and a penalty by flyhalf Rossouw Jordaan as against a try by left-wing Kayno Temmers.
A fine try by replacement wing Chrisham Lucas, converted by Temmers, looked to have sealed victory for Hermanus, only for the Vredies’ left wing JB Geldenhuys to snatch a 13-12 win in the dying seconds.
The traditional Tygerberg-Hugenote pipe-opener in Parow was conveniently moved forward to Friday 11 March to accommodate the Blackies’ annual fete on the Saturday, making it a must-see attraction.
As it turned out, the hosts managed to put their recent thrashing at the hands of Outeniqua behind them, running out more comfortable winners than the 26-18 scoreline suggests, thanks in no small part to a masterful display by full-back Tiaan Henecke, the Man of the Match, whose silky running skills proved crucial in the end.
Despite falling behind to a Renaldo Fransman penalty, the Tygers never relinquished the lead after right wing Heinrich van Wyk scored in the fifteenth minute.
Henecke ghosted through the defence for his first try and converted both to put the locals up 14-3 at the break, a lead which was almost doubled by the 55-minute mark via Henecke’s second try and one by flank Tiaan Schonken.
When Hugenote finally found their feet, something which wasn’t helped by influential no. 8 Nashwill Marthinus having to go for a concussion test early on, five-pointers by Fransman, flank Michael Goodall and full-back Kimo Davids could only narrow the margin to eight points.
On Thursday at the windy Wesbank grounds Vos de Jager’s troops didn’t have things all their own way against a young but very game Groenberg side from Grabouw, eventually taking the game 29-15.
In fact, the Apple Farmers led 9-5 well into the first half, thanks to the field-gun left foot of centre Chantin Wildschut, but tries by no. 8 Darren Phillips and lock Keanan Arendse supplemented right wing Gurswin Coetzee’s earlier effort to put them 15-12 up at the change-over.
Further tries, by two reserves – front-rower Kelvin Welkom and wing Abraham Haas – both of which centre Persual Abdol goaled gave the home lads a substantial lead, in reply to which Anton Esau’s team could only offer a fifth Wildschut penalty.
And so, the best five months of the year are upon us. If the last weekend is anything to go by, we’re in for plenty of top-notch entertainment !