2016 In Review : Brakkies’ Bite Matches Their Bark


Feeding time !  Tygerberg full-back Tiaan Henecke (in the green jersey) prepares to bring
down his Brackenfell counterpart Keith Chiwara in their interschools clash,
won 30-19 by the Brakkies. (photo: Anton van der Mescht)

To be honest, there were very few highlights in what was at a troubling year for the WP Premier B teams. 

The most notable of these were the heartwarming way Brackenfell ended a very industrious season in top place in this tier, fittingly with their first Interschools win against archrivals Tygerberg, and the continued rise of adventurous Stellenberg.

While the Brakkies’ 16-8 win ratio might not seem that remarkable, one needs to bear in mind that their six of their defeats came at the hands of Premier A sides, Outeniqua and two of the best sides in Namibia.

The enterprising approach shown by the school came as a welcome change from their unsettlingly conservative approach of recent years.  Indeed, Corné Kannemeyer seemed intent on exposing his closely-knit group to as many challenges as was humanly possible. 

It should, therefore, come as no surprise that their 24-game workload represents the most extensive programme undertaken by any team being tracked on this website.

After losing 3-19 at home to Outeniqua, the Brakke impressed at Oakdale, beating Lichtenburg (24-17), Oosterlig (31-12) and Voortrekker of Bethlehem (3-0) before heading off to the Desert Festival at Walvis Bay just a week later.

There defeats at the hands of Windhoek Gym (8-14) and El Natan (6-9) and a 38-5 victory over Pro-Ed Academy prepared them for their return to Cape Town, where they lost 23-30 away to Bishops.  Three weeks later freeway fatigue caught up with them as they went down narrowly to Ben Vorster (22-25) and Worcester Gym (28-32) at the KS2 event in Oudtshoorn.

Visitors Windhoek High were dispatched (27-19) before Paarl Gym were made to sweat for their 38-24 win.  Fourteen games in nine weeks ! Whew !

SACS beat the Brakkies 17-13 on 28 May before the northern suburbs lads went on a nine-game unbeaten streak, the most memorable of which, home victories over Stellenberg (16-15) and Tygerberg (30-19), brought a fine campaign to a climactic ending.

Their success owed much to the excellent halfback pairing of veteran scrumhalf Branden de Kock and his dynamic partner Quan Eymann, who spent large parts of the season out injured. 

Both gained provincial selection, Eymann as utility back for the Craven Week team; De Kock and prop Ronan Witten, another injury-prone youngster, for the Academy Week squad.

De Kock notched 129 points, but the coaching staff must have been pleased to have had Stefan Bender (40 points) and Wikus Strydom (33 points) to call upon in times of need.

The leading tryscorers were backs Siya Ntuntwana and Keith Chiwara on eleven and eight touchdowns respectively, while forwards Jean-Louis de Lange (nine) and rising star loose forward Sean-D van Binsbergen (eight) weren’t far behind.

The immediate future looks bright enough for the Brakkies, but they need to address the sudden decline in player numbers in the lower age-groups if they are to sustain their dominance.

On the surface, Stellenberg’s 9-7 record is nothing special, but that won’t bother the triumvirate of Divan Batt, Giscard Pieters and Duppie du Preez, who will be more than satisfied with the positive return from an arduous programme.

Hoping to gain eventual inclusion in the Premier A tier, the Jade Brigade decided that what wasn’t going to kill their squad would only make the youngsters stronger.

Of course, their detractors might choose to highlight their shortcomings this winter with the aim of putting a damper on their aspirations.   Many others, the majority, I expect, would prefer to admire their commitment not only to testing their current squad’s capabilities, but also to laying the foundations on which successive groups can build.

Whatever your take on the situation, victories in their first six games were the stuff of dreams.  Menlo Park (25-16) and Kempton Park (47-14) were comfortably bettered at the North-South event in Tshwane after which two 78 point hauls, against DF Malan and hapless Primrose RFC, and a 26-10 win over Bellville got the campaign off to a flying start.

Next came the side’s debut appearance at the Wildeklawer Festival, which traditionally features the best sides the country has to offer. Expectations were muted ahead of the weekend, but a win over Noord-Kaap (27-19) and the narrowest of defeats at the hands of Garsfontein (18-19) brought more smiles than tears.

The acid test, four exacting assignments in the space of three weeks, lay ahead.  Even then, the courage of the team became apparent when, after heavy setbacks at home to Paul Roos (8-34) and away to Paarl Boys’ (3-41), they put in very creditable showings, albeit in defeat against Outeniqua (27-34) in George and Boland Landbou (22-34) at Windmeul.  

The price for their sustained hard work came in their 15-16 loss to Brackenfell just before the June holidays, after which they managed to bracket a 17-47 lesson from hosts Paarl Gym with handsome performances against De Kuilen (36-5) and Tygerberg (68-5) before closing the year with a 31-10 home win over Durbanville at Interschools.

Despite their fine opening run, the latter part of the winter saw them play arguably better rugby.  Up to June flyhalf Ruben Scholtz led the way with 126 points, a vital contribution, but, when he relocated, the return of former pivot Evert Carstens, who had been largely dormant at full-back, to partner Ricardo Duarttee, back after a long-term injury, behind the scrum, allowed the Stellies play a far more urgent, attacking game.

That WP Academy Week cap Angelo Davids (19) on the left wing and old hand Lance Jurgens (9) on the right were their top try-scorers is proof of the team’s effectiveness out wide, thanks to the expertise of captain Fouché van Rooyen and François du Plessis in midfield.

The pack did their bit, too, flank Johann van der Merwe picking up six tries and no. 8 Daneel Kellerman, five – three of which came against Durbanville.  Talk about nice timing !

What about next year ?  It’ll be a difficult act to follow, but challenges are what drives this machine.  Just look what a few years in the Rugby Championship have done for Argentina !

Strand (10-6) raised their supporters’ hopes with wins over Centurion (17-5), Vredendal (37-7) and Potch Gym (20-14) at Oakdale and ground out victories over relatively modest opponents Primrose RFC (38-7) and Monument Park (38-8) before hitting a wall against Boland Landbou (12-71) and Bellville, whom they had earlier beaten 16-12, (12-26).

More success against Helderberg neighbours Parel Vallei (19-16) and Strand Secondary (36-10) proved to be inadequate preparation for a tough run ahead and they lost to Rondebosch (9-29), De Kuilen (22-23), Swartland (12-46 after leading at half-time) and DF Malan (7-25), all on home turf.  Two wins, against Hugenote (11-8) and Hottentots Holland (38-22) did little to lighten the mood.

Durbanville (11-1-8) pottered along as efficiently as ever without either hitting any great heights or plumbing any depths, the pick of their results coming in a six-win spurt in mid-season, during which they beat Hottentots Holland (53-7),Tygerberg (28-0), HTS Daniel Pienaar (44-13), Worcester Gym (24-19), Bellville (21-8) and DF Malan (31-20) before harsh reality caught up with them in comprehensive defeats against Paarl Gym (10-57) and Stellenberg (10-31) in the final week of the campaign.

Flyhalf/inside centre Reynier van Rooyen laid the foundations with 145 points, while Jean Aucamp took over the no. 10 jersey with aplomb in the latter stages of the season, scoring nine tries, four of which helped the Durbies sink DF Malan.

The high placing of HTS Bellville (12-10) reflects their willingness to play virtually anywhere at any time in their quest to raise the school’s long-dormant rugby profile. 

After losing the first four fixtures on the trot, victory over Schoonspruit (12-0) started a five-match winning streak which included close shaves against Monument Park (20-18) and Tygerberg Club (15-14).

Defeats at the hands of Brenadino Heights (19-20) and Parel Vallei (27-32) brought them back to earth and their record had its ups and downs for a while, before their second Garden Route tour – four matches (2-2) this time – in as many years.

Local setbacks (7-8) against Bellville South and Hamlets RFC (6-10) couldn’t derail the Esmond and Thurlow roadshow and they ended on a high, beating Labori (20-5), Kasselsvlei (28-24) and DF Malan (24-5).

So the upward trend continues, thanks to flyhalf Austin Prins’s 99 points and the fourteen tries equally shared between wings Marlon Oliphant and Siphe Qolo.

De Kuilen’s winter started with five wins, arguably the best being the 27-7 victory over Canadians Shawnigan Lake before reality, in the shape of Rondebosch (5-35) and DF Malan (10-45), kicked in.

Two wins against mediocre opposition at the K2 event in Oudtshoorn were duly counterbalanced by defeats to Swartland (0-23), Durbanville (8-15) and Wynberg (15-46) before a come-from-behind 23-22 triumph at Strand.  However, the only success in the last four fixtures came against Kasselsvlei (33-0).

Dylan Mawona contributed 78 points, while flank Le Clugh Thebus crossed for ten tries.

Judging by the crazy ups and downs of their season DF Malan (10-9) seemed intent on taking over the unwanted yoyo boys mantle from neighbours Tygerberg.

Things looked bleak when their only win (26-20) in five starts came against Hugenote of Springs.  Amazingly, a 78-3 drubbing at Stellenberg seemed to galvanize Louis Lamprecht’s charges as they promptly beat Parel Vallei (14-10), De Kuilen (45-10) and Hamiltons RFC (68-10).  SACS then recapped the Stellenberg lesson (78-5), only for the team to respond with away wins against Monument Park (43-10) and Tygerberg (22-19). 

Cue another bleak run, which culminated in the 5-111 disaster against Boland Landbou.  Funnily (unpredictably) enough, seven days later they ended the second term by coming from behind to beat Hugenote 29-26 in Wellington.

The third term brought wins at Strand (25-7) and Bellville (28-16), but even then they still managed to defy logic by sliding to a 5-24 defeat at HTS Bellville !

Their player of the season had to be Carlo Geyer, a loose forward redeployed at inside centre. His eleven tries and flyhalf Heinrich van der Watt’s 69 points punctuated the rollercoaster ride.

Tygerberg (9-14) and Bellville (8-1-12) struggled, both owing a huge debt of gratitude to a single player. In the Tygers’ case, this was full-back Tiaan Henecke, whose impressive 219 points included 22 tries, while inside centre Dan Aspeling accounted for over half of Bellville’s tally (192/375).

It’s easier to find setbacks than successes in the Tygerberg scorecard.  For instance, they lost to Outeniqua (5-69), SACS (14-82) and Stellenberg (5-68).  Mind you, they did beat Shawnigan Lake (54-22), Monument Park (40-10) and English tourists, Pate’s Grammar (59-0), with Henecke celebrating his eighteenth birthday with 29 points in the last-mentioned match. 

Left wing Maxwell Osborne’s ten tries was the only other noteworthy contribution to a team whose school faces the excitement of becoming a dual-medium institution in January.  

Bellville struggled in the wake of 2015’s supersquad.  Early wins at the expense of Langenhoven Gym (16-3) and Potch Gym (14-10) proved to be scant reward until success against Walvis Bay (21-17) and Strand (26-12).  A long dry spell followed until comfortable triumphs over Hamlets RFC (26-12) and Primrose RFC (59-14) provided late-season cheer.

Alec Heydenrych’s haul of seven tries was the best anyone could muster.

The heartbreaking annual struggle faced by Monument Park (4-12) is only partly lessened by the rationalization that this is due not to a lack of talent in their feeder area, but to the untiring recruitment of such players by more successful schools in the Western Cape.

The only victories that punctuated another difficult campaign came against Lutzville (15-13), neighbours Eben Dönges (48-0), Milnerton (35-13) and Table View (40-10), none of them better than third-tier opposition.

Centre Allistair Mumba and hooker Tommie Ross-Allen (twelve and nine tries respectively) led the side’s spirited resistance, which was enhanced by flyhalf Sibusiso Mhlom’s 47 points.

My suggestions regarding a serious rejigging of this league were set out earlier in the season, but the gist bears repeating. 

Firstly, there needs to be a commitment by sides in this group to play at least 60% of their peers during the season so that at least are seen to be trying to justify their grading.

Secondly, the time has come to strengthen what is ultimately a shaky foundation for the Premier A tier by including the likes of the successful Parel Vallei side, who play a brand of rugby that wouldn’t be out of place at the top level of the local game, and, possibly, Bellville South.

These two sides have been knocking at the door for a long time and deserve to have their aspirations realized sooner than later. 

It would be to everyone’s long-term benefit.  

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