Life Goes On As Paarl Prepares Itself

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Watch out, bro, tight forwards can sidestep too !  Paul Roos’s SA Schools lock Ben-Jason
Dixon tries to wrongfoot a Paarl Boys’ High opponent during their game at the
Markotter in May.  Boishaai won the match 28-3 (photo: Inus Grobler)

If you didn’t know that we’re at the business end of the season, the fixture list will soon alert you to the fact, with all the top teams scheduled to meet, if not each other, then at least high quality second league opposition.

Of course, much of the attention will be focussed on the two Paarl sides ahead on their Faure Street showdown next Saturday, but their games – Gym host Stellenberg; Boishaai travel to SACS – should just be seen as part of a very attractive package.

Other games see Bishops at home to Paul Roos, Boland Landbou visit Wynberg and Rondebosch welcome Tygerberg.  In the Premier B division DF Malan take the N2 to play Strand and in-form Durbanville await the arrival of Bellville.

Paarl Gym put down an unequivocal marker in Riversdale last weekend, their 41-19 thrashing of the highly competitive Oakdale team illustrating their overall effectiveness.

The loss of Wian van Zyl has been smoothed over by slotting multi-talented SA Schools cap Muller du Plessis in at full-back, in the process giving Ryno Boonzaaier the no. 11 jersey, an opportunity he gratefully turned into two tries.

The backline’s various playmakers – halfbacks Zak Burger and Theo Boshoff and centre Wian van Niekerk – are all in sublime form, while the forwards remain a unit that derives its strength from its singularity of purpose: no-one tends to stand out, except for Muller Uys, but, for him I’m sure everyone is happy to make an exception. 

Not the tallest or biggest lad in schools rugby, Uys has broadened his fan base exponentially with a truly remarkable Craven Week and must be the ace in the Gym pack going into Interschools next week.

What risks are Pieter Rossouw and Helmut Lehmann prepared to take against Stellenberg ? It boils down to the annual dilemma faced by both Paarl giants: play the full A team as a dress rehearsal and risk injuries or withdraw key personnel and settle for a reduced win ?  For Gym, at least, the answer is a no-brainer: go flat out.

Stellenberg have been through enough wars this year to claim a part in world history.  While it is hard to see them coming close against Gym, they can be relied upon never to roll over, no matter who the opponents.

This should be an enthralling contest, given extra flavour by its timing.

Boishaai rested a few SA Schools players last week for various reasons and got something of a wake-up call from the Bosch boys.  True, the weather didn’t make things easy for either side, especially when it came to tricky footwork, but the Brug Street Boys didn’t have it all their own way.  

This week sanity suggests that they should rest some of the other battle-weary campaigners with a view to 6 August, but one or two greater considerations come into play at this stage, not least of which the refreshing, in-your-face brand of rugby that has become the trademark of their hosts on Saturday, SACS. 

No-one is saying “banana peel” too loudly, but chances are that if only one field in the province is likely to be wet, it will be the SACS one, so slipping is a distinct possibility !

Feisty opposition, wet field, player over-exposure, an unbeaten record and Faure Street all come together to provide a potential headache for Messrs Erasmus and Wolfaardt.

That’s even before one looks at the composition of the SACS side.  James Brewer’s team has provided a breath of fresh air with its high-intensity style this campaign.  In the midfield Dutchman Jordy Hop epitomises their sometimes kamikaze-like commitment, with Nick Redelinghuys a relentless force inside him.

Such is the confidence in the pack that Craven Week hooker Liam Larkan was left in the front row against Bellville last Saturday, with hooker Lance Steytler consigned to the side of the scrum.  No-one could discern a difference – that speaks volumes for the exemplary commitment to the cause of Graeme Wepener’s squad.

The home side has nothing to lose, going into the closing round of local derbies. A strong showing against one of the best schoolboy sides anywhere would represent the ideal fillip for the remainder of the season.

You can be sure of a full house turning up to support the exhilarating Young Ikeys.

The ruthlessness with which Boland Landbou tore into Bishops last week may just be seen as confirmation that the Platinum Blues’ best days are past.

Although little scrumhalf Harry Makin and Seb Prentice stood out against the Farmers, Paul Roos are – unfortunately for the hosts - likely to pose much the same questions of their defence. 

SA Schools caps for pivot Damian Willemse (his second) and lock Ben-Jason Dixon are just rewards for two players who have never failed to serve the team this season. The trickiness of the one finely counter-balances the enormous work-rate of the other, whose second-row partner Jessie Johnson gained an SA A call-up for exactly the same reason.

If the hosts pack doesn’t get their act together from the start on Saturday, the Young Maties quicksilver backline – Joshua Vermeulen, Aydon Topley, Lyle Hendricks and company – is going to lead them a merry (and probably very productive) dance.

With Wynberg having just about managed to struggle through their annus horribilis, the last opponents they need before the calmer waters of the southern suburbs derbies is a Boland Landbou side that just seems to get better with every outing.

You don’t get weak Landbou packs.  Heinrich Brendel, Henco Maree, Kevin Reed, Christiaan Olivier, Heino Strumpher and Albert Coetzee are smiling, breathing proof of that. 

Ah, but aren’t Boland backlines sometimes a teensy bit suspect ?  Not any more, I’m afraid.  Such is this unit’s continuing ability to surprise that Academy Week flyhalf Janlu Steenkamp has unceremoniously taken over kicking duties after wowing the crowds up at Kearsney.  Deon Carstens is great at the base of the scrum, while Durin Nasson delivered a classy, productive midfield showing alongside WP Craven Week cap Henlo Marais at Bishops.

Frankly, you just never know what they’ll come up with next, although one has a nasty suspicion that Wynberg may well find out up at Hawthornden on Saturday.

Huge games against Paul Roos at the Markotter and Oakdale at the Farm are all that stand between Landbou and a dream ending to a wonderfully successful season.  If for this reason alone, don’t expect them to take their feet off the gas this Saturday.

Rondebosch will certainly hope to take up where they left off at Brug Street last weekend.  The adverse conditions may have served to level the playing field so to speak, but the southern suburb youngsters must have been ecstatic about the narrowness of their defeat.

Fair enough, most of their opponents had been in action at Kearsney the week before while the Bosch lads, apart from Rocket Mavz, had only been TV spectators, but only substantially one-eyed observers would deny Mark Lindenberg’s willing youngsters at least their fair share of the positives.

Their visitors, Tygerberg, had a few successful outings at Swartland, including a 21-20 success against massively over-rated Uitenhage side HTS Daniel Pienaar, but these results merely represent the occasional ups on a performance graph that bears an uncanny resemblance to a sketch of a roller-coaster track.

Workmanlike they may be, with a formidable front row and a superb full-back in Tian Henecke, but the eleven or so positions in between more often than not give cause for concern.

The hosts are sure to use this as the launching pad for the local derbies that lie ahead.  Defeat is not really an option. 

Last year Durbanville did very well to restrict a powerful Bellville side to a 24-17 home win.  Circumstances have changed dramatically – as they often do in the Premier B tier – and the Durbies have been outstandingly successful of late, especially in the 44-19 hammering they dished out to HTS Daniel Pienaar.

The most intriguing duel is likely to take place at the back of the scrum where Durbies’ no. 8 Muller van der Westhuizen and scrummie Lenel van Niekerk are going to have their hands full keeping counterparts Marchant Prins and Ruan van Schalkwyk quiet.

The hosts must start as favourites, but will have to shore up a backline that left several questions asked of them by Worcester Gym last Saturday largely unanswered. 

Three of the South Western Districts sides are at home to Eastern Cape opposition, which shouldn’t really bother them, bearing in mind how comprehensively the Young Eagles trounced their EP counterparts at Craven Week. 

Outeniqua play Framesby, Oudtshoorn face Die Brandwag and Oakdale cross swords with their good friends, the merino farmers of Marlowe.

The Struisies might struggle, but the Quaggas and the Bulls look likely victors.

Although the highest profile encounter in the Boland is HTS Drostdy’s home match against a rather sub-par Noord-Kaap team and the most entertaining prospect has to be the Hermanus – Charlie Hofmeyr encounter, spare a thought for the little bit of history that will be made out at scenic little Hopefield where the locals face powerful neighbours Swartland at first team level for the first time in many years.

The hosts currently boast an almost unprecedented seven teams, the deserved rewards of a positive school vibe and painstaking coaching over several years. 

The visitors should win, but, for at least Rian van den Heever’s proud boys, the day will be about much more than just the rugby.

Always nice to end on a feel-good note, isn’t it ?