Time For A Good Old Reality Check


That Pioneering spirit!  Two Pionier defenders close down Brackenfell fly-half Quan Eymann during
their 67-12 defeat against the hosts at TSRF 2017. (photo: Axnshots)


With the seemingly endless stream of festivals finally, a thing of the past, the resumption of domestic hostilities on Saturday 6 May 2017 provides a much-needed return to normality for the local school's rugby fraternity.

As we approach this weekend, there are only three sides – Stellenbosch, SACS and Charlie Hofmeyr – who still boast a 100% success rate.  That’s right, all seven of the other WP Premier A sides plus Stellenberg, HTS Drostdy, Oakdale and Outeniqua have lost at least once in the last month or so.

This interesting statistic alone tells us just how close the competition is amongst the schools that are competing for places at the top of the national rankings. 

It’s safe to say that this means that local bragging rights have suddenly become that much more important in the greater scheme of things.  Which suits the average spectator just fine!

The nett result is that, after the thrills and spills of the Wildeklawer and, to a lesser extent (unless you’re a Rondebosch or Bishops fan), Wynberg events, even the most mundane local fixture takes on at least some added significance. 

This Saturday sees a slightly diluted programme, given that Stellenberg are taking a well-deserved breather and the two SWD heavies are involved in local trials.

The match with the most potential for excitement sees Bishops host SACS at the luxuriant Piley Rees.

The hosts found themselves astonishingly high on the national rankings before they came spectacularly unstuck against KES last Saturday.  The intervening period has both seen that statistic partially rectified and provided the Platinum Blues with a brief pause for self-contemplation.

They sight of the backline in apparent disarray, swinging the ball with not-so-gay abandon, brought back some of the less treasured memories of the last few seasons.

There is experience among the backs, but it has to get to them for them to utilise it.  William Rose can hardly shoulder much of the blame: he has distributed what possession he has been given sensibly.  The problems lie in front of and behind him.  The scrum is relatively lightweight and the midfield, undependable.

One cannot help but think that wings Ross Goodwin and Murray Bruce must be two of the most frustrated people in the extended Bishops family, starved as they are of opportunities to display their abilities.

Not too much should be read into SACS’s not yet having tasted defeat.  They’ve had a comparatively pothole-free path so far, although they did show plenty of character to come back to subdue an inspired St Andrew’s (Grahamstown) side at St Stithian’s over Easter.

The pack is fiery, particularly in the front row where Anathi Kalipa and Ethan Burger are forces to be reckoned with.  Storm Balchin has made his presence felt at line-outs and in Sujai Ikemefuna and Craig Bylin veteran Tom Robinson has found willing apprentices at the side of the scrum.

Lucky Dlepu is returning to something like his best form and, with the mercurial Jordy Hop set to return after a slight knock against Bellville at the weekend, the backline should be able to subject Bishops to a tough test.  Michael Abrahams has proven his counter-attacking credentials, Aaron Zeederberg loves nothing more than to stretch his long legs on the right wing and Zolani Masembathe made a strong case for a return to the starting fifteen this weekend.

SACS boast a fine recent record away to Bishops.  They might well enhance it on Saturday.

The other two southern suburbs sides face the sobering experience of the 50-odd kilometre trip to Paarl.

Having been shaken by KES and Bosch in successive weeks, Wynberg is only starting to put things together nicely.  That won’t bother Paarl Boys’ High, who continue to amaze with fitness and performance levels that would make seasoned professionals envious.

Singling players out is not always a sound practice, but no.8 Francke Horn is possibly the most complete player anywhere in the province.  Give him wrestler Vian Fourie at his shoulder and he becomes even more menacing.

Whichever combination of Eric Myburgh – JG Bruin – Boeta Chamberlain – Seon Mouton –even Abner van Reenen plays at half-back, there are still the likes of Divan Enslin at centre and Thakir Abrahams on the wing to contend with.

Berg has a mountain to climb. 

Paarl Gym probably derived scant consolation from the praise lavished on both teams in their defeat to Grey College.  If anything, they will be all the more determined to take out their frustrations on Rondebosch at their Jan Kriel ground.

However hard the Gimmies claims to be a team without superstars, the endeavours of no.8 Henco Martins have been very special this campaign.  In front of him, locks Ryno Beukes and Adriaan Ludick forms a daunting second row, while hooker Chris Rossouw is several handsful in every phase of play.

The backs have succeeded in remaining largely anonymous, not that that will bolster Bosch’s confidence, given that the combined efforts DJ Falconer, Thoubaan Gabriels, Zaka Sallie, van der Bijl Blake and even Robbie Davis could not hold off a determined but hardly unstoppable Hugenote backline for the full seventy minutes on Monday.

Although Cal Smid and unheralded workhorse Johan Strauss have laboured effectively in the loose and the powerful front-row of Chulu Mputing, Suhaib Ajmoodien and Shaakir Salie is not to be ignored, the southern suburbs side is short of the sheer size of their hosts.  And, as we all know, size counts.

A home win looks a safe bet.

Paul Roos might be heading off to Port Elizabeth for their annual clash with Grey High with the unhappy memory of defeat to Waterkloof still fresh in their memories, but they can derive some comfort from the fact that the pride of the Windy City hasn’t hit the heights of recent years.

Irrespective of that, the Young Maties play delightful rugby, whoever of their opponents, so the good folk of Nelson Mandela Bay can expect a treat on Saturday.  You can too if you tune to DSTV channel 207 at 13:50.

The Maroons’ backline has the luxury of two capable scrum halves in Gerado Jaars and Antonie Kock and, with Brendan Venter in midfield, whichever wings are chosen from WJ Smit, Regan van der Westhuizen and Remy Engelbrecht, the threat level they pose together remains high.  Then there’s the elegant Colia Louis anchoring the defence at full-back.

And yet, bitter experience has taught many a side never to write Grey off at home.  This is going to be a thriller, the result of which will probably be of secondary importance to those who are privileged to watch it.  No prediction for this one.

Battle-weary or not, Boland Landbou should have too much heavy artillery for second-tier visitors Bellville, so let’s shift focus down a league.

There’s not a great deal to rave about.  Brackenfell ought to beat hosts De Kuilen, after last weekend’s heroics in Oudtshoorn, Tygerberg will surely maul Monument Park in Parow, but Strand’s visit to DF Malan could produce the goods.

One never really knows what to expect from the Helderberg side, but DF is compiling a very respectable CV this season, even if a large part of that can be ascribed to crafty flyhalf Heinrich van der Watt. 

They have serious speed in the back three, particularly in full-back Tasriq Mynhardt and Jonty Witbooi on the left and hooker Daniel Wesson, lock Jean-Pierre Luise and the van Tonder twins stand back for no-one in the forward exchanges.

One of the most intriguing games sees in-form Durbanville entertain giant-killers Hugenote on the edge of the northern suburbs.

The fact that neither side has to depend on a single go-to player suggests a fascinating battle of wits between coaches Shaun Huygen and Lance Sendin.

Up front, there is not a great deal to choose between the sides, but both teams have very sharp backlines, the most interesting potential match-up being the midfield duel between Durbies’ Jean Aucamp and young Juanré de Klerk and the Blackies’ Jaymian Steyn and Jayden Fransman.

With the Boland derby between HTS Drostdy and Worcester Gym threatening to get nasty score-wise, Boland fans should perhaps turn their attention towards two other intriguing match-ups.

Charlie Hofmeyr is once again in supreme form, although, coincidentally, the last time I said that their record also didn’t reflect a defeat against one of the Greys’ 2ndXVs at Graaff-Reinet. This weekend they welcome ever-competitive Overberg.

Across the platteland – and the occasional mountain – Montagu entertain the highly successful Stellenbosch side, who seem to have found scoring tries about as easy as running onto the field.  Ben Malan’s boys are always a treat to watch, all the more so because they tend to be ignored in favour of celebrated neighbours Paul Roos.

Both of these fixtures promise plenty of excitement.

Next week Boishaai are off to Bloemfontein to match wits with Grey College, Framesby visits Boland Landbou, SACS host Paul Roos, Bishops head to HTS Drostdy, Stellenberg entertain Outeniqua and Wynberg welcome Grey High.   Plus, on  Wednesday, enthusiastic Groenberg pay Hermanus a visit.

Almost makes this Saturday seem like the calm before the storm.  We’ll, it doesn’t hurt to hope!

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