The local schools rugby programme gets under way on Saturday 14 April 2018 with all but one of the big guns in the Western Province, Boland and South Western Districts in action.
The local portion of the enticing spread features Paul Roos vs SACS and Rondebosch vs Wynberg, but enthusiasts will have to be prepared to travel to watch HTS Drostdy vs Oakdale, Outeniqua vs Paarl Boys’ High and Affies vs Paarl Gym.
It seems almost surreal to say it, but the second term has dawned with all four of the protagonists in the first two fixtures boasting unbeaten records, something which spices those fixtures up considerably.
Paul Roos sailed past a Golden Lions XV, HTS Daniel Pienaar and Nelspruit, scoring 32 tries in the process and conceding a miserly 15 points at St John’s, while, at St Stithian’s, SACS were convincing against Maritzburg College and Michaelhouse, but less so in the Kingswood game.
Both sides are fortunate to have many first team regulars available from last year, in the course of which, if you need reminding, the Young Maties pipped their Newlands rivals 29-24 away from home.
Apart from the returning players, the Maroons also happen to be able to call on one of the top Under 16 sides of 2017 to fill in the few existing gaps.
Hooker JJ Kotzé has already notched four tries this season, having managed six last campaign, second-rowers Mink Scharink, Micardo du Preez and Jarod Cairns have crossed the whitewash, while the backline finds itself at full fighting strength, marshalled by flyhalf Juan Mostert.
The razor-sharp threequarter trio of second centre Brendan Venter and wings Remy Engelbrecht and Regan van der Westhuizen are all on the scoresheet too, but have been upstaged by exciting youngster Kade Wolhuter, whose 72 points include four tries, three of them from the full-back position.
SACS don’t seem to be missing flying Dutchman Jordy Hop at all, but this time round their strength lies very much in a largely intact scrum. Hooker Anathi Kalipa has mighty Ethan Burger and Josh Barrett back beside him and locks Jean Minnaar and Storm Balchin complete the engine room, as they did last winter.
Full-back Michael Abrahams keeps a close eye on a backline that includes Ben Mazzullo at centre and speedster Kabelo Mokoena on the wing.
The advantage of being in front of their home crowd at the Markotter makes Paul Roos overwhelming favourites, but you never can tell…
The first Bosch – Wynberg match seems to have found a permanent date on opening day and a really exciting contest is very much on the cards.
Bosch have recast some of their regulars in new roles to telling effect.
Johann Strauss, who rendered yeoman service on the wing for a large part of 2017, has returned to the scrum at no.8, flank Mihlali Mgolodela has shifted from flank to lock and scrumhalf Jaco Barnard has been reassigned to the midfield.
Sounds like panic stations ? Anything, but, judging by the way they dealt with Parktown (35-12), Kingswood (15-10) and Maritzburg College (41-3) at St Stithian’s.
But, for the first time in several years, neutral observers could be forgiven for focussing on their visitors, Wynberg.
It has become almost a tradition that every two years the Berg start with the same team as the previous year. Then start like a freight train. One going off a high bridge.
This year, it’s very different. No matter what happens from here on, Justin van Winkel’s charges have already given their loyal devotees plenty about which to enthuse.
What’s changed ? For a start, the tendency to swap flyhalf and full-back – last year, David Botha and Di Livio van Wyk – from game to game seems to be a thing of the past, with Van Wyk handed the number 15 jumper and Kyle Lamb, who filled in everywhere out back last year, firmly ensconced in the flyhalf berth.
The other difference is that they didn’t arrive at KES without a game under their collective belt. The backline flowed beautifully in the pipe-opener against Brackenfell, with Lamb and scrumhalf Dylan Munro looking very settled together.
Wings Chase Hermanus and Patrick Chivanga are as sharp a pair of wide men as you could hope for, while Van Wyk is always on hand to help smooth over any cracks from the back. Then there is the added midfield threat of Wandile Notshe, who scored twice in the 81-0 massacre of Muir.
Up front hooker Jason Alexander packs down between Nic Witte and Luthando Woji and has the reassuring presence of last campaign’s locks Mika Schubert and Liam Lotz in the second row. James Pearse is ready to fill any position in the front row when needed and flanks Inga Halu and Saeed Fakier have both kept the scorers busy already.
Add in the fact that Wynberg’s greatest performance of 2017, their 20-19 victory over Selborne at the Cape Schools Festival, was achieved on Bosch’s Tinkie Heyns Field means that Saturday’s game has all the ingredients required of a real thriller.
Fortress Trappespark is the venue for HTS Drostdy’s match against an Oakdale side which remains unbeaten after four outings, two of which were at Paarl last week.
The Bulls have a sparkling backline and, with half-backs Derick Jooste and JD Strydom having got through their baptism of fire intact, they can look to the combined experience of wing Trevino Gordon, who has already scored ten tries, centres Janco Klinck and Etienne Steyn and talented full-back Clyde Lewis to convert possession into points.
Malan du Plessis’s troops are never found wanting in the beef department and this year doesn’t look like bucking the trend. Hooker Keano Hendricks has mighty Magnus Muller for support at the coalface, lock Hannes Gous ran in a hat-trick of tries against the Grey Cherries and loose forwards Hendrik Victor and Henco Beukes are more than a handful.
With eight games behind them, six of which were in the twelve days up to Monday 9 April, the Donkeys are as finely tuned as they will ever be.
The sheer might of the front row – which comprises seasoned warriors Tommie Laubscher, Stefan Schwartz and Duan Bredenkamp – is offset by a multi-talented loose trio. Nuggety Benicio Kamfer ferrets out the loose ball, retreaded lock Heinrich Naudé provides the oomph factor and tactically astute skipper CJ van Rensburg pulls the strings at no. 8.
Luciano Elias and Shaun Baxter anchor a backline loaded with the likes of playmaker Christie Grobbelaar, a bursary winner at the Kearsney Festival, and a choice of wings which includes Adrian Maans, Roann Jansen and Keane Galant. Then there’s the elegant Cohen Jasper at full-back, a counterattacking genius, who shares the tee duties with Baxter.
The biggest threat to a home win is the fatigue brought on by a crowded holiday programme, which ended with a titanic 30-21 win against this season’s surprise package, Transvalia, in Middelburg earlier this week.
This should be an absolute thriller.
Boishaai head up to George to face an Outeniqua side that seems finally to have found its feet at last week’s International Festival.
The Quaggas are renowned for their nippy, inventive threequarters and appear to have a few new names to add to their list of cult heroes in that regard.
Full-back Matthew Thorne is in rich try-scoring form, while centres Darryn Fortuin and Hendrik Hattingh, flyhalf Zinedine Robinson and wings Herschelle Otto and Ridge Gaffley all featured on the scoresheet as the men in black registered 22 tries in their two matches.
Up front, there may be shortcomings, although flanks Bennett Nortjé and Braam van Huyssteen are seldom far from the action. Prop Jaco Gerber and lock Pieter Ferreira are also seasoned veterans, capable of standing up to any opposition.
The fact that they lost their unbeaten record in only the second game of the season should ironically count in the Brug Street Brigade’s favour.
They will be freer to express themselves without the added weight of expectation looming over them. The fast men such as Javier Farmer, Divan Uys and José George will happily wreak havoc, feeding off outside centre Trent Sivertsen.
There is never any lack of muscle among the forwards, where men to watch include hooker Cullen van der Merwe, SA Schools lock Adrian Alberts and this year’s version of a human wrecking-ball, no. 8 Evan Roos.
Last week’s festival hosts immediately stepped up to the plate after their defeat at the claws of the Jaguares to beat highly-rated New Zealanders Christchurch 25-7, so it’s safe to say that any concerns about a blue-and-white slump are merely the stuff of opponents’ dreams.
Affies will doubtless be under no illusions about the strength of Paarl Gym.
A largely unheralded side, Pieter Rossouw and Helmut Lehmann’s team have methodically dealt with all the obstacles placed in their path.
The pack boasts a feisty pair of locks in Juan Beukes and Mark Etzebeth, as lively a hooker as you’ll see anywhere in Van Eeden Hanekom and a loose-forward trio – the Siebert brothers, Pierich and Hendri, and captain Dean Nieuwoudt – that more than makes up for its lack of height with its ruthlessness in the hunt for the ball in the loose.
Scrumhalf Bobby Alexander has already become a crowd favourite, his crisp service to flyhalf Charl Janson ensuring the smooth functioning of a talented backline, which can call upon the experience of 2017 Craven Week centre Dawid Kellerman, Academy Week wing Stravino Jacobs and rising star Tiaan Swanepoel at full-back.
Gym’s success has always been its ability to play to a basic pattern – which is where Janson is so pivotal (pardon the pun) – while at the same time being able to improvise effectively within it. Don’t expect them to change things for their jaunt to Tshwane.
Boland Landbou, who host Brackenfell, have a habit of putting lower division opposition to the sword with monotonous regularity. Ask Strand, Bellville and DF Malan, if you don’t believe me.
Thee Farmers also enjoyed their time at the international festival, notching twenty tries. No.8 Eugene Snyders is proving to be a major problem for opposition defences, with flank Thys Kitshoff always in close support.
Gavin Mills and Dean Reichert have been efficient in their service to centres Erik Lambrecht and Sebastian de Klerk, while wings Bertus Baard and HD van der Merwe are ruthless on attack and in defence. The presence of polished Darren Hendricks at full-back adds the perfect finishing touch to a well-balanced backline.
The Brakke might be licking their wounds, come Saturday afternoon.
A game with real potential sees DF Malan, unbeaten to date, travel up past Tyger Valley to play a Durbanville side that is giving notice of its intention to take a measured step closer to the big league.
The Durbies may only have a win over Milnerton on their plus side to date, but showed that they could well reach the heights for which they are aiming with two decent outings at the North-South show in Tshwane.
The way Stellenberg’s campaign is unfolding, Shaun Huygen’s side must be aiming to top the WP Premier B standings, something which could well be within their grasp if, and it’s a big if, they can keep key men Juanré de Klerk, André Bester, Mondrey Titus and Diagho Miggel fit.
Fresh from a week in Durban, DF are unbeaten after five outings. The team oozes experience, perhaps the most notable veterans being hooker Daniël Wesson, lock JP Luise, the loose trio of twins Ruben and Ulrich van Tonder and Ruan de Beer and exciting fullback Tashriq Mynhardt.
Plenty at stake means exciting rugby should be the order of the day.
Otherwise, the local cupboard is fairly empty, the water situation having resulted in the cancellation of the rugby part of the annual Bellville Sports Day, which has left several Boland sides with unwanted byes.
The fixtures between the hosts and Tygerberg will, however, still take place.
The 1st XV clash should end in a home win, should flyhalf Deuvajio Solomons, centre Xavier Adams and tighthead Martiens Kotzé continue where they left off in Riversdale, but the locals would be well advised to keep the Tygers’ dynamic no.8, Edja de Meyer, on a short leash.
The only other ember of promise comes in the form of Stellenberg’s visit to Strand. Divan Batt’s side is still hunting for its first win in the wake of a couple of very successful, high profile seasons. Chances are they’ll open their account on Saturday.
Next week, it’s town versus country time. Boland Landbou are at home to Rondebosch, SACS head for Paarl Gym, Wynberg welcome Paarl Boys’ High and Paul Roos host their annual derby day against Grey High from Port Elizabeth.