Posted by on 10 April 2013 | 0 Comments

Scrumhalf Remu Malan clears a maul for the Quaggas against Grey College at Kearsney
(Photo: Dulene van der Merwe)

There may already have been upwards of 172 games involving Western Cape schools this year, but the local rugby season proper only opens officially on Saturday 13 April 2013. While there is a full programme in the Western Province and South Western Districts, many of the Boland teams appear to have opted for a break between the flurry of festivals and the extensive travel often required by domestic matches.

Outeniqua pay their second – and last – visit of 2013 to the Peninsula to face Paarl Boys’ High at Brug Street in arguably the year’s most eagerly anticipated local fixture outside of Interschools.

It is by now common cause that this Quagga side is going to be there or thereabouts when it comes to “calculating” the top schoolboy side in the country this year. They have already beaten Grey College, traditionally regarded as the best team the country has to offer, and, apart from Boys’ High and Paarl Gym – whom they host in two weeks’ time – their only major hurdle appears to be Waterkloof at Wildeklawer early in May.

The George lads don’t have any weak points. They field a very large, mobile set of forwards and boast a backline that at once more cunning than a skulk of foxes and more elusive than world peace.

Boishaai should be able to match the visitors in the front row, where François van der Merwe is set to make a partial return following a long-term injury, but in the loose-forward department and the second row things don’t look as hopeful.

The traveling trio of Captain Geor Malan, fellow-flank Lian van Schalkwyk and last year’s Boland Craven Week no.8 Dian Koen are proving almost impossible to contain, while the imposing frame of 2012 SA Under 16 squad second-rower Eduard Zandberg will give his side an appreciable advantage in the increasingly important lineout possession stakes, even if he has to play without regular partner Hendri Storm, who is out injured, at his side.

Word from the Boishaai camp is that huge ex-Garsie Le Roux Roets is expected to partner Burger van Niekerk at lock with Matthew le Roux shifting to the side of the scrum, a position with which he is not unfamiliar. Roets carries round 130+kg, but it is his mobility that will be subjected to a stern test.

It’s behind the big boys that the hosts are going to find themselves really under the whip.

Paul de Wet – and Damian Stevens, who, although close to battle-readiness, will only be used if absolutely necessary – at scrumhalf will need their wits about them to deal with the wily Remu Malan and his diminutive lightning-fast partner Dewald Human, whose most recent visit to the Winelands yielded a stunning intercept try at Gym last July.

As if enigmatic centre Ricky Gelant isn’t enough of a handful, the visitors’ two wide runners pose very different threats. Powerhouse left wing Duhan van der Merwe has been relatively quiet this term, meaning he’s due to make a major impact soon, while his sublime team-mate on the right, Leighton Eksteen, shifts position during games as the tactics require.

Nonetheless, there are two rays of hope in this division for the locals. Danté van der Merwe has acclimatized well to the full-back berth, even though it is a position from which it is going to be very difficult to call the shots under what looks like being constant pressure, and key midfield kingpin Dewald Naudé is said to have recovered fully enough from a nasty knock against Waterkloof to start at outside centre.

Let’s hope the weather holds for this treat for local fans.

Several other matches promise close contests.

Out at the Markotter Paul Roos will be aiming to put a rather unconvincing showing at Kearsney behind them when they host a Bishops side still trying to banish the ghosts of a calamitous 2012 in a very important game for both teams.

The Maroon Platoon will be hoping to have all their rising stars fit after they found their squad running dangerously thin up in Natal. It is, however, more than likely that a school with the player resources of the Young Maties will be able to fill the gaps with quality players.

Having pulled off two heartening wins up at St Stithian’s on either side of a defeat by Pretoria Boys’ High, Bishops seem finally to be approaching, if not actually turning, a corner under the inspirational leadership of hooker Cuan Hablutzel, while the backline is thriving now that a stable combination seems to have been found.

Wynberg entertain Rondebosch up at Hawthornden in what many are quietly billing as an early indicator as to the kingship of Cape Town.

The ’Berg have made great strides with an almost entirely new squad although a convincing victory against more substantial opposition than the various Gauteng Saints is required to add credibility to their CV. Big positives are the ease with which Siya Alam has donned Riaan O’Neill’s mantle at flyhalf, the early form of hooker Bevan Barnard and the stability provided at the back by Karl Martin.

At the Maritzburg College event, the Canigou Carnivores gave giants Monnas a fright, only succumbing 14-5, before neatly handing off Jeppe 24-5. A fine pack, several of whom boast campaign ribbons from 2012, has been ensuring good ball for a backline boasting the explosive talent of Khanyo Ngcukana.

It’s much easier sitting on the fence regarding the outcome of this game than committing oneself either way !

Boland Landbou should have the measure of SACS in Newlands provided the Windmeul Warriors get into gear from the start and produce the early surge to match their customary closing spurt.

As was the case last year, Landbou have found themselves bedeviled by a lack of backline stability – for instance, Tian Nel, last year’s flyhalf, now playing scrumhalf, ended up at full-back against Kearsney ! Needless to say, master tactician Oloff Bergh will have spent plenty of time ironing this out since the Easter Festival.

Their hosts will have taken some heart from a comfortable 49-0 win over Schoonspruit at St Stithian’s, but, sadly, this says more about their opponents than it does about them. In short, inconsistency is the main threat to this being anything more than an average season for the Young Ikeys.

HTS Drostdy come to exciting Stellenberg fresh from a 22-7 home win over Menlo Park on Saturday. After a draw and a defeat in their first two matches, the Donkeys have racked up three impressive victories with talismanic skipper Hanro Liebenberg at the helm.

However, Duppie du Preez’s Stellies stars are no pushovers, having given a good account of themselves at the Bizhub Festival in Durban, plus they can rely on the precocious tee-time talents of full-back Tiaan Swanepoel in what looks like being a thriller.

Out in the SWD, Oakdale should be looking to continue their rich vein of form when they visit Oudtshoorn to play a young Struisie team.

What with Upington and Duineveld having cancelled their scheduled visit some time ago, Paarl Gym have a bye, for which they must be extremely grateful as some tough away assignments lie just ahead: Tygerberg, Outeniqua and the Wildeklawer weekend, all away from home.

Finally, for those who like to plan ahead: on Wednesday 17 April 2013, a rather flat Schoonspruit side will be trying to reclaim bragging rights in Malmesbury when they host Swartland at the Wesbank grounds.



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