Posted by on 29 April 2013 | 0 Comments

Men on a mission: The Paul Roos forwards get stuck in against SACS last Saturday
(Photo: Gail Barnard)

The second great time of reckoning has arrived for the elite of South African schools rugby: the Wildeklawer Challenge to be held at Maritzburg College from Thursday 2 May to Saturday 4 May 2013.

Maybe the term “reckoning” is a bit dramatic, but closer inspection confirms its relevance here.

The participants pretty well make up that ephemeral category, the Top 20. Neither geographical restrictions nor school politics within regions have been allowed to interfere with this engrossing weekend, the second – following the forever more imposing Kearsney Easter Festival – and last chance many of the teams will have this season to check their strength relative to each other in fixtures that will go a long way towards establishing who is heralded as the top team in the country.

The stakes are so high that one adverse result could sink a team’s aspirations for the rest of the year. Those sides still boasting 100% records are under threat not only from opponents desperate to stake their own claims, but also from themselves as fear of letting oneself or one’s team-mates down adds an extra edge to proceedings.

The Western Cape provides no fewer than seven participants in this year’s slightly expanded showpiece, with HTS Drostdy making their long-overdue debut.

Let’s look at the prospects of the local contingent.

Boland Landbou – opponents: Glenwood (Thursday), Noord-Kaap (Saturday)

The Farmers are lucky to have a sighter before their stiffer challenge. They will have seen Glenwood play at the Kearsney Festival and will be confident of being able to pile more woes on KZN’s fallen heroes. Hopefully the backline will be running on all cylinders by kick-off. If so, the Windmeulers should start successfully.

Noord-Kaap are another matter entirely, if only because they tend to play their matches in concentrated spurts, interspersed with periods of enforced inertia. Henk Brand’s team has two strong points: the loose trio, in which Nico Graaff and Luaan Dowie are more than a handful, and out wide where Vredenburg resident Hilford Clarke has been amongst the tries over the last few years, courtesy of his blistering pace.

Prop Matthys Basson is the Bolanners’ key player so you can be sure both their opponents will be trying to steer clear of tight exchanges.

Looks like win one, lose one.

HTS Drostdy – Monument (Thursday), Wildeklawer XV (Saturday)

Right at the outset, let’s be quite clear that with the constitution itself of the Sharks and Wildeklawer XVs a relative secret, forecasting any results regarding matches involving these sides is not going to be easy, if at all possible.

That said, the Donkeys should be regarding Saturday as a possible win. But first they have to deal with Thursday’s opponents, Monnas, the standard-bearers for Lions schools rugby and perennial challengers for top honours in the country, who will be relishing first bite at the debutants, if only because they have yet to perform at their best this campaign.

Drostdy’s key personnel – monster front-rower Farrel Kelly and loosies Ruan Marais and Hanro Liebenberg – won’t be able to save their iffy backline, which may be further weakened as pivot Wynand Roets is battling an injury, for a full seventy-minute stretch.

However, Worcester’s pride has already surprised many pundits with the depths of its resolve this season. Maybe a draw, followed by a win ?

Oakdale – Grey College (Thursday), Sharks XV (Saturday)

Someone had to draw Grey College first up, pity it had to be Oakdale.

The Bulle have an absolutely brilliant defensive record this season, having conceded only five tries in seven games, so they shouldn’t be short in the self-belief department. But, and it’s a very large one, they haven’t come across anything remotely like these blokes, the cream of an entire province.

The gutsy approach of Willie van Rensburg and Pine Marais’s lads will only get them so far plus they will, of course, be without the uplifting support of their home crowd. With Arno Moolman injured, much will depend upon JT Jackson’s kicking to keep them afloat, although wings Lorenzo Gordon and Juan Terblanche have been amongst the tries of late.

Sorry, lads, save your best for Saturday; Thursday is likely to be your 9/11.

Outeniqua – Waterkloof (Thursday), Grey High (Saturday)

Enough space has been spent lauding Outeniqua’s undoubted merits, but now that their mortality has been laid bare by Paarl Gim, one wonders how they will react.

Piet Cloete’s side will have studied the recording of Klofies’ victory against Boishaai at St John’s and will know that the side with the psychedelic jerseys is pretty well-rounded. Their key man appears to be prolific flyhalf Tinus de Beer, whose boot has already been their get-out-of-jail card several times this year. It definitely pays to have Naas Botha coaching you !

If the Quaggas can regain their confidence on the bounce, this could be one of the great matches of the Challenge. One can’t really see the Georgians slumping twice in a row !

Grey High play beautiful rugby, Outeniqua play beautiful effective rugby so, based on their results against Paul Roos and Wynberg over the last two weekends, it’s difficult to see the light blues withstanding what should, come Saturday, be a 100% restored machine.

Two out of two for the quasi-zebras !

Paarl Boys’ High – Sharks XVB (Thursday), Glenwood (Saturday)

There are some Boishaai supporters who feel miffed that they have to play one of their games on the B Field at Maritzburg College. Based on the saying that you’re only as good as your last game, they’re lucky just to be at Wildeklawer.

This is nothing like an unbeatable Boishaai outfit and that’s before one considers Burger van Niekerk’s niggle and Charl-François du Toit’s injury. Being one reserve lock lighter (le Roux Roets packed up and returned to Tshwane last week, intent, no doubt, on doubling the number of Pretoria residents in the Garsfontein team – they have exactly one at the moment) doesn’t help either.

Neither of their opponents should beat Boishaai on a normal day, but the Brug Street Boys’ last match saw them flirt with disaster against Bishops. For some quite inexplicable reason, the blue-and-whites deserted their game plan in favour of running at and (even more ridiculously) kicking the ball at their hosts.

No-one kicks the ball at Bishops. Well, no-one who rates themselves or has a brain capable of doing so. If they try a stunt like that up in the KZN Midlands, not even their traditional strongpoint, the titanic front-row, will be able to help them.

Two wins or cancel the return tickets !

Paarl Gym – Wildeklawer XV (Thursday), Waterkloof (Saturday)

Noorder Paarl’s heroes will welcome a rest of sorts on Thursday, but are going to have to prepare themselves right down to the finest detail for the outing against a Waterkloof side that will either be seeing stars (if the Quaggas beat them on Thursday) or have stars before their eyes (if the hot place becomes a glacier and they actually win that game).

Gym showed that their quiet confidence has been well-founded by comprehensively bettering the mighty George lads on their own turf on Saturday and will not be about to let slip their grip on potential greatness. Their hunter-killer loose trio, arguably their primary weapon, will be more than happy to mop up what is left of de Beer after Geor Malan and Lian van Schalkwyk have finished with him.

There really isn’t a weakness in this side and, presuming that no-one self-destructs, they should march on at their measured pace, pocketing two more wins in the process.

Paul Roos – Maritzburg College (Thursday), Affies (Saturday)

What a difference a week makes ! After a poor outing against Grey High which saw them left kicking themselves (but probably missing, judging by their tee-form), they put together a very workmanlike performance to defuse SACS 32-0. Away from home, nogal.

Provided they don’t have another Bishops meltdown, where they squandered a 15-0 lead before having to come back for a 22-22 draw, their burgeoning confidence alone ought to see them overcome College.

Affies are the cheese to Maritzburg’s chalk. Many aficionados’ bet for no 1 in South Africa this year, they will be hell-bent on pursuing that aim at the Young Maties’ expense.

It looks like the Maroon Platoon has sorted out their backline jitters with the inclusion of Aidyn Cupido at flyhalf and Joel Heugh seeming to have found his niche out on the wing. Nevertheless, this one unfortunately looks like being a world of pain for Hein and Dawie’s lads.

First one up, second one down.

Apparently the action on Saturday will be live on television, so you won’t have to rely on the overcoached trash (except for the Cheetahs) they call Super 15 for your fix this weekend.

Stay glued or you’ll come unglued !




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