Dale was in a transitional development phase
It has been a long 14 seasons since Dale College enjoyed such spectator support and an enthusiasm to see “this Dale rugby team”.
Where ever one went the talk of the rugby season was the way this team approached the game, the spirit in which they played and their ability to be able to bounce back and take control. Hector Paper (1961) said that it is “like watching lightning” against Grens as one just did not know where to look!
For the record the 2012 Dale First XV played 19 games; winning 15, losing two with two games ending in a draw. They scored 495 points to 236 points from the opposition. The win rate for 2012 is 79% and the success rate 84%. A pleasing set of results as report cards would reflect.
To put this into more perspective one has to realise that based on seasonal history and going back to the 1880 rugby season Dale enjoy a win rate of 65% and a success rate of 68%. Clearly the 2012 side rates as a very successful Dale College First XV.
The most important analysis of South African Schools rugby season of 2012 is that the Dale side finished off the season in the most credible Number 9 position in the Top 20. Furthermore an analysis looking at schools rugby results over the last four years and the top 28 sides, Dale College is rated and ranked at number 10 in South Africa. Both positions are significant in that no other schools side on the Border and in the Eastern Province or the Eastern Cape Province are ahead of Dale College. A remarkable achievement and season and a first for a Black South African schoolboy rugby team.
The side played at the Graeme College Rugby day in Grahamstown, the Kearsney College Easter Festival in Durban and the Grey High School Festival in Port Elizabeth. They encountered all sorts of weather conditions from mud and water at a rain-soaked Graeme College to mist and diffused light conditions in Durban and torrential rain in Port Elizabeth. So much so that a game against Daniël Pienaar had to be called off as just too dangerous underfoot.
One might ask why the past 14 seasons are significant. In a nutshell, 14 seasons ago, was the last time that a Dale side achieved a win rate of 90% or more. From then onward there have been many peaks, reaching 75%, and valleys to the worst season of 25% win rate in 2007. This was a very young Dale side that were the nucleus of the renaissance period of the last few years. Considering that Dale has not been blessed with great forward power the sides have adapted to a fast and mobile fifteen with fast pace and great interchange between forwards and backs. The lack of big forwards has brought out the best in the Dalians to adapt playing conditions and take advantage of fitness and playing at full pace and in many cases mesmerising both opposition and spectators alike. Accolades aplenty have been written. From the Sowetan, the Natal newspapers, to the local newspapers as well as National magazines such as You and Huisgenoot. All singing praises of Dale Rugby like no other school could enjoy or has enjoyed.
Some seasons ago we criticised many schools for poaching Dale College talented players. These schools are from the Gauteng area and even our local environment. We acknowledged that Dale was in a transitional development phase and an all-embracing change, transformation and acceptance based on the demographic make up of the New South Africa. The last few seasons under Head Coach and Director of Dale College Rugby – Grant Griffith - the doomsayers have again been forced to take back their harsh criticism, negative perceptions and to eat humble pie. Those “poachers” have at last resorted to developing talent from their own pool of previously disadvantaged players and are recognising the enormous pool of raw talent that exists
Research has shown that all past Dale College and Diocesan Grammar School Headmasters have all and almost as one reiterated year after year from earliest times the need for broad-based education to involve the population of South Africa. Two Headmasters, Malcolm Andrew and James Haupt, had the courage of their convictions to press ahead with the open schools policy and implement the visions of their predecessors without any contradiction or awkwardness. All this to the distress of their respective SGB members in general. Most of those members of the SGB at that time of early transformation saw nothing but deceit and perceived disaster in the way the Headmasters were implementing change and education of one and all!
May those SGB members, to a man, who have passed on rest in peace and who are most likely turning in their graves! However those who were highly critical, including Chairmen and are still alive and kicking, should at least be man enough in true Dalian tradition, stand up, be counted and state “we were wrong and admit that the New Dalian has brought great honour to our and their Alma Mater and that Headmasters Andrew and Haupt were correct!” Again there will be readers who may ask the reason for this inclusion in the article about Dale Rugby. The simple answer is that sooner or later the truth must out and to give praise where praise is due. Without foresight we would still be trying to defend the indefensible
The underlying magic that is Dale College is that the 2012 rugby side had a squad of 22 so called Black players who did themselves proud, the school proud, transformation proud and given Grant Griffith and his coaching “brains trust” members extreme pride. The season also saw the arrival at Dale College of rugby players from Zimbabwe. This was reminiscent of the days of yesteryear when boys came to Dale from the then Northern and Southern Rhodesias and further a field. It did not raise eyebrows then and when these were raised this season a reminder to the past soon placed the situation into perspective.
Some games this year gave spectators some anxious moments. There will always be teams that make it a goal to lower the flag of the high-rolling and successful team. That is the nature of competition. The character shown by this 2012 side in coming back to draw with highly rated sides from Paul Roos and Glenwood has been a talking point and must be used as motivational inspiration to future teams, especially when the half-time scores would indicate embarrassing end results in each case.
Kingswood came close to lowering the Dale flag but again patience won the day and against the run of play Dale snuck home to win in Grahamstown. The early season game and win against a big Marlow side in the mud and quagmire Graeme College field gave an indication as to the character of the side that was ably captained by Sibanye. Bukani who also had to take over leading a depleted Craven Week Border Schools side.
Highlights of the season must surely be the “Double Header Win” away and at home against Selborne College. The home game in King saw the Dale Squad turn out in Pink Strip to highlight cancer and to promote CANSA. This first at school rugby was a great talking point. A spectacle that had its own set of emotions that were in many cases privately and openly reflected by many spectators. This was only the third time since 1910 that the Dale side did not play in traditional black jerseys with red hoops. The Reunion game against Queen’s College saw a highly motivated Dale side streak away to a commanding lead. It also saw the Dale side produce a character filled defensive game to keep a revitalised Queen’s team away and to force a win. One of the best games of the season
With wins and drawn games also come games that are lost. The season of 2012 will record two losses - one against Grey High School in Port Elizabeth and the other the last game of the season against Queen’s College in Queenstown.
The Grey game was billed as the game of the season. Unfortunately Dale was hit with injuries and the typical very windy conditions upset the Dale style of play. Half-time saw Dale holding a slender lead. No doubt the Grey coaches saw the weaknesses and stern words saw a new approach from Grey. There was no domination and only late into the second half did the Grey side move ahead through clever and opportunist play. All credit to Grey who were up to the challenge and were able to counter the Dale style of play.
The last game of the season against our oldest schoolboy rival (1891) Queen’s College in Queenstown lived up to the pre-match expectations from all sides of the rugby spectrum. As usual the game was played at a frenetic pace. However Dale missed two vital players in scrumhalf Akona Sihunu was doing duty for SA Schools and flyhalf Luke Masasire playing cricket in Australia for the Zimbabwe national Under-19 side in the ICC Cup tournament.
Queen's were fired up and through the brilliant play of the Queen’s halfback pairing were able to punish the Dale side. The end result was a hard convincing win for Queen's that was not as one-sided as the score might suggest. Queen's flyhalf Josh Stander gave a brilliant performance of tactical play and was the Queen's general on the day. Although Dale were beaten rugby was the winner giving the departing Queen’s College Headmaster Dave Lovett his first win against Dale as he leaves to take up the Headmaster post at KES.
What does the future and specifically 2013 rugby season hold in store for Dale? It is expected that about half the squad will be back to form the nucleus of the 2013 team. There is talent coming through at second and third teams as well as individual Under-16 and Under Under-15 and Under-14 sides. A criticism is that the open sides below thirds do not play nearly enough games in a season to hone skills and allow for Dale coaches to spot early talent. Dale Junior had a good season and is again in a building phase that promises good results for the future. The use of more than development phases is needed. Dale College have to take some bold steps and step up the game and rugby coaching to the extent of incorporating an academy. We have the talent, as a transformed former all-white historical school of South Africa we need to attract the millions of rands up for sport development. Dale needs a rethink and a business driven individual to be out in the market place soliciting the aid and sponsorships. The year 2013 marks 20 years from when the academy approach was first brought up for discussion!
The sad news is that Dale College Head coach Grant Griffith is leaving Dale to take up a coaching post with the Hamiltons rugby club in Cape Town. It is a sad loss for Dale College but a wonderful opportunity for coach Griffith. The Old Dalian who captained the all conquering 1993 rugby side to coaching at Dale Junior and ultimately at Dale College. He will be sorely missed as he could always be seen at the Dale Junior fields and games as well as with all the Dale College teams. He joined the College in 2007 and was appointed assistant First XV coach and after successfully guiding Dale Junior teams through the previous few years.
Griffy as he is affectionately called by every one has achieved much once he was appointed head coach of Dale College rugby. The seasonal stats from 2009 to 2012 seasons read:
His record under the headings played - won - lost - drew - points for - points against - %age wins:
2009: 20 - 11 - 9 - 0 - 559 - 301 - 60
2010: 18 - 10 - 8 - 0 - 423 - 318 - 56
2011: 20 - 14 - 6 - 0 - 537 - 311 - 70
2012: 19 - 15 - 2 - 2 - 495 - 236 - 79
Total: 77 - 50 - 25 - 2 - 2014 - 1166 - 65
We all wish Griffy well in Cape Town and we know that his successor at First XV level will have big feet to fill that have been left by the “little man of Dale Rugby” and where some of the dale Junior boys were bigger than he is and where he was like a midget when mixing with his First XV boys. Good luck, Griffy, and may your life as student, rugby player and coach at Dale College place you in good stead in the future.
2012 Rugby Awards