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Southern Suburbs Wrap

Thu, 29 Aug 2013 22:26
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School sport is about so much more than just winning.

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The Western Province Rugby Union School’s Premier League consists of eight teams – four from the Boland area (Paarl Gim, Paarl Boishaai, Paul Roos and Boland Landbou) and four from the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town (Wynberg Boys’ High, Rondebosch Boys’ High, The South African College High School (SACS) and Diocesan College (Bishops).

These schools are in the Premier League by virtue of the fact that they are traditional rugby schools who can all field between 16-20 rugby teams every Saturday (Boishaai and Paul Roos sometimes because they have more boys in their schools). Interestingly the only co-ed school amongst the eight, Paarl Gimnasium, is currently the No. 1 ranked school in South Africa and has the second smallest number of boys (approximately 500) ahead of Boland Landbou who have around 350 boys.

The teams in the English speaking Southern Suburbs of Cape Town have for the past number of years been working tirelessly to close the gap on their northern neighbours but in most instances have made little headway. SACS were the only team to beat a Boland school (Boland Landbou 26-22) this season and prior to that Bishops beat Boland Landbou and Paarl Gim in 2011 as did Rondebosch that year, i.e. zero wins for the Southern Suburbs in 2012. This clearly is a topic for another article entirely!

Wynberg have been the pre-eminent school in the Southern Suburbs for the past two seasons. In 2012 they beat Rondebosch Boys’ High, SACS and Bishops home and away to win what has become known in the area as the “Grand Slam”! This year they narrowly missed out on the feat drawing once with Rondebosch (10-all). In addition they beat Grey High (19-15) and won all three their games at Cape Schools Week in June/July without their two Craven Week stars, flyhalf Siya Alam and centre Jarryd Sage.

To quote Wynberg Director of Rugby Kevin Musikanth: “For so long Wynberg had been the ‘ugly sister’ when it came to local derbies fighting it out for the wooden spoon with either SACS or Rondebosch. But over recent years this has changed and Wynberg has clawed their way to being the No.1 Southern Suburbs team at Under-19 level. Preparation, conditioning and spirit goes a long way in the game of rugby.”

Although in their first year together as 1st XV coaches and with a team made up mainly of Grade 11s, coaches Justin van Winkel and Alan Gerber have proved that “immaculate, intense preparation pays dividends". The only thing missing in the last two seasons to really cement themselves as a real force in the Western Cape is a win against a Boland school and I am sure that will be their main goal going forward. They are definitely going to be the team to beat (in the Southern Suburbs) in 2014!

Rondebosch went into the 2013 season with high hopes. Their 2013 1st XV had been outstanding through the age-groups and they seemed destined to be the team to beat in the Southern Suburbs. Rondebosch were aiming for a “Grand Slam” themselves but that 10-all draw with Wynberg in their first league game of the season immediately put paid to that ambition.

In the end they won only three games in the Premier League in 2013. For some reason they seemed unable to finish opponents off. They led 20-10 against Boland Landbou but lost 30-20, they led 20-nil against Boishaai but lost 39-20 and were ahead 20-16 against Wynberg with six minutes to play and lost 23-20. They also gave Paarl Gim one of their better games of the year but all they had to show for their efforts were two wins against SACS and one against Bishops. The defeat to Bishops at home in their final game of the season will have been a bitter cross to bear for the entire Rondebosch Rugby community.

Coaches Clinton van Rensburg and Rod Labuschange are quality coaches and good people but for some reason their team failed to fire and they will be left ruing many lost opportunities. One highlight for Rondebosch was the number of boys who went on to represent Western Province teams this season. Their outstanding fullback Khanyo Ngcukana and prop Brett Paulse making the victorious Craven Week team while prop Kyle White, scrumhalf Stef de Gouveia and lock Luke Stringer all played for the WP Academy team.

The Rondebosch Under-16A team were very good this year and that bodes well for them going forward but with their coaches stepping down (Labuschagne retiring and Van Rensburg taking on a broader coaching role within the school) and a new man at the helm it may take them another season to fully find their feet. Bosch may though be tempted to use the model so successfully implemented by Wynberg over the last few seasons and allow their Under-16 coaches (Mark Lindenberg and Neil Teubes) to take their team through to 1st XV level. If players and coaches make the transition anything like as seamlessly as Van Winkel and Gerber did this season, who knows, the sky may be the limit!

SACS came into the season an unknown quantity but having performed well in 2012 there was an element of expectation. Having for many years generally been the weakest of the four Southern Suburb schools they have of the last three seasons under Graeme Wepener and Nick Maurer consistently begun winning games in the Premier League. This year they won three Premier League games but as mentioned earlier were the only team to beat a Boland school.

SACS will be slightly disappointed to have lost both games to Rondebosch and Wynberg narrowly but have made themselves difficult to beat and have played some enterprising rugby in the process. They are no longer considered easy-beats by anyone and this has had a positive effect on the entire school.

SACS had a Matric-laden team in 2013 and having had relatively poor results from their Under-16 teams over the last two seasons SACS are going to have to work hard to maintain their upward trend. Their appointment of ex-Springbok strength and conditioning coach Steve McIntyre prior to the 2012 season proved a master-stoke and he will have a big role to play in uplifting their 2014 squad to the level required to compete in the tough Western Province Schools league. Once his job is done the SACS coaches are really going to have to prove their mettle going into 2014.

Last but not least in our review is Diocesan College (Bishops). Bishops won only one Premier League game this season, their final match of the season against Rondebosch. They have had a poor two years by their high standards but people seem to have short memories. Bishops have been the top school in the Southern Suburbs for the past twenty-five years and up until 2011 were the always in the FNB Rugby365.com Top 20 Rugby School in South Africa, usually in the Top 10.

All schools go in cycles so the question that needs to be asked maybe is how did Bishops manage to stay on top for so long? The cynics would say by using post-matrics and scholarships. How true that is we don’t know. The fact is that all schools now offer scholarships but Bishops have just not had players of the quality of Nick Koster, Dillyn Leyds and Tim Swiel in the past two years.

They started 2011 with a bang beating Paarl Gim and ended up having a reasonably successful season overall winning 13 of 19 games played according to www.stoopstats.co.za. After the Paarl Gim game though the other Premier League schools enforced a ruling that had first been discussed in 2006 when Bishops were asked to phase out the use of post-matrics. This remains a contentious issue in that many of the other schools field players who are Under-19 i.e. they have failed or have been kept back a year. The WP Schools League is Under-19 with the difference being that post-matric pupils at Bishops were studying for A-levels and/or certain subjects through UNISA.  

Bishops have followed the example set by SACS in employing Steve McIntyre to run their pre-season conditioning programme and the rumour is that Old Diocesan and former Bulls backline coach Mike Bayly is being lined up to replace Dave Mallett as 1st XV coach. Whether he can reverse their failing fortunes of late remain to be seen but he has a good crop of Under-16’s coming through and he has talismanic Craven Week No.8 Saud Abrahams to build a team around. If Abraham’s stays fit he could come close to emulating the immense feats of Koster. Bayly or whoever is coaching the Bishops team will certainly hope so.
Either way Bishops, like all Southern Suburb rivals, has too much history and tradition to let one or two poor seasons put a damper on their spirit and progress. There is far more to all these schools than just rugby and while rugby remains the “shop window” as it were for old boys, one has to keep rugby results in perspective. School sport is about so much more than just winning.

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