The Premier Interschools season takes place from 9 April to 27 August and features seven out of last year’s top 11 schools.
The undisputed No 1 ranked team of 2015, Paarl Boys’ High, will feature in three tough encounters against their old traditional rivals Grey College, Paul Roos and Paarl Gym.
Paul Roos will also play three Premier Interschools games this season, while Grey College, Paarl Gym, Maritzburg College, Grey High and Monument will play two games each. Affies, KES, Waterkloof, Glenwood, Boland Landbou, Oakdale, Bishops and Rondebosch will each appear in one game.
Paul Roos vs Grey High
9 April, Markötter Field, Paul Roos, Stellenbosch
Paul Roos have a new look about them this season with new coach Stephen Jordaan taking over from SA Schools coach Hein Kriek, who has moved on to coach professional rugby. Fullback Josh Vermuelen, SA Schools No 10 Damian Willemse and scrumhalf Tiaan Coetzee are the returning backline players from last season for Paul Roos, while Grey have SA Schools loose forward Kwezi Mafu back in the pack.
Paarl Gym vs Paul Roos
16 April, JA Kriel Field, Paarl Gym, Paarl
Paarl Gym also have a new coach this season in old boy Pieter Rossouw. The former Bok wing will look to highly gifted utility back Muller du Plessis to spark their backline. Rossouw will have the services of several players from last year’s 1st XV, including scrumhalf Zak Burger, fullback Wian van Zyl, flyhalf Theo Boshoff and No 8 Muller Uys.
King Edward VII vs Maritzburg College
7 May, KES, Johannesburg
KES will be an unknown factor in 2016 as they hope to re-establish themselves as one of the top dogs in the Northvaal region. Maritzburg are the favourites in this fixture with established coach Kevin Smith in his second year in charge of the side. Maritzburg also have several 1st XV players returning for their second season with the side. Players to look out for, include wing Xolisa Guma, flyhalf Ruben van Blerk, scrumhalf Lodewyk Muller (son of ex-Bok and Sharks prop Lood), No 8 Craig Clover and powerful Cameroon-born flanker Durand Atembe.
Monument vs Waterkloof
14 May, Monument High, Krugersdorp
Monnas’ Witbulle are expected to be a formidable team again this season. Players to watch, include Academy Week prop Nathan McBeth, Craven Week lock Ruan Vermaak, Academy Week flank Ryno Potgieter, Craven Week flyhalf Xander Kruger and Craven Week centre MJ Pelser who are among a number of returning 1st XV players. Waterkloof will be looking to re-establish their status as one of Pretoria’s powerhouse schools of the past 20 years.
Paarl Boys’ High vs Grey College
21 May, Brug Street, Paarl
Grey will not have forgotten their defeat to Boishaai in Bloemfontein last year. Paarl Boys will look to 2015 stalwarts – SA Schools centre Manuel Rass, SA Schools lock Salman Moerat and SA U18 No 8 Khanya Ncusane – to perform again this year. Grey College welcome back the services of Craven Week prop Gideon Beukes, Craven Week hooker Matthew Wessels, Craven Week No 8 Diaan Schoonees, Craven Week scrumhalf Rewan Kruger, Academy Week flyhalf Mario Vieira, centre Gerrie Koegelenberg, centre Jaco Wessels, Academy Week wing Marnus Boshoff and fullback Jandré de Beer.
Paul Roos vs Paarl Boys’ High
28 May, Markötter Field, Paul Roos, Stellenbosch
Paarl Boys will end off a tough May schedule when they to travel to Stellenbosch to take on the old foe in their own backyard. Paul Roos will be looking to avenge their loss against Boishaai in 2015. Home-ground advantage is always a big factor in this derby. With the exception of 2012, when Paarl Boys won at Markötter Stadium, the past 10 years’ matches have all been won by the home team. The average score during that period is just 20-18 in favour of Paarl Boys.
Monument vs Glenwood
4 June, Monument High, Krugersdorp
We end the first half of the season with Glenwood travelling to Krugersdorp to take on the Witbulle in their second appearance in Premier Interschools for 2016. The KZN outfit is expected to lead the charge from the coast with an extremely good team that includes SA U18A No 8 Marco Palvie and Craven Week flyhalf Jerome Bosser. Another player to watch is 17-year-old, 2m lock JJ van der Mescht, who looks set to become KZN’s highest-profile player since the Du Preez twins from Kearsney.
Maritzburg College vs Affies
23 July, Goldstones, Maritzburg College
The second half of the season kicks off with Maritzburg College hosting Affies. College will rely heavily on the trusted home-ground advantage of Goldstone where they tasted victory over Affies in 2014. The Pretoria school boasts a number of Craven Week players in SA Schools prop Cabous Eloff, hooker Schalk Erasmus, SA U18 flanker Phillip Krause, flanker Reghardt du Plessis and lock Henk Pretorius. Halfback combo Jack Hart and Ruan de Swardt have 1st XV experience under the belt, while big Craven Week centre Louritz van der Schyff already looked the part in 2015 with his ability to get over the advantage line.
Grey High vs Grey College
30 July, Grey High, Port Elizabeth
The Bloemfontein outfit have had the better of their PE opponents of late and will try and maintain that record, while Grey High will look to upset their northern rivals.
Paarl Boys vs Paarl Gym
6 August, Faure Street Stadium, Paarl
The biggest match of the year will take place when last year’s No 1 team take on their cross-town rivals. Twenty-odd thousand old boys, girls, moms, dads and fans are expected to fill the stadium to watch the famous derby between these two great schools. There are no neutral colours on this day: you are either, blue and white, or green, gold and red.
Boland Landbou vs Oakdale
20 August, Boland Landbou
These agricultural rivals in the Western Cape regularly produce teams of outstanding quality from a very small player pool. They are rarely out of the Top 20 rankings and have produced numerous Craven Week players over the years. This season Boland Landbou will rely heavily on scrumhalf Deon Carstens to provide quick ball to their backline speedsters, centre Nicolus van Eeden, wing Alexander Wallace and fullback Darren Adonis. Boland Landbou also boast six returning forwards, with loose forwards Hanno Olivier and WP van Heerden key to the pack’s performance.
Bishops vs Rondebosch Boys
27 August, Piley Rees, Bishops
The last Premier Interschools game of the season features one of the oldest rivalries in South African schools rugby when Bishops take on Rondebosch in the Cape derby. Both sides will have new-look teams as neither have retained many of their regular 1st XV starters from last season. Bishops tighthead JP Smith will bring a lot of experience to his third season of 1st XV rugby, along with the only other returning forward from 2015, flanker Jean Pienaar. Rondebosch only have three players returning from 2015 – lock Matthew Grobler, flank and captain Garth Shenker and fullback Mike Mavovana – but they will have benefited from a pre-season tour of Ireland.
Photo: Petri Oeschger/Gallo Images