Paarl Gym coach Pieter Rossouw speaks to JON CARDINELLI about the Premier Interschools match against arch-rivals Paarl Boys’ High on Saturday.
What does the Paarl derby mean to you personally? Do you still remember playing in this derby for Gimmies more than 20 years ago?
I played in five derbies against Boishaai, and I remember every single one of them. It’s always a big occasion for the people of Paarl. It’s the game you want to play as a schoolboy. I started out at flyhalf in my younger years, before moving to centre and eventually settling at fullback. I only moved to wing [where he represented the Springboks] after school.
Since 2000, Gimmies have won 11 of these derbies, and drawn one. Does that record give you and the boys confidence going into this match?
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve won the last 20 matches or lost the last 20 matches. It’s all about how the team performs on the day.
Boishaai have enjoyed a fantastic run of late, winning 39 matches in succession. Does that intimidate your side, or does it provide you with another reason to beat them?
It would be a great achievement for Boishaai to finish a second season with an unbeaten record. For us, there is some extra motivation to beat them this weekend. Every team wants to beat the side that is unbeaten.
Has the preparation for this particular match been any different to those prior to 2016?
No, and there’s a good reason for that. It’s such a big game and there is a great deal of expectation, so we as coaches try to keep things simple in the buildup and take some pressure off the players.
Boishaai are currently ranked No 1 in the country and boast a number of players in the Western Province and South Africa age-group teams, as do Gimmies. It could be said that this is the biggest schools game in South Africa given the number of representative players in each side. Is that a fair statement to make?
Western Province have been blessed with a lot of good players this year. The team did very well at Craven Week with players from Gimmies and Boishaai. So yes, it is probably fair to say that this is the biggest game in South African schoolboy rugby at the moment.
Where do Boishaai pose the biggest threat?
They have a very good defensive system. They’ve put a lot of teams under pressure with their work at the breakdown. We will need to look after the ball well this Saturday.
What are the biggest improvements that Gimmies have made over the course of the 2016 season?
As the season has progressed, the team has grown into a tight-knit family unit. There’s also been an improvement in certain aspects of the performance. Our discipline has been good, and we’ve conceded fewer penalties than any other schools team in South Africa. Our control of the ball has also improved.