OLLIE KEOHANE says playing against the best can bring out the best in a schools rugby team.
The Paarl schools set the standard in the Western Cape and they have since I’ve been at SACS. And historically they have for a long time.
This year and in 2015 they’ve also set the standard in South African schoolboy rugby.
It’s never easy going to Paarl and while we (at SACS) have enjoyed success against Boland Landbou, it’s traditionally been painful on the ego and body when playing Paarl Boys’ High and Paarl Gymnasium in Paarl.
While painful in losing, it’s always an incredible experience and in every age category there’s a sense of admiration and earned respect at the skills of the players from those schools from U14 to U18.
Paul Roos Gymnasium have also been there or thereabouts as the examples of rugby excellence in our schools league. But in the past two years, it’s really been Paarl Boys’ and Paarl Gym who are the top dogs.
And us guys in the southern suburbs, and I am sure (judging by results) the guys from northern suburbs schools that regularly play fixtures in Paarl, will feel like they are the Argentinian Jaguares playing most of their Super Rugby fixtures against New Zealand’s franchises. There seems to be no respite.
However, the standards the boys in Paarl and Stellenbosch have set, have ensured a lift in standard on our side. Rondebosch, Wynberg and Bishops have at times been very competitive, especially at home, and this season SACS have been a whisker away from their most stunning results in Paarl and Stellenbosch, losing by four points to Paarl Gym and Paul Roos respectively.
We, in the southern suburbs, can relate to how the Sharks Craven Week side felt when stunned by a brilliant first half from a Paarl Boys’/Paarl Gym/Paul Roos/Boland Landbou-dominated WP team.
It was great to see our star player Liam Larkan showing such exceptional impact among such class players. And it has to be a motivation that playing the best can only bring out the best in the rest.
I love the tradition in Western Cape schools rugby and every province has such engrained and traditional fixtures. There is so much talent and so many good 1st XVs in the country.
But watching the dominance of WP at Craven Week also put into perspective the current challenge of being a school outside the Paarl region in the Western Cape because three of the top five national teams are an every-season guarantee as opposition.
I hope this never changes, because from my own experience since being at SACS, it has given each season such an edge knowing our school’s best get to measure their individual and collective efforts against the best in the country.
SACS host Paarl Boys’ in a fortnight. It’s going to be huge for our 1st XV squad but there is a sense that the supposedly impossible is possible.
There is such a respect and regard for what Paarl Boys’, in particular, have achieved. While they will be the ‘enemy’ in a fortnight, it was great supporting them as my provincial team and referring to so many of the Paarl players as ‘our guys’ every time I cheered, even if the blue and white jersey was slightly different.
The unofficial final against the Lions was a fantastic match and as a 16-year-old with aspirations of wearing the SACS 1st XV jersey in 2017, it is inspiring to see the standard of our provincial best.
I feel privileged to play schools rugby and when I see the national talent on show you have to believe in the future of the Springboks as a rugby nation.
On a personal note, I want to thank our SACS WP duo of Liam Larkan and Vusile ‘Lucky’ Dlepu for making us SACS boys all so proud. To everyone in the WP squad, well done and the biggest thank you to all the teams who made for such a great week of rugby viewing.