South African schools rugby is more competitive than ever, writes KAMVA SOMDYALA.
There have been several big upsets so far this season.
Selborne College beat Grey College 20-19 in East London and SACS fought back from 19-0 down to edge Paarl Gym 22-19 in Cape Town. It was the first time since 1996 that they had beaten those opponents.
In the Eastern Cape, Graeme College beat Queen’s College for the first time in 45 years, while Durban High School beat KwaZulu-Natal rivals Glenwood for the first time since 2006, 20-17 away from home. DHS achieved another surprise result when they battered their oldest rivals Maritzburg College 48-31.
‘Maritzburg College are our oldest rivals and it is always a massive fixture for us because of the history between the two schools,’ says DHS 1st XV coach Scott Mathie. ‘To win on Goldstones was a historic occasion as we broke a drought which had lasted since I was at school in 1999. This victory helped the players realise just how good they can be as a team and that on our day we can beat any team in the country.’
These upsets have had a big impact on the top 20 rankings, with SACS up to third, DHS 13th, and Grey College at a lowly eighth (for them).
Five Eastern Cape schools normally push for top honours – Dale, Selborne, Queen’s, Grey High and St Andrews.
This year, though, Queen’s have lost to Graeme and Stirling, while Selborne have lost to St Andrew’s. Four Eastern Cape schools are among the top 20 ranked schools in the country – Grey High (14th), St Andrew’s (17th), Selborne (19th) and Dale (20th).
Queen’s have fallen out of the top 20, which is disappointing for a school with a proud rugby history that should be dominating the Eastern Cape and putting away schools like Stirling and Graeme that are not traditionally known for their rugby prowess.
‘Both Graeme and Stirling have strong teams this year and the matches were tight games which could have gone either way,’ says Queen’s College 1st XV coach Clinton Löest. ‘Refereeing decisions didn’t go our way and some poor decision-making from certain players let the team down. The players and the coaching staff need to be honest with themselves.’
Queen’s will be hoping to turn things around against Wynberg and Rondebosch at the Cape Schools Week, and will also play Selborne home and Dale away during the third term.
Could there be a few more upsets to come around the country? You wouldn’t bet against it.