BENEDICT CHANAKIRA looks at the reasons for SACS’ outstanding first half of the season.
The 1st XV of South Africa’s oldest school has had a great 2017 rugby season.
SACS claimed a famous 22-19 win against Paarl Gym two weeks ago, their first in 21 years, and then thrashed Durbanville 100-0 last weekend. That saw them move up to No 4 on the Rugby365 Top 20 rankings.
SACS coach Nick Maurer was the 1st XV scrumhalf and captain when they beat Paarl Gym in 1996. While he was pleased to topple the No 2-ranked side in SA, he urged his side not to get too carried away by the victory and to show consistency over the season. He wanted his players to continue to grow, improve and, of course, enjoy themselves.
Also captained by another scrumhalf, Vusile ‘Lucky’ Dlepu, the Newlands-based side were trailing 19-0 at the break against Paarl Gym. But the boys in blue and white hoops somehow found a way to win, stirring up passion, desire, hunger, belief and displaying a commendable level of conditioning that has seen them win many games, coming from behind this season.
SACS’ rugby structures are impressive, as you would expect from a top school. They have young and dynamic assistant coaches to complement every team’s head coach, who is a full-time teacher. The head coaches are therefore able to instil core values and develop the player and the person on a daily basis, both in the classroom and on the sports field.
SACS operate on a set of values which are ingrained in the school’s mission to never give up, work hard, show pride in defeat or victory, while also showing loyalty and expressing yourself on and off the field. They are a tough and uncompromising team, yet also a dynamic and skilful team, with a ball-in-hand approach, reliant on a collective effort instead of individual stars.
The previous two rugby seasons for SACS were very good and laid a good foundation for 2017. The challenge this season was to find ways to improve and grow. The win against Paarl Gym was proof that this side has achieved that.
Players’ relationships with each other and with the coaches have played a vital role in their success so far this season. The team culture encompasses honesty, reflection and constant challenging of coaches and players.
Some of the 1st XV boys worked under Maurer at lower junior levels, while former World Cup-winning Springbok strength and conditioning coach Steve McIntyre has helped to improve the team’s conditioning.
SACS had two players in last year’s Western Province U18 Craven Week team. This year, they should have more, with Dlepu expected to be the first-choice scrumhalf, and flank CJ Ikemefuna and hooker Anathi Kalipa also in contention.
It would be just reward for an excellent SACS season thus far.
– Chanakira is a sports psychology student, freelance rugby writer and a rugby coach