After the dust has settled and one is able to reflect without emotion on the 2019 SACS 1st XV rugby season, it’s very easy to see that overall, it was a very worthwhile and rewarding experience for all concerned. Was it without challenges and the odd disappointment? No. But we all certainly enjoyed the journey!

The pre-season started as per normal in September 2018 with Steve McIntyre conditioning the boys twice a week in the gym and on the field. 6-Down touch games on a Monday continued to provide skill development. Mr Matthew Currie and I offered further rugby specific sessions on a Tuesday and a Thursday for those boys able to work around their summer sports commitments which always take priority. Mr Jason Wulfsohn joined our coaching team in the 4th term. Right from the start he was very eager to get involved, contribute and learn. Mr Wulfsohn joined me on a Monday and a Thursday (as part of our summer sport athletics programme) in taking squad members, dubbed the ‘Spoed Varkies’, for plyometric sessions to develop speed for the upcoming season.

Gary Kirsten is someone I very much look up to as a coach and as a human being. Gary is always willing to meet for a coffee and a chat and didn’t hesitate when I asked him if he would be willing to facilitate our Leadership Group Indaba that we hold annually at Newlands Rugby Stadium. To have someone of his calibre involved in our 3 hour session was a real privilege. Gary has so much experience and wisdom to disseminate that an afternoon was simply not enough time to digest every learning. Creating a high performance culture, goal setting, high performance behaviours and positive mind-sets were just some of the topics covered with our Leadership Group during this hugely beneficial session.

Outside of the rugby, I feel it’s important for the boys to be holistically educated in, amongst other things, some history and heritage. My friend Michael Charton was giving his ‘’The First World Champions’’ talk in early March at the Nassau Theatre in Newlands and I thought that it would be a wonderful opportunity for the boys to learn a bit about the legacy of the great Springbok team of 1937. We spent an enjoyable evening together and hopefully the boys got as much out of the talk as the rest of the packed audience.

On the eve of our 1st fixture of the season, Professor Tim Noakes came to SACS to give his acclaimed ‘Mindset to Succeed’’ talk to the players. It’s always very motivational to hear Prof Noakes speak about ‘’the power of positive thinking’’ and to listen to all his interesting and inspiring anecdotes. After the talk Prof Noakes kindly handed out the match jerseys to the players and the season was about to begin!

We started our 2019 campaign efficiently with a 19 – 7 win against a competitive Bellville High School team at the Brackenfell Sports day.  Sadly this was to be the beginning and the end of the season for lock Tane Wahl who suffered a horrendous knee injury ruling him out for the entire season. Tane worked so hard during the preseason and is such a great team man. The entire squad was so gutted for him.

After a one year hiatus due to the water crisis, the Newlands Rugby Day was back. The boys always look forward to the opportunity to run out onto the hallowed turf and we scored some nice tries against a weakened Stellenberg outfit to win 25 – 10 (5 tries to 2). Duran Koevort announced himself on the 1st team stage with a well taken hat trick.

On the last day of the 1st term the squad departed for Grahamstown to play a fixture against St Andrew’s College at the Graeme College Rugby Day. It was a great honour to be the only non-Eastern Cape school invited. A few of our boys had never been on an aeroplane before and most had not been on a 1st XV tour so there was much anticipation and excitement. Former Springbok prop Gary Pagel handed out the jerseys in the morning before the match after which we ran out and acquitted ourselves reasonably well against a strong St Andrew’s side. We made too many basic errors to win the game but the 27 – 13 score line proved our competitiveness in the fixture. A huge thank you to Graeme College for their tremendous hosting as is the custom in the Eastern Cape!

On the Sunday morning we departed Grahamstown for a 2 night camp at a facility in the Sundays River Valley on the border of the Addo Elephant Park. Driving through the park to get to our destination, we saw hundreds of elephant right up close and all sorts of other wildlife. A lovely moment for some of our boys who had never experienced the pleasure of seeing wild animals up close and personal. Our host, Matthew Tayler-Smith has created a fantastic camp facility with its very own custom made rugby field in the bush! The boys enjoyed activities like ziplining, swimming, canoeing, fishing and a potjie competition. Mostly, it was just a nice opportunity to relax and unwind in each other’s company. We also got through some valuable detail on the training field and did some emotional team building activities after dinner in the evenings. The camp closed off our Eastern Cape adventure and put the finishing touches on our preparation for the World Schools Festival in Stellenbosch.

On the eve of our departure to Stellenbosch, the Hayes family kindly hosted a team braai which included all the players’ families. Later in the evening, Andre Vos spoke passionately about his rugby experiences and what it meant to be involved in a team sport like rugby. The boys then received their match jerseys from the former Springbok captain which closed off another happy occasion.

To be invited by Paul Roos to participate in the World Schools Festival was a huge honour. We were exposed to a professional and well run event in world class surroundings. Being able to interact with players and coaches from upcountry and from all over the world was a unique and rewarding experience. The beautiful setting and perfect weather encouraged positive rugby from all teams and we scored some lovely tries en route to a comfortable 43 – 24 victory against our friends from Zimbabwe, The Zambezi Steelers in our 1st game. Next we took on a powerful World Select XV which was largely made up of the best u17 players in the country. An SAU17 team if you will. Former Springbok scrumhalf Neil De Kock handed out the jerseys in the morning and regaled us with numerous anecdotes of his time at Saracens and the phenomenal rugby culture he was a huge part of building during his time at the club. The boys fought hard till the death and certainly didn’t disgrace themselves in a 25 – 15 defeat.

Our 1st league fixture of the year was an away game against a strong Durbanville team. Our Grade 12’s had lost 36 – 14 to Durbanville u16A 2 years before but we had prepared well and were confident of causing an upset. With Captain Jordan Thomas out with mumps, the boys rallied together and led the match 24 – 14 with 15mins to play. The upset we wanted was on the cards! Sadly some poor decision making allowed Durbanville to score directly from our kick off receipt which galvanised the opposition. They hit us with wave after wave of attack scoring 2 more tries in the closing minutes to round out a 33 – 24 victory. For me this was one that got away but we only had ourselves to blame.

We then embarked on our 3rd consecutive St Stithians Easter Festival. SACS has performed very well at St Stithians in recent times and on this occasion it was no different. 1st up was Kingswood College featuring a number of post matrics and celebrating their 125th year. Kingswood wanted a SACS scalp badly but our boys were immense in holding them out in the final minutes to record a memorable 20 – 10 victory. A fantastic team dinner at Hussar Grill (our SACS Rugby sponsor) in Morningside followed the win which was a great way to celebrate and get our tour off to the perfect start. We then had the honour of taking on the hosts in the main game of the day on Saturday. Traditionally a crowd of about 15000 is present for the main game and the Saints faithful are in full cry. An amazing atmosphere to behold. 2015 SACS 1st XV captain and Varsity Cup winner, Jordan Chiat handed out the jerseys in the morning and the scene was set! Our boys were more fired up than I’ve ever seen in the warm up and I was very confident they were going to put in a massive performance. Unfortunately the expected lightning threat materialised and as a safety precaution the game was called off, much to the disappointment of all concerned. Bad weather persisted but we were eventually able to take the field against Prince Edward from Zimbabwe on the Monday morning. We played some nice attacking rugby and won the game fairly convincingly 34 – 14.

Back in Cape Town after the Easter tour we recorded a solid 43 – 5 win over DF Malan before focusing our attention on our 1st local derby of the season against Bishops. We played well in patches against a strong Bishops outfit but turnovers and poor one on one defence in the 2nd half snuffed out any chance we might have had of pushing our opponents close. The boys finished the fixture strongly but ultimately lost 39 – 21.

A home 33 – 15 victory against Brackenfell followed after which we travelled to Canigou Avenue to take on a high flying Rondebosch. For large portions of the match we had Rondebosch under pressure and the boys put in every ounce of energy they had in an attempt to cause an upset. 15 – 8 down with about 15mins to go, Ian Paterson appeared to have crashed over the line to get us even (if the easy conversion had sailed over). Unfortunately a Bosch defender managed to dislodge the ball before downward pressure had been applied so the try was justifiably disallowed. Bosch then escaped from danger and managed to score 2 late tries to win the game 27 – 8. In the end, the score line was not a true reflection of the game. Injury meant that this was sadly Chris Hattingh’s last full 1st XV rugby match in his matric year.

It was at this point that Mr Currie made the difficult decision to step away from his role as assistant coach to focus on his business interests. As I’ve said before, a more dedicated and decent young man you will struggle to find. Mr Currie was always a consummate professional with impeccable standards. A fine role model for any young man playing rugby at SACS. A huge thank you to Mr Currie for his massive contribution to SACS Rugby. You will be missed. At short notice I asked Mr Warren Griffiths to come in to manage the backline. He immediately stepped into the breach giving freely of his time and energy in an attempt to get the very best out of the boys. A big thank you to him for his contribution during the 2nd half of the season.

For our Tuesday practice before taking on Paarl Gim we headed out to Muizenberg beach. We enjoyed a cliff path jog and practice on the beach before retiring for a hot coffee. Our vice-captain Robin Aspeling suffered a concussion against Rondebosch so we were forced to rejig the backline with 2nd team fly half, Nic Haasbroek coming in for his first start in a 1st XV jumper. To say it was a dream debut is an understatement! He executed our contestable kicking strategy to perfection and calmly slotted 4 penalties and a conversion to see us leading 19-12 at halftime. Paarl Gim had 17 WP u18 representative players in 2019 and would only lose a single game in their season (to Grey College). To lead at halftime and have them so rattled was a massive achievement for our team. As expected, Paarl Gim came storming back in the 2nd half and our defence started to tire under the relentless pressure. We were still within a score with 10mins to go but a flurry of late tries meant a 41 – 19 final score. It was a herculean effort by our boys and despite losing they can look back on their effort with pride.

The final game of the term was the much anticipated derby against arch rivals Wynberg. The match was held on a beautiful winter’s morning in front of a large crowd and was broadcast live on Supersport. Siya Kolisi had handed out the jerseys the previous evening. The look of amazement on the boys faces when the Springbok captain walked in to speak to them was testament to the gravitas of this special human being. Siya’s huge presence certainly inspired the team and with the confidence gained from the commendable outing against Paarl Gim we were able to record a memorable 20 – 6 derby victory! Supersport showcased our school beautifully and it was a very special day for everyone who considers themselves a SACS supporter.

After a long June/July holiday it was essential that we played a fixture to prepare for our tough run in to the end of the 2019 season. The good folks of Swartland Hoerskool in Malmesbury kindly included us at late notice and with a weakened team we took on Tygerberg High School at the annual Swartland Festival on the Saturday before school started. Despite the layoff and some obvious rust, the boys got through the match with a comfortable 36 – 0 victory.

Our 1st league fixture after the holidays was against Boland Landbou at home. We were confident that if we executed our plan and played with courage and commitment we could become the 6th SACS 1st XV in history to beat Landbou. At 20 – 3 down with about 10 mins to go it didn’t seem likely but suddenly we clicked into gear and started to up the ante against a tiring Landbou team. We scored 2 great tries to get ourselves to 20 – 17 and then launched a desperate assault on the Landbou line in the final minutes to score the winning try. Alas it was not meant to be. Nic Boden coming agonisingly short of scoring when a Landbou defender dislodged the ball from under his arm as he drove for the line. It was a tremendous comeback. So close to what would have been a fairy-tale victory.

South Africa woke up on Sunday morning to the sad news of the passing of two South African icons in James Small and Johnny Clegg. Instead of our regular Monday review session I decided to rather spend the session talking about these legends and what they had meant to our country and to me personally. The boys listened to The Friends of Johnny Clegg’s moving version of ‘The Crossing’’ and were encouraged to reflect on their own life, their own contribution and their own legacy within a school context. I encouraged the boys to download Johnny Clegg classics to their playlists, listen to his music and harness the spirit of ‘The Great Heart”’. The boys arrived in the change room on Saturday morning to the sounds of ‘’Asimbonanga’’ and left to face Paul Roos with ‘’Impi’’ still fresh in their ears.

The boys threw everything at Paul Roos and only an unfortunate ‘’soft’’ try on halftime stopped us going into halftime on an even footing. We started the 2nd half with intent nailing a penalty and then narrowly missing a try from a Rihaz Fredericks set piece line break. As with Paarl Gim we were within a score (21 – 14) with 10mins remaining but Paul Roos’s superior power and physicality eventually took its toll as they scored 3 converted tries in the final period to win the game 42 – 14. Once again I was proud of the boys’ effort and the pride they showed in the jersey. This was the final match for prop Peter Choi who unfortunately suffered a concussion and would not play any further part in the season.

 Our sponsors welcomed the team to the Hussar Grill on the Thursday night before we went to take on Bishops on the Piley Rees. Another worthwhile bonding experience for the boys and a 600g T-Bone each to provide the necessary nourishment! As a 1st team we are incredibly grateful to have such iconic brand sponsors in Hussar Grill and Investec. Thank you for everything they have done for us throughout the season.

On the Saturday, a talented Bishops team duly punished our individual errors and scored 7 tries, many against the run of play. Our boys did score a great try just after halftime to bring us back to an 11 point deficit but from that point on, there was only one team in the contest. Bishops comfortably winning the return fixture 47 – 17.

We appeared flat from the start of our return fixture against Rondebosch a week later. Perhaps losing another important player like Rihaz Fredericks at Thursday practice had an effect on the team’s psyche I don’t know? Despite being off our game we were still in touch with halftime imminent. Unfortunately, with time up on the clock we missed touch and presented Bosch with a gift which they duly accepted to lead 17 – 0 at the break. It was a hammer blow from which we could not recover. The boys didn’t give up, however, and the 2nd half ended 1 try a piece. In the end it was a convincing 24 – 5 victory to Rondebosch. Thomas Doyle suffered a bad knee injury which would prevent him from taking his place on the wing in his final ever match for SACS.

We had an off weekend in the lead up to our final fixture against Wynberg. There had been some heavy rains so I decided to take the boys on a hike into Newlands Forest and up onto the top contour path between Skeleton Gorge and Nursery Ravine. Most of the boys had not ventured this far into the mountain. The waterfalls were spectacular and hopefully the experience might encourage our boys to take advantage of this natural wonder of the world right on their doorstep!

The final week of the season is all about the Grade 12’s taking it all in. It’s the last time they will ever play together and the last time they will ever represent their school 1st XV. I encouraged them to enjoy the final week together and to reflect on their journey together. We had a good week of preparation only soured by the news that Duran Koevort was going to be unable to start for us at fullback in our final game of the season. It was a huge blow. We went into the final fixture without 4 starting players from our victory over Wynberg earlier in the season but on the day we simply weren’t good enough and Wynberg thoroughly deserved their 28 – 0 victory. It brought the curtain down on 5 years of SACS Rugby for our Gr12’s. There was some emotion and a bit of disappointment but most of the players seemed to be happy to have just been part of the journey. It wasn’t doom a gloom as some might expect.

Jordan Thomas and Robin Aspeling must be commended for their efforts as captain and vice-captain this season. Both boys have developed and matured immeasurably since arriving at SACS in Gr8. They supported both myself and each other loyally throughout and their positive contribution ensured that we had a happy and enjoyable season. Thank you guys.

Enos Ndiao was selected for the WP Craven Week B team and Rihaz Fredericks and Duran Koevort for the Academy team. A fine achievement.  Much is expected of Enos and Duran in 2020.

Brent Van Niekerk had a monumental season in the No. 8 jersey. Nic Boden also performed consistently well throughout. Thomas Doyle was for me the most improved player of the season which was just reward for all the dedication he showed both in pre-season and then in the season itself. Peter Choi developed into a very useful prop and Hlumelo Ntweni showed glimpses of his undoubted talent, particularly in the 2nd half of the season.

Alistair Kretzschmar had a very solid year at scrum half and could always be relied upon to give his absolute best both at training and in matches. Nic Haasbroek will be remembered for his incredible debut vs Paarl Gim and for his massive contribution to our victory over Wynberg in the 2nd term. Before Nic, we had the mercurial Josh Whittingdale at flyhalf. A gifted ball player with a superb rugby brain. Equally at home at scrumhalf or flyhalf, he bravely stepped in at fullback for the last game when the team needed him most.

Ian Paterson made some telling breaks throughout the season and I’ll always remember ‘’Pattie’’ as a fantastic team man and all round good guy. Mikhail Moosa always gave everything he had when he had the opportunity to play for the 1st XV. He has my respect. Josh Datnow came into the team late and Constantin Eick and Neal Lategan suffered from both illness and injury but I’d still like to acknowledge their contributions.

Kyle Kreymborg who had to deal with such adversity mid-way through the season performed well throughout. Both him, Stef James, Phillip De Nobrega and Trent Boden are other players to watch in 2020.

Mr Wulfsohn took a keen interest in ‘’in season’’ strength work and implemented short strength blocks in the gym in the beginning part of a training week so players didn’t lose too much weight and strength during the season which had been an issue in the past. Warm ups were professionally run and the ‘’Contacts’’ analysis was always something that both the players and the coaches found interesting and helpful. Thank you for your contribution this season.

A big thank you to Mr Tank Lanning for coming on board as our scrum doctor in 2019. Tank is also involved with the Ikey Tigers and brings a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to the set up. Mr Brendan Kleynhans ran the line for me in 1st XV matches and also came along on tours and assisted me whenever he has been able to in whatever capacity. A big thank you to him for his overall contribution to SACS Rugby this season.

As always, Mr Harold Kessler worked hard behind the scenes to ensure the team had everything they needed to perform to their maximum potential. Mr Dimitri Hadzigrigoriou was present on match days, providing strapping to the players which they greatly appreciated. He was also freely available to check up on injured players and organise rehabilitation if necessary. Thank you to both of you for your selfless contribution this season.

Thank you to Mr Barry Van Selm and Mr Graeme Wepener for joining me on tour in 2019 and to Mr Grant for his support and encouragement throughout the season.

Thank you to the parents who remained positive and supportive throughout, especially those that hosted functions and travelled up to Grahamstown and Johannesburg to support the team. Overall, you can all be proud of your son’s efforts this season. A special thank you to Lindsey Thomas, as mother of the captain, for everything extra she did to support the team.

Behind the scenes, so much appreciation must be shown to our First Aiders, the ground staff and every person that contributed towards fundraising for the Percy Montgomery Foundation. Thank you to every single SACS Rugby supporter that watched our games, made positive comments and offered words of encouragement during the season.

On a personal level, I’d like to wish every Matric ‘leaver’ that wore the SACS 1st XV jersey everything of the best as they embark on the next chapter of their lives. Thank you for your contribution to SACS Rugby over the past 5 years.

There is so much to look forward to in 2020. Another invitation to the World Schools Festival to be held at Affies next year. A tour to the Eastern Cape to take on Grey PE in the main game of their annual festival. Another visit to the St Stithians Easter Festival. Competition for places in the 1st XV will be fierce. It’s now time to stand up and be counted.

Spectemur Agendo.

2019 results:

P 19 W 8 D 0 L 11

*** The Newlands Rugby Day fixture is excluded from the season stats ***

Stellenberg (Newlands Rugby Day) W 25 – 10
Bellville High School (Brackenfell Sportdag) W 19 – 7
St Andrew’s (Graeme Festival) L 13 – 27
Zambezi Steelers (WSF) W 43 – 24
World Select XV (WSF) L 15 – 25
Durbanville (A) L 24 – 33
Kingswood (St Stithian’s Festival) W 20 – 10
Prince Edward (St Stithian’s Festival) W 34 – 14
DF Malan (H) W 43 – 5
Bishops (H) L 21 – 39
Brackenfell (H) W 33 – 15
Rondebosch (A) L 8 – 27
Paarl Gim (H) L 19 – 41
Wynberg (H) W 20 – 6
Tygerberg High School (Swartland Festival) W 36 – 0
Boland Landbou (H) L 17 – 20
Paul Roos (H) L 14 – 42
Bishops (A) L 17 – 47
Rondebosch (H) L 5 – 24
Wynberg (A) L 0 – 28

Try scorers: (incl Newlands Rugby Day)

11 – Duran Koevort

6 – Thomas Doyle, Nic Boden

5 – Enos Ndiao, Hlumelo Ntweni

4 – Jordan Thomas, Brent Van Niekerk, Rihaz Fredericks, Kyle Kreymborg

3 – Alistair Kretzschmar, Josh Whittingdale, Ian Paterson

2 – Matthew Hayes

1 – Robin Aspeling, Cameron Abegglen, Stef James, Neal Lategan

Games started: out of 20 (incl Newlands Rugby Day)

20 – Brent Van Niekerk

19 – Jordan Thomas

18 – Duran Koevort

17 – Robin Aspeling, Nic Boden

16 – Rihaz Fredericks, Alistair Kretzschmar, Ian Paterson, Kyle Kreymborg

15 – Enos Ndiao

14 – Peter Choi

13 – Thomas Doyle, Josh Whittingdale

11 – Hlumelo Ntweni

10 – Matthew Hayes, Josh Datnow

9 – Chris Hattingh, Constantin Eick

8 – Nic Haasbroek

7 – Neal Lategan

6 – Trent Boden

5 – Mikhail Moosa, Phil De Nobrega

4 – Jake Snijman

2 – Cameron Abegglen, Luke McMeeking, Stef James

1 – Tane Wahl, Tatenda Shuttleworth – Richardson

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