The 2018 U16A Rugby team had a slightly disappointing season, failing to repeat their feats of previous seasons, particularly against their Southern Suburb rivals.

The season started in September 2017 with pre-season testing under the watchful eye of strength and conditioning consultant Steve McIntyre. Steve was assisted by Ross Church and Morne Smal. The boys enjoyed working in, and learning how, to use the gym under their guidance.  In the first term of 2018, the sessions moved outside and the boys did skills and on-field conditioning in conjunction with their gym work.

Our first matches were to be at the Paarl Gim Festival. Morne Smal offered to stay on as my assistant for the season proper, which brought continuity to our preparations. Not wanting to in completely cold, we played low-key warm-up encounters against Rondebosch and Groote Schuur. Although both scrappy affairs these matches gave us valuable contact practice before taking on Nelspruit, Michaelhouse and AFFIES in Paarl. We won the first two matches comfortably and were confident going into the match against AFFIES. We were in the match going into the final quarter but leaked a few tries to lose 22-41. Staying out in Paarl was good for the boys and helped bond the team going into the league season.

We had a difficult start to the league with Paul Roos, Paarl Gimnasium and Bishops away. We should have beaten Paul Roos but came up short. We were well beaten by Gim, before suffering an agonising defeat at the hands of fierce rivals Bishops. Our set piece let us down on the day and despite a committed defensive effort, we went down 24-12.

In between that run of game’s we hosted Kings College (NZ). It was good to have the SACS boys hosting visitors in their homes and it proved to be a worthwhile experience.

Four home matches were to follow against Durbanville, Stellenberg, Bellville and Rondebosch. We won all four although we were made to work hard to earn every victory. Unfortunately, Nick Hull dislocated his knee against Rondebosch and was forced to miss the remainder of the season.

Going into the final match of the term away against a much-improved Wynberg team, we knew it was going to be tough. We played probably our best match of the season to be ahead 12-10 going into the last play. A last minute penalty saw Wynberg convert to snatch a 13-12 win. A heart-breaking end to the term!

During the holidays our captain, flyhalf and leading points scorer Duran Koevort and lock Enos Ndiao, who scored eleven tries in the second term, played for the Western Province Grant Khomo Team. A truly wonderful achievement for two boys who came to SACS together from Fish Hoek Primary.

The third term saw us once again kicking off against Boland opposition. Boland Landbou on the farm saw us defend very aggressively and we were deservedly leading 19-7 with fifteen minutes to play. Sadly, we lost prop Sakhi Mpondo to a long-term shoulder injury in the first half, and after hooker Hlumelo Ntweni popped a rib, we found ourselves on the ropes. Boland smelt blood and cut loose scoring four tries in quick succession to break our hearts.

To win big games you need your best players on the park for the full duration. Paarl Boy’s High at home saw us without Sakhi and Hlumelo and then suffered further injuries during the course of the match to lock Jacob Snijman and prop Max van Aarde. That said, we were still competitive, and only trailed 3-nil at the interval. We had a penalty to draw level, which we missed, before Paarl Boy’s scored two late tries to win the match 22-5. Again, it was a match that if we had taken our chances, and suffered fewer disruptions, I felt we could have won.

That left us with the final three derby matches. We competed with Bishops until half-time and had a guilt edge chance to get with two points of them ten minutes into the second half. From then on, we were witness to a virtuoso performance by the Bishops flyhalf who, in a display reminiscent of Herschelle Gibbs in his pomp, carved us to pieces in the final twenty minutes. Having beaten Bishops in the return fixture the previous two seasons this was a bitter pill to swallow.

Things went from bad-to-worse the next week! We succumbed meekly to a vastly improved but limited Rondebosch team. We gifted them a twelve-point lead inside the first ten minutes up on the Meadow fields and it was always going to be a long way back from there. Our discipline was poor and we kept gifting them opportunities to execute their lethal maul. The final scoreline of 34-14 left us shattered!

During the Rondebosch match we lost Duran Koevort and stalwart centre Toufiq Dramat to injury. Fired up to avenge the narrow defeat at Wynberg in the second term we found ourselves well and truly up against it when we lost our lineout captain Phil de Nobrega to illness on the Friday. Hooker Hlumelo Ntweni contracted pink-eye on the same day!  

It was bitterly cold and wet when we took the field against our old foe. Under the circumstances, while obviously still hopeful of a win, we really wanted the boys to come together, show character and play their final match together as an Under-16 group for each other.

Enos Ndiao captained the team and is was pleasing to see individuals stand up and take responsibility for their role in the team. We went down, but not without a fight, leaving the boys upset but comforted by the fact that they had given their all and had played for each other.

A season that promised much ended rather disappointingly but various factors came into play. The Under-16 age-group sees the boys even out in size and the dominance held by this team, particularly in the forwards, in Under-14 and Under-15 was no longer a given. We struggled for continuity of selection in the second half of the season. Too many boys missed practices and left the field too easily during matches. We also did not improve enough over the course of the season. As coaches, we must take responsibility for this. Contributing factors include a general lack of intensity at training, not doing enough video and self-analysis and players possibly not buying into the game-plan. Valuable lessons have been learnt. That is, after-all, what schoolboy rugby is about.

This group of boys fronts up physically on match day but need to improve their attitude to training and also take more responsibility for their own performance. They are a close knit and committed group and will make important contributions to SACS Rugby over the next two years. I wish them well.

Thanks to Morne Smal for all his hours of hard work and commitment to the team and the boys. Thanks to the parents for their unwavering support over the course of the long season.

P 17 W 7 L 10 PF  289 PA  349

Top Points Scorer:  Duran Koevort 87 (6 tries, 27 conversions, 1 penalty)

Top Try-scorer: Enos Ndiao (16)

Regular team members: Duran Koevort (C), Max van Aarde, Hlumelo Ntweni, Nicholas Hull, Imtiyaaz Gamildien, Sakhi Mpondo, Tristan Humphreys, Anda Dilima, Enos Ndiao, Sech Chibale, Jacob Snijman, Ross Barrett, Neal Lategan, Phillip de Nobrega, Connor Lewis, Luke Hayes, Trent Boden, Toufiq Dramat, Kyle Kreymborg, Mohammad Achmat, Travis Lombard, Joshua Sternslow, Eugene Solomons, Kai Curran.

Graeme Wepener

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