BAY PREPARATION GOING WELL
DirectAxis False Bay contest the third of their tough pre-season friendly encounters when they travel to face Community Cup champions Durbanville-Bellville on Saturday.
With two tough friendly matches already under the belt, Coach Johnno van der Walt must surely have learnt an enormous amount about the players he has at his disposal and their ability to meet the high expectations of the supporters. The Bay surprised some although not all, when they beat Hamiltons 27-19 at Constantia almost a fortnight ago before extending the Maties Varsity Cup side, eventually going down 21-8 at Coetzenberg last weekend.
This week’s encounter will be a tough challenge. Durbell play a different style of rugby to what the Constantia team has faced thus far. They have big forwards supported by seemingly equally big backs with pace. Playing away friendly matches for False Bay was at the behest of van der Walt, who felt his team needed to deliver high quality performances away from “Fortress Constantia” as the Phillip Herbstein Fields are sometimes called in reference to the difficulty visiting teams experience in beating the Bay at home.
The entire Club has enjoyed a busy start to their 2016 season. The Second and Third teams successfully hosted Old Mackayans from Santiago, Chile on Friday night, delivering two close victories while extending the hand of rugby friendship to visiting teams. The Under 20 section has got some early match practice against teams such as Hammies, Behar and SK Walmer, while the Fourth team eagerly anticipate their mini-tour to Knysna over the coming long weekend.
The Fifth team face friendly rivals, the Villager RFC Shebeen Boys on Friday night at Brookside in a match honouring Ryan “Gary” Reaper who suffered a neck injury in a match between the two teams last year. They have a combined initiative called “All-in-for-G” aimed to assist Ryan and players with spinal injuries. Kick off at Brookside is 7pm and all are welcome.
With the start of the Super League A season barely three weeks away against a resurgent, newly-promoted NNK at Parow, just how does DirectAxis False Bay really measure up? Their victory over Hamiltons was sound although the visitors were short of a few of their top players. The same can be said of the Bay of course. A number of their senior players are being rested or are being injury-managed. The depth is there and undoubtedly the talent too. Saturday’s performance against the full Maties Varsity Cup team was further endorsement of this.
Call-ups for Western Province are further indication of the talent in Constantia. A number of False Bay players have been attending WP trials with flyhalf Andri Claasen and eighthman Ryan Olivier selected to don the blue and white shirts of the Union this coming weekend.
“The Bay is definitely evolving and the younger generation is coming through nicely”, said van der Walt. “This season consists of 4 parts, namely pre-season friendlies, the first half of league season, the second half and of course the Gold Cup in September and October. We view each performance in its context”.
“Our fitness has improved tremendously over the last two months and our scrum appears pretty solid”, says van der Walt with the caution of a coach knowing that each of these is ever only proved up against live opposition.
Looking at the performances of the Bay scrum against their recent opposition, they do indeed appear pretty solid. The younger fringe players have been given opportunity to test the rigours of top flight of club rugby. Play in the engine room of rugby can never be taken for granted and the report card can sometimes be brutal with every scrum presenting a new test and the marks never counting for an aggregate. “Our set piece is a work in progress, always will be”, quips van der Walt.
An outstanding feature of the Bay’s game so far is undoubtedly their defence. Against the Matie, they repulsed sustained attack with structured offensive defence, which inevitably resulted in a turnover after a number of phases. “We constantly work on our defence and breakdown as this is a major strength of ours. Of course we always focus on skills and handling. Our pace in the backs is good with great ball players to boot”, said the Bay’s head coach.
“2016 will be exciting to say the least”, he finishes with a hint of mischief.
His comment is not at all in sole reference to False Bay. This astute coach is all too aware of the level of competition in the SLA. The rest of the teams in the competition are not nervously sitting on their hands hoping to win the game. One gets a sense that there is a resurgence in club rugby and the social value it delivers and the fifteen teams competing in the Super League A are not treating this season as one of hope. Each team has lofty goals, made all the more interesting by three Universities motivated to make up for the current Varsity Cup inertia.