BAY START TRAINING
Barely three months after the curtain fell on False Bay's golden season, the players are donning their togs in preparation for their all-important 2017 Super League A. It is a season which promises the club rugby enthusiast its own unique experience and intrigue.
So much has been said about the Bay's success in securing their first SLA title in forty four years and their remarkable performance in their debut Gold Cup, but that success was evident throughout the Constantia Club's teams. Their Under 20A team, competing in the Super League finished first among the non-university clubs. The three Cape Universities traditionally boast a strong Under 20 section and it is an endorsement of the efforts of coach Frans Boshoff and his management team that they finished closely behind these traditional big guns.
Boshoff seeks to improve on last year's performances but perhaps his measurement of success is the number of his charges who have made the jump from junior to senior ranks, staking their claims as quality SLA players. Two of these are lock Brandon Wood and wing Roemark Smith.
The former etched his name in last year's annals with standout performances week after week, while the latter grabbed his opportunity to impress and grew in stature as the season progressed. Smith is proof that players from lesser-known rugby schools can compete against the past students of the bigger Southern Suburbs rugby giants. The club boasts a number of players from these minnows who are proving their value on and off the pitch and are an inspiration to rugby-loving school leavers to continue their participation in the sport. Club rugby is to be experienced, many late developers grabbing the opportunity to perform when most others are watching from the sidelines. To this end, school leavers are encouraged to continue their participation in the sport and to join a rugby club nearby.
For the first time in four "off-seasons", False Bay Head Coach Johnno van der Walt rested his players for the fourth quarter of the year. Normally commencing his pre-season fitness by around October, van der Walt had no option but to rest his charges after their gruelling 2016 schedule, which started in January with pre-season Varsity Cup friendly matches against UCT and Maties and ended in October with the Gold Cup Final and the Western Province Sevens tournament.
"It's not really a late start in terms of field sessions with only four less than normal which we will make up with some Saturday get togethers in February and March", says van der Walt. "But it's definitely a much needed break".
So the Bay's annus mirabilis is still mentioned in rugby circles but it would be churlish for anyone to believe that 2017 will be a repeat of that spectacular year without effort. Club rugby is undergoing a metamorphosis, a resurgence of note. Long the poor cousin of rugby, neglected more and more as marketers launched new concepts aimed at satisfying the home-based rugby follower, the club game around the country waned. It is on the rise, firstly through the success of the club leagues around the country and then the success of the inaugural Gold Cup, the reformatted Community Cup, which took place at club venues around the country and enjoyed television exposure. The competition introduced the exciting brand of rugby played at this level to the home fundi, hitherto oblivious to its charm.
The result is the growth in clubs around the Province and more specifically, the elevation of skills levels of players and coaches, spreading the power base across a broader platform resulting in a very competitive top tier competition. Numbering amongst these clubs are perennials such as Hamiltons, Durbell, UCT and Maties, with False Bay a favourite too but sticking their hands up to be noticed as a threat are Tygerberg RFC, Brackenfell and SK Walmers. A resurgent Uni-Mil RFC, back in the SLA for the first time in more than fifteen years are a team to watch and not to be ignored.
Indeed SLA2017 has to be the strongest it has been in many years with each of the fifteen clubs fully deserving their place in the top echelon and van der Walt is prepared for this exciting season. "Nothing changes, we take it game by game; we treat each opponent with due respect and take no team for granted; and we train to prepare properly for each match", he says with steely resolve.
False Bay has two teams participating at the CT Tens, albeit in the more festive leagues. Their FIFOs and Crocks will be in action at Green Point this coming weekend. The Bay's pre-season friendly match schedule includes senior teams travelling to Kleinmond and then hosting Hermanus RFC in February. Their main friendly fixtures involving the full club kicks off when they face Tygerberg in Parow on 4 March, followed by two home club days on consecutive weekends against Hamiltons and Durbell.
The False Bay Under 20s practice on Mondays and Wednesdays at 6pm while the senior teams gather on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
False Bay has issued a commemorative DVD in celebration of their 2016 success. This collector's item is available for sale on the Club's website shop at http://www.falsebayrugby.com/shop. Alternatively further information can be requested from email@example.com
- Jon Harris