Saturday, 23rd June – 15h00
There is a feast of rugby for local fans this Saturday as a resurgent Springboks take on England at Newlands and just down the M3, Gold Cup Champions False Bay host Varsity Cup Champions, Stellenbosch University at Constantia.
What would have been an enthralling curtain-raiser had these still formed a part of matchday proceedings at Internationals, will start a little earlier at the home of the Bay to enable fans to catch the test on television.
The Maties take to the field for the first time after a three week break, having played three matches against the other University clubs in the SLA in late May. They beat Victorians and UWC and narrowly lost to a quality UCT just before their mid-year vacation. The club is eager to deliver the double with the SLA2018 title, although this year’s competition follows an abridged format, the team ending top of the log not taking the crown. SLA Champions 2018 will be determined between the top six finishers who progress to a knockout stage, the last team standing the title bearers.
While there are pros and cons attached to the format, the most consistently performing team will not necessarily have the SLA trophy in their cabinet for the year following the competition. There is more room to recover from setbacks and still qualify for the knockouts. The lottery is the knockouts, where motivation, erratic officiating and a winning margin of one point all play roles on the day.
The students have a vastly changed squad to the one which brought them Varsity Cup glory, contracts around the country luring a number of their players. This may have contributed to their unexpected loss to the Ikeys, but that would be grossly unfair to the students at Groote Schuur as they were full value for their 27-25 victory over their archrivals just before the midyear break. No matter the post-mortem results of that game, Stellenbosch will be hungry for victory and keen to resume their season in convincing style.
False Bay coach Johnno van der Walt and his wily assistants, Ryan Williams and Andrew Hughes have not been without challenges of their own but on the plus side has the full use of star players such as Adnaan Oesman and Mustquim Jappie. The former has displayed some of the form of his illustrious club carreer while the later has been a handful with the ball in hand. His practice of training with an enlarged squad set to pay dividends as fringe players step into the breech.
That all said, the game promises to be as enthralling as any that the teams have delivered in recent years. Last year’s clash at the Danie Craven Stadium saw the Maties snatch a 41-40 victory in injury time, in a nine-try thriller which delivered some of the best club rugby seen in a number of years. The Bay have the forwards to lay a sound foundation from which their backs to launch telling attacks and unlock the defence of their opponents. Maties are renowned for creating scoring opportunities from virtually any situation and False Bay’s solid defence will have to be leak-proof come Saturday. That said, it has been a feature of the Constantia outfit’s performances this year.
The match promises to be an exciting encounter, a perfect scene-setter for those awaiting the big clash happening at Newlands. It would be churlish to forecast an outcome but what is certain is the quality of rugby spectators in attendance can expect.
The exciting False Bay Under 20 team kick off proceedings at 1 pm, followed by Bay’s Second Team. Both teams play an exciting brand of rugby, which will surely set the scene for the feast to follow.
All are welcome.