BAY READY FOR THE SEASON
DirectAxis False Bay RFC proved their readiness for the delayed 2018 Super League A season when they comprehensively beat Durbanville-Bellville at Wynberg Boys High School on Saturday. The final score was 34 -3 after the "hosts" lead 5-3 at the break.
This was the Bay's final friendly match before the much-anticipated 2018 SLA season finally kicks off on 2 June.
The first half was a slugfest as the teams squared up, the forwards grinding away at each other while the backs tested defences with some enterprising running. The Bay's defence throughout the contest was resolute, a feature of their game perhaps one of the major differences between the teams in the first half. The scoreline supports this observation although admittedly False Bay did perhaps squander some opportunity with inaccurate execution.
The visitors raised their game in the second quarter, impressively building their phase-play. Eighthman Karl Liebenberg was massive with ball in hand, especially when attacking the channel at centre. Fullback Angus Cleophas was especially busy during this period, counter attacking when given the opportunity. He was responsible for his team's only points through a penalty conversion.
False Bay's first half points belonged to flyhalf Siya Allem, who was outstanding on attack throughout the encounter while delivering some bone-jarring tackles in his channel. His return to the fields of his schooldays was outstanding.
The Constantia outfit's superior fitness was the major difference between the two teams in the second half. Spaces opened up and wing Danie Roux, gang-tackled every time he received the ball in the opening forty minutes, thrived on the expanses in which he found himself. An incredibly hard man to stop in these situations, he recorded a brace of tries. It was vintage, swashbuckling Roux matched in tries scored by Mustaqim Jappie, whose fleetfooted skills were electrifying. Scrumhalf Niyaas Johnson, who had a sound game at the base of the scrum, completed the list of try scorers.
van der Walt will be pleased with the performance of his squad, which demonstrated the talent available to him. Reserve scrumhalf Craig Hunt was busy and assured at the base of the scrum, his decision-making and slick service belying his youth. Centre Dillon van Diemen impressed on attack when given the chance to join the contest. His incisive running and slick distribution a hallmark of his play. Flank Thabo Ncongo shone with his all-round participation in proceedings.
Preparation for the delayed season has been challenging for all clubs with stringent measures in place to protect valuable water resources and facilities, including a moratorium on any use of fields including practices. This has placed a huge strain on coaches across the Peninsula, not only to maintain the interest of players but to develop a competitive level of fitness. Bay coach Johnno van der Walt and his panel have done a remarkable job in this department, not only in physically preparing their players for the season, one where the Universities have a distinct advantage having competed in the recent Varsity Cup.
Match situations are the best preparation and False Bay have managed five friendly encounters in this disjointed build-up. They have an unbeaten record in a run against UWC, Tygerberg, Villager, UniMil and now Durbell.
"It has been tough and frustrating to say the least", says van der Walt. "With many of our players still out with injuries, the guys have done well and there is a definite changing of the guard you like. Lots of clubs including ours have seen some older guys hang up their boots and the youngsters are coming through.
"As coaches we have had to start with the basics all over again which has also been a challenge for us. Small things you would take for granted with a group of guys we have worked with for so long still have to be rehashed, discussed and implemented onto the field of play", adding insight to the behind the scenes development of a modern rugby team.
This performance has given van der Walt and his panel plenty food for thought. There is a wealth of talent available in key positions with some youngsters forcing their way into the mix. Hunt, van Diemen and Ncongo are three such names. The older, established players are still very much a force and the backbone of the team.
"We continue to have a good vibe in the squad and that always helps", said the coach. "There is a lot of rugby in a short space of time and we will have to manage our depth well over this period".
False Bay host Hamiltons in their opening SLA encounter at Constantia on 2 June, followed by Belhar and then Maties. "We have two home games that could make or break a title contending season", said van der Walt.
The build-up to SLA2018 has been unlike any before and adaptation to the challenges of preparation for a busy season over a shorter period of time will challenge the depth of most clubs. The Universities have already started their season to accommodate the mid-year Varsity vacations and with this season's SLA champions being decided by a knockout playoff between the league's top eight teams, the winning team would have to successfully navigate fourteen games in less than three months.