DirectAxis FALSE BAY STUN MATIES
by Jon Harris
DirectAxis False Bay withstood a typical Maties second half onslaught to run out deserved 22-19 victors in their Super League A match played at Constantia last Wednesday. The Bay led 19-0 at half time.
With their Second XV narrowly winning the main curtain-raiser, the Constantia supporters were hoping for much of the same from the Club’s flagship. At the beginning of the SLA campaign the three False Bay Senior Squads dedicated their season to a popular team member who had tragically passed away during the off season. Francois “Sweis” Breytenbach had represented each of False Bay’s top three teams with aplomb and his impact on those around him was immense. Each of the match shirts of these squads is embroidered with the word “Sweis”, both memorial and motivation.
With two victories under their SLA belt already, Stellenbosch University was always going to be DirectAxis False Bay’s true test of character, talent and worth.
The atmosphere was electric on a cool Cape night, charged by the almost one thousand people in attendance hoping for an upset. The pace at which the match started and continued throughout was remarkable and the normally big Bay forwards were beaten in the size department by a big, strong and athletic Maties pack. The result was a bruising, high intensity battle upfront with sparkling backline play between the two threequarter lines.
At the vanguard of the Maties play was flyhalf Chris Smit, a lanky man who oozes rugby talent. He controlled the game with complete confidence and it was his attacking play which really impressed, running at pace, straight and fully aware of all options around him, making him a constant threat throughout the contest.
The first quarter of the match delivered uncompromising interplay, brutal physicality at the breakdowns and bone-crunching tackles stopping exciting ball-carrying runs. It was the Maties who blinked first in the staredown, when Bay eighthman Ryan Olivier crashed over at the back of a maul off a 5m lineout.
False Bay was energised and raised their intensity even more, if that seemed possible. A few minutes later, they slapped their opponents with the cold, flat hand of another try, this one off a charge down of a kick on the halfway which was snatched up by centre Jason Pretorius, who scythed through and passed to wing Wesley Hamilton to score. Flyhalf Andri Claassen converted and the Bay was up 12-0.
Half an hour into the contest False Bay scored their third try, an enthralling effort which featured slick interpassing and a surge for the line by veteran centre Byron Mohr. Claassen made it a seven-pointer and the home crowd was quietly beginning to ponder a large victory margin reminiscent of those so often dished out by their esteemed opponents to the Bay in years gone by.
The teams changed with the rarely seen scoreline of False Bay 19 Maties 0.
Of course no one truly expected a whitewash. Stellenbosch University has a long and illustrious history which is not built on lore but rather pride and determination and this was no more apparent in what followed in the ensuing thirty minutes of play.
The Maties forwards increased the intensity of their play, helped by a dip in accuracy in the normally precise Bay lineout. They swarmed their opponents, running straight and at pace, offloading in the tackle to set up runners operating in series and testing the Bay defences with each pass. It is rugby beauty to behold when the wave of maroon jerseys run onto one pass after another making scramble defence the only option. Their possession was crisp and the Bay backs were under tremendous pressure on their own ball. The result was a plethora of dropped or wayward passes which broke False Bay’s momentum and sapped them of energy and emotional fortitude as Stellenbosch erased the hosts’ 19 point lead.
First to score for the maroon-shirted Maties was Smit who dotted down at the end of a swarming run which required consultation between officials. This was followed up by a try by flank Janco Venter a few minutes later, which Smit converted. This silenced the somewhat vocal crowd and Stellenbosch were now in familiar territory, a scoreline which could easily be turned around in a flash. The giant had awakened and it was not long before the giant leveled the scores through a try by left wing Dewald Naude.
Fifteen minutes to play and the scores were even. The Mighty Maties were alive and kicking and the feisty challengers seemed drained and out on their feet, not through a lack of conditioning but rather the emotional draining which accompanies one’s best effort being absorbed and dealt with in brutal fashion.
But “Sweis” had a role to play. In what emerged in a heartwarming story afterwards, replacement prop Trokkie Lotter was introduced and although he delivered his usual high quality game, it was perhaps his words which inspired more. He entered the huddle holding the embroidered name of his fallen team mate and reminded his counterparts of their dedication at season’s start and not to disappoint those present.
Emotion surged back into the legs of the home team and they began to ‘get it together’. The Bay were fighting back through counter attacks and sniping runs from the likes of Ridhaa Damon and Mustaqim Jappie or the more boisterous runs of Andrew Whittaker. They retained their possession, at set phase and in loose play, and they began to string phases together again. With six minutes to play referee Daniel Fortuin, who had a good match, awarded False Bay a penalty which Claassen calmly slotted.
Six minutes is an eternity when playing against the Maties, who are renowned for their last minute scoring prowess, but the home side was not about to relinquish the lead for the second time in the match and were in fact deep in their opponents half when referee Fortuin called an end to proceedings for an historic and deserved victory for False Bay.
It was an immense squad effort built on the blood and guts of the forwards and the enterprise of the backs and is perhaps churlish to identify individuals. Evergreen Justin van Winkel was simply outstanding, flank partner Brent Stevens delivered numerous hard-hitting tackles which inspired those around him and eighthman Ryan Olivier again was a standout player through his all round number eight play. Lock Graham Knoop was outstanding in the set pieces and loose.
Hamilton was a dynamo on the wing as was Danie Roux, and centre Pretorius continued his excellent form. Flyhalf Claassen has delivered outstanding performances week after week this year but this performance underlined his coming of age as a quality pivot.
For Maties Smit was sublime, centre Koos Loubser a constant threat, eighthman Devon Nash and flank Venter outstanding. Locks Kobus van Dyk and Lourens Fick were immense in the lineout and power personified with ball in hand.