DirectAxis False Bay RFC suffered only their second defeat of their remarkable season when they lost 24-48 to Rustenberg Impala in Rustenberg in the Gold Cup Final on Saturday. The half time score was 10-17.
Played in searing, near 40 degree heat, False Bay’s schedule of five away games out of seven Gold Cup fixtures seemed to have taken its toll on the coastal lads on a day they so dearly would have loved to have triumphed.
Indeed, the Constantia team surprised all as they firstly overcame the fancied Pretoria Police at Loftus Versveld a fortnight before and then triumphed over defending champions, Durbanville-Bellville at Durbanville a week
FALSE BAY LOSE GOLD CUP FINAL
29 October 2016
later, giving Cape supporters hope that the golden chalice would remain in the Peninsula for another year. It was not to be as Impala, playing in their third consecutive final, outwitted the Bay to take their second title in three attempts.
False Bay, with a large, loyal travelling support base arrived in the mining town quietly confident of their chances. Impala had shown few weaknesses in their previous outings but if these could be exploited, the Constantia boys would return triumphant. It was not to be as the home side tweaked their pattern for the contest, and took the game to their visitors. They used to good effect their size advantage and their intimate knowledge of the conditions, especially the heat and when they scored early in the second half, the debilitating effects of the altitude seemed to have a magnified effect on the coastal team, sapping them of the energy to fight back.
Impala drove the nail in deep after the restart, extending their lead to 41-10, before the Bay staged a mini-comeback and scored two late tries to sufficiently reduce the daylight in the scoreline to a level of respectability.
The wonder of this tale is two-fold. False Bay RFC was relegated to the Division One, now Super League C, for the 2005 season, when they regained their Super League B status. Less than a dozen years later, with some ups and downs interspersed, this popular Southern Suburbs club has been crowned Super League A champions of 2016 and progressed to the final of the Gold Cup, laying claim to being the country’s second-ranked club for the year. No small feat indeed.
This is the first year of the Gold Cup in this format. Formerly known as the Community Cup, a pre-season tournament held at a central venue over one week. The Gold Cup was shifted to the end of the season, with twenty teams being split into four pools, playing at club venues around Southern Africa. Supersport
initially committed to televising four matches but extended this to a total of eight as the contest proved popular.
Crowds well in excess of five thousand attended some of the matches and the contest heralded the return to popularity of SA Rugby’s forgotten child, Club Rugby. Barely a few years ago this echelon of the South African rugby environment had become something of a laughing stock as clubs battled to retain player strength and compete against various other, more glamorous competitions which enjoyed television coverage.
SA Rugby should be congratulated on its bold move to grow this competition, which saw a team each from Namibia and Zimbabwe competing too, making it a Regional spectacle and not just a national competition. Home ground advantage added as an incentive for clubs to win their respective pools in order to host the knockout stages and live televised Sunday club rugby became a reality during the competition, when the semi-finals were broadcast a fortnight ago.
Yet one of the greatest boons of the competition has been a return to traditional values of the club game. The competition produced sparkling running rugby throughout and even in the knockout stages, which tend to become arm wrestles, teams threw everything at each other in highly entertaining try-fests. The semi-final matches both produced 76 points and nine tries each, while the final was an eleven try romp.
A seemingly biased observation but a truth nevertheless, DirectAxis False Bay RFC played a major role in returning another of club rugby’s standards to the game, that of post match interaction between the two teams. Graham “Snoopy” Knoop and his troops actively mingled with the opposition, firstly in the changerooms and then at dinner afterwards. They endeared themselves to their opponents, who responded well to one of the club game’s inherent traditions which had perhaps become lost over time.
"Ask any rugby player where his fondest sporting memories lie, and he'll tell you they're in the tours he went on, the characters he met, the new friends he made and the battles he encountered”, says Knoop. “This is what the Gold Cup offered and more. With a club culture built on relationships we, as a team and club, relished every available opportunity to fly the False Bay flag, mix with opposition, communities and make an impression beyond the four white lines”, he continued.
“We as False Bay RFC players would like to thank SARU and Gold Cup for an incredible competition and for creating a platform on which players can showcase their talents and measure themselves against the best. The Gold Cup reminds us why we love this game so much. Long may it live."
It has indeed been a remarkable eight weeks of national club rugby and is expected to continue its growth as the rugby public laps up this high quality rugby competition. It showcases the different styles of rugby played around the country and challenges the players in so many ways through the rigours of travel, ambient conditions and playing surfaces. It requires coaches and players to raise their game as they face the best around Southern Africa and it is available for the viewing public to enjoy. Attending spectators thrive on the intimacy of the contest and the opportunity to meet the players after battle has been done.
False Bay however face a huge task if they would like to have another crack at the Gold Cup. They will need to finish amongst the top two non-university clubs in next season’s SLA and with the resurgence of the club game in the Western Cape, this competition promises to be an enthralling one. Clubs such as Hamiltons, Durbell, Tygerberg, Brackenfell, SK Walmers and newly-promoted Unimil all have the Gold Cup as a part of their 2017 goals and the obvious benefactor is the club rugby fan.
False Bay's Sevens team, Blitzbay, are performing exceptionally well at the WP7s in Goodwood, played over six weeks. They enter Round 5 heading their pool with 12 out 13 wins thusfar.
False Bay RFC hold their Annual Awards Dinner on Wednesday 2 November 2106.
- Scribe: Jon Harris