FORTY YEARS AND MORE OF THE BAY
False Bay RFC has featured on the sports pages of the Constantiaberg Bulletin over the forty years of the publication’s existence. Regular readers have been exposed to the success of the Constantia club over the last decade or so, tinged with setbacks which could so easily have become permanent had it not been for the character of its members.
It is this character which has endeared the Bay to players and spectators not only around the Peninsula but indeed around the World. A legacy of this popularity is as a “must-do” for foreign touring teams, which over the last few years has included matches against the ships complement of visiting British frigates.
Success in the form of league titles has been limited to one Grand Challenge Championship, when a star-studded False Bay took the 1972 title under coach Basil Bey and the captaincy of Butch Watson-Smith.
In times when Club Rugby attracted crowds of upwards to twenty thousand to Newlands and provincial players represented their clubs when not representing their Province, the Bay’s title-clinching efforts confirmed their status as one of the top clubs in the Western Province and crowned a period of resurgence from the depths of relegation in the late fifties and rebirth in the sixties. It crowned their comeback which included a move to their new home in the Constantia Sports Complex the year before, 1971.
The Bay is an institution in rugby circles and is synonymous with Constantia, despite their nautical connotation.
This year saw False Bay RFC deliver a result in the top echelon of the Western Province’s Super League A (the equivalent of the then Grand Challenge), which may rank second in terms of log placement but which is every bit as much of a success and crowning of effort as that of 1972. The Constantia club ended second on the SLA table to champions Maties in a season where they won 13 of their 14 matches and were the only team to beat Maties during the season.
The success of the club has been across the leagues with all of their teams delivering outstanding results, including a Reserve League title earned by the FIFOs, the Club’s Fifth Team. Indeed False Bay boasts one of the highest registry of active players and field eight teams on a full-schedule weekend.
Hard to believe that thirteen years before this they had suffered the ignominy of relegation to Division One, now the Super League C, which spelled what many interpreted as the death knell of the club as they battled the challenges of modern day club rugby. The spirit of the club which defies description or labelling stood strong and a reconstruction of the structures was undertaken with the express aim of making it a club relative to its community and a destination for players and spectators alike, where on-field performance was supported by an environment for all to belong to and enjoy. Sport builds character and having a sense of belonging is all-important in today’s society.
To suggest that False Bay RFC has achieved only two notable successes over the last forty plus years would be totally remiss. It has been an institution in the top league of the province, mostly ranking in the top ten clubs throughout the decades. After its Grand Challenge victory, the Bay contested in the Grand Challenge for a number of years with varying degrees of success.
1994 saw the arrival of one of South Africa’s eminent rugby personality, Nick Mallett who announced his credentials as a coach when he steered the Bay to a third log position finish in his two years at the club. During this time the Phillip Herbstein fields were graced by names such as French Internationals Fabien Galthie, Laurent Cabannes, Springboks Niel Hugo, Dale Santon and FC Smit, playing a brand of winning rugby which had spectators regularly in excess of two thousand in attendance. Indeed the club was well-represented at RWC1995 when Galthie and Cabannes were called up for France with the late Russell Mulholland, a Bay legend, serving as the Media Liaison Officer for the Springboks.
At the end of that year rugby turned professional and the game changed forever, certainly in the amateur format. False Bay, like so many clubs around the province, suffered through the lure of payment and again the character of the club was tested as it sailed the choppy waters of amateur rugby, nearly running aground with the aforementioned relegation to Division One.
Success was to follow with two SLB championships under coach Kevin Musikanth as well as a third-place finish in their first year back in the SLA. Demetri Catrakilis announced his arrival with his outstanding season at the Bay which launched his now illustrious career while another Stormers regular, Huw Jones was outstanding in the second of the SLB championship years. Jones is touted by many as a future International, qualifying for both England and Wales.
It is however the current success of the Bay which is on the lips of club rugby followers and it is not only for reasons of league success. Players across the leagues are proud to be a part of the club and the interaction between the teams, encouragement and camaraderie is heartwarming to witness.
In the modern world where young folk often hanker for exactly this, it makes False Bay all that more relevant to its society, one where support and encouragement of each other is central to the development of both the individual and society.
Photos Courtesy of Gavin Withers, Action Pics Photography