It is however the Groendal club which has been tested beyond the rugby pitch. A bus carrying 31 players and supporters from a pre-season friendly match was involved in an horrific accident on the Franschhoek Pass in which the club suffered three fatalities and a number of injuries. “The outpouring of support that we received from the WPRFU, other clubs and the rugby community in general was extremely humbling”, says Treswill Boonzaaier, Chairman of Franschhoek RFC.
“We have always been a close-knit Club but this has brought us even closer together”, he continued.
With the backdrop of the Franschhoek Mountains, an enthusiastic crowd welcomed the two clubs to the field for the fiercely contested matches. The Bay, with far greater depth at their disposal, were again afforded the opportunity to give players returning from injury, as well as those knocking on the higher honours door the chance to stake claims and get the already mentioned much-needed game time.
In the main game, Franschhoek RFC, lying twelfth on the SLB, gave as good as they got. The Bay, with their heavier pack dominant, launched attack after attack off the forward platform, where JT Kunneke revelled in his role of loose forward on the day. Hooker and captain Dasch Barbour led by example and kept his team focussed when things tended to become loose. Eighthman Jake Rigby had another good outing. Lighthouse-like lock Luke Esterhuyse, playing his first match of the season, made life very difficult for the home side come lineout time. Hooker Shaun Garbers was rewarded for his work rate with a try.
At the back flyhalf Cyprian Aislie again had an outstanding game, while fast-becoming veteran yet still young Kendrick Sass shone with his intelligent play, rewarded on the day with two tries.
False Bay led 24-7 at the break but it was the hosts who opened the second half scoring, when they reduced the Bay lead to ten points with a well-taken try.
The final score was 42-12 but the match proceedings are not as important as the spirit of the day. Yes, the players and coaches benefitted in terms of rugby value and all players thoroughly enjoyed themselves, but communal interaction was the order of the day.
It is however the context of the game that matters most. Through the tragedy, Franschhoek suffered a major setback in their SLB2015 campaign. Their pre-season preparation was suspended after the accident. A club made up of mostly manual labourers, they do not benefit from gym programmes and dieticians. Matches are the core of their fitness regime and as they dealt with the tragedy, these were obviously suspended.
“We are on our way back”, says Boonzaaier. “Our goal is a seventh place finish for the season and days like these against strong opposition help us tremendously”, he completed. With the character this club has shown over the last four months, you better believe that goal will be achieved.
False Bay RFC Chairman, Dr Gareth Jones aptly put the day into context. “On Saturday one hundred young men could play the game they enjoy. May the way the way Franschhoek RFC play the game be a lasting tribute to those who lost their lives on the Pass”.
Stirring words which epitomise the spirit of a sport that can truly unite people.
THE SPIRIT OF THE GAME
Two clubs needing much-needed game time fortuitously gave them the opportunity to share in the warmth that rugby can create, one club riding a crest of a wave the other still overcoming the demons of a tragedy that shook their club to the core.
With the extended mid-season break causing some headaches for all clubs, Franschhoek RFC invited False Bay RFC to visit the picturesque town to engage in some friendly matches, which the Constantia club gratefully accepted. It had been a decade since the two clubs last met in the Super League B, with much water under the bridge.