False Bay RFC Tens Tournament
Life under Covid has proved just how resilient, innovative and determined we are. There is no denying that the manner in which our everyday lives has been altered has become tiresome and frustrating. Perhaps this is most evident in the queues of 18 to 25 year-olds lining up for their injections, an indicator that they will play the role in normalising life.
Sport may be recreational, but recreation is a vital ingredient of a healthy lifestyle and the ongoing disruptions caused by the virus plays havoc with organised sport. That overused cliché "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade" was given a much-needed facelift at False Bay RFC this week and now, for their players reads "make sparkling lemonade".
Rugby in the Western Cape was as affected by Lockdown as any sport and although clubs across the Peninsula managed to get a couple of rounds of pre-season friendly matches under the belt, the season never kicked off at all. Maintaining player interest was a major challenge for coaches in all the leagues, and attendance numbers at clubs rapidly dwindled, many of the clubs forced to scrap all plans of participating in any rugby in 2021.
Even when SA Rugby announced at the end of July that clubs were allowed to resume training, there was a great disparity between clubs even partially prepared for a season and those without any hope of having a semblance of a team ready.
There was still some hope that a friendly inter-club tournament amongst clubs which had maintained their season during shutdown, but this proved to be too much and clubs around the Peninsula had to accept that 2021 would be another non-event on the rugby calendar.
False Bay RFC are blessed, not only with a dedicated panel of coaches and managers, but with vast numbers of players dedicated to getting fit and staying prepared for the possibility of game time. "We involve the players in all communication from the Union and they are always aware of our plans far in advance", said False Bay's Head Coach Johnno van der Walt. Their disappointment at the scrapping of the 2021 season was clear, and this is where the "make sparkling lemonade" quip comes in.
The brainchild of Club Captain Hendri Wait and First XV skipper, Thabo Ncongo, the Bay boys registered in droves to participate in a Round Robin Tens Tournament over a period of six weeks beginning in a fortnight. Over 100, Covid-compliment platers from all segments of the Constantia club registered and Monday saw an American style player draft where players were allocated to each team ensuring equal strength to benefit the tournament.
Four franchises headed up by coaches Ashley Wells, Gunner Hughes, Ryan van Niekerk and Morgan Newman selected their squad, with each team having a fair spread of players from Under 20s, Thirds, Fourths and Fifths. Players from the First and Second team squad were equally apportioned to the various teams in what should ensure an equal spread of the Club's deep talent pool.
On the coaching front, Kirsten Marshall, Chris Hewetson, Richard Lawson, Chris de Klerk, Pieter Benade, Alan Footman, Adam van Willing and Vinny Kayster were allocated a squad, ensuring full effort and development is derived from the endeavour. The ten-man game requires a different skillset and the coaching panels will ensure fitness and game-readiness before the tournament kicks off.
Over the next three weeks, teams will knuckle down and prepare themselves for what promises to be most entertaining. With only ten players per team allowed on the pitch at a time, space will be bountiful and defensive patterns had better be sound. Thursday nights will see four matches take place, with fifteen minute halves. All teams will play two matches per night and fitness will be key to success.
The draft ceremony was filled with mirth and laughter, excitement abounding for a fun and rewarding player-driven concept. Over the last two years players have dressed up with nowhere to go as they have trained in the hope of returning to the pitch. That hope dashed for thousands of club players across the country. Club Rugby belongs to everyone, from players to spectators but the latter's effort is limited to getting to the grounds, while the former's is one of complete dedication. The excitement of being rewarded for that effort was tangible at the Draft, the event itself unique and innovative.
Some aspects of the tournament needs ironing-out. Four sets of contrasting in colour, preferably unique rugby shirts for one, and to this end sponsors to alleviate the cost while at the same time participating in a unique event. The all-important team names are another and the final team lists will be the last stroke of the brush.
Kudos to the players at False Bay for taking the initiative to deliver a return on their investment of effort. It is going to be most entertaining.