It was a crunch game, a make or break hurdle in DirectAxis False Bay’s quest for a top-two finish to SLA2018 and they came through with flying colours, crowd darling Danie Roux in the vanguard. False Bay beat Victorians 33-23 at an icy Danie Craven Stadium after leading 21-18 at the changeover.
It was always going to be a physical challenge to the Bay’s winning record, their only loss this season being against the hosts’ big brother, Maties. That description is reference to seniority and not much more. Coached by former WP strongman Louis Blom, the students break the mould of being susceptible to physical domination, replacing that with a hardcore style of pace and brawn. He has achieved that without any effect on the inherent flair and verve of student sides.
The build-up to the main game saw False Bay run their hosts close in both matches. The U20s collected two points for finishing within seven points and scoring four tries, while the Seconds perhaps throttled into a loss by four points in the main curtain-raiser.
It was Vics who opened the scoreboard with a penalty by flyhalf Gerco Nortje, a sweet striker of the ball issuing a strong warning of pending danger from his boot. Victorians, up for the game and ready for combat in the trenches, swamped the Bay, pinning them down with rush defence which allowed little room for attack. It was then to be expected that the powerful Danie Roux, playing at centre in the last three matches, would break the shackles of a suffocating defence to put the Bay into a 7-3 lead after wing Karl Martin converted Roux’s try.
The students, showing the maturity of post-grads, were by no means shaken. They took the game to the visitors, at times pinning them in their own half for what seemed like ages. Wing Fredrick van Zyl finished a well-crafted try to give the students a one point lead. Later in the half, Nortje converted a penalty to extend his team’s lead to four points.
All the while False Bay absorbed the pressure exerted by a rampant Victorians who had prepared well and were not standing back for their opponents. At times proceedings became a little combatant, both teams reluctant to flinch in the face of their opponents.
Karl Martin, relishing being on the pitch albeit on the wing, struck back for the Bay as they counter-attacked from barely into their opponents half. By time he received the ball, Martin still had twenty metres of treacherous enemy territory to cover, the sideline adding the extra defender. He scored in the corner and dissected the uprights for good measure to give his team a slender three-point lead.
DirectAxis False Bay were exerting their authority, and then extended their lead when lock Jan Ferreira, who had an outstanding game as he ran himself into the turf, stretched for the line and planted the ball against the base of the pole protectors. The referee was comfortable with the score and after a short consultation at the behest of his assistant referee, he ruled that what he saw was legal and allowed the try to stand. Martin gave the visitors a ten-point lead with the conversion.
That lead would have been a handy one for the Bay to take down the tunnel at the half-time whistle, but Vics had different plans. Determined not to capitulate to their opponents up front and with the speedy backs running the ball with speed, confidence and verve, they threatened the Bay try-line as half-time approached. False Bay’s defence stood firm but with barely a minute or two on the first half clock, scrumhalf Jurgens van Schalkwyk crossed the lead to reduce False Bay’s lead to just three points after Nortjie got the conversion.
The False Bay coaching panel would have had some words of wisdom to share at the break but in essence the visitors were being stymied by a determined Victorians who were playing in-your-face rugby, behind the advantage line, enough to curtail the attacking flair of any team. It was a sound tactic which coupled with the ability to launch effective, blitz attacks at the Bay line, made Victorians a very dangerous outfit, a true character test for the Bay.
It is the business end of SLA2018. With four matches remaining after this one, False Bay needed a for-try win to move one point ahead of Dur-Bell, the two teams vying for what is surely second spot with Maties currently unstoppable and registering massive wins recently. With this in mind it was no surprise that captain Graham Knoop passed on the opportunity to convert penalties into three points and opt for lineout restarts in search of a seven-pointer.
As the game wore on and Victorians doggedly stuck to their task, showing no signs of capitulating in the heat of the physical battle, the were some nervous travelling supporters eyeing a scoreboard that was stark reminder of the threat all Stellenbosch teams pose when the score is close and the heat is on.
Admittedly False Bay left a few scoring opportunities on the field, conversion of which would have settled some nerves in the stands, but conversely their superb defence also kept the maroon candy-striped wolves from their door. On one particular occasion, the hosts staged a threatening counter-attack with a scrambling Bay defence somehow managing to retreat, keep their line intact and earn a penalty five metres from their line. Heart-stopping for travelling support frustrating for those allied to the hosts.
False Bay’s bonus point try was the second of Roux’s, a typical effort of pace and power and gave the Constantia team an eight-point lead. Vics were far from beaten and with the clock counting down in slow-motion, they threatened the Bay line with sufficient effect to remind all that only the referee’s final whistle would force these warriors to relent. Flank Juan Venter crashed over for the hosts and the Bay’s lead was stripped down to a paltry three points, by no means enough against a team on fire as were the hosts.
The students continued their salvos at the Bay lines and in return the Bay parried and counter-attacked, one of which saw Roux, by now back on the wing, receive the ball on the halfway line. He launched one of his trademark attacks at the Vics defences, sidestepping one, going around another and then over yet another on his way to scoring a try which relieved all Bay hearts and broke those of linked to Victorians. Adnaan Oesman converted.
Minutes later the referee called an end to proceedings, an enjoyable contest, heartbreaking as it was for some.
For Victorians hooker Sean Swart, Venter, van Schalkwyk, Nortje and centre Altun Momsen stood out amongst a full group which stood out. Similarly False Bay were well served by their match day 22. Oesman is in the form of his life; Knoop and Ferreira immense; flak Thabo Ngcongo toiled tirelessly and flank/lock Brandon Wood was outstanding. Prop Wesley Futter delivered a high quality, busy game. Replacement flyhalf Ewan Adams sparkled and centre Riaan O’Neil toiled tirelessly.
Eigthman Adam de Carvalho can be more than happy with his debut and flank Dustin Andrews needed no second invitation to show his skills when given the chance to take to the field.
False Bay travel to Strand on Saturday to face St Georges. First games are at 1.20pm with the main fixture kicking off at 4pm.