It's one of the most eagerly awaited contests of this year’s WPRFU Super League A, that between Hamiltons RFC and False Bay RFC playing out at Sea Point this Saturday.
Both teams are unbeaten in the competition so far, the hosts after nine matches, the visitors after seven. Gone are the days when the schedule was broken into weeks with each team having played an equal number of games and the table reflected a fair picture of performers and non-performers. Instead, with the number of byes littering the fixture list, three-game weeks and extended breaks are the order of the day and the Club Rugby fan is left trying to follow a disjointed competition, often robbed of attending matches by virtue of 9pm kick-offs.
It is thus after one of these extended breaks that the most exciting fixture of the season takes place. The hosts play their first match in almost six weeks while the Constantia outfit broke their six-week run of byes last Saturday when they travelled to Florida Park to face Tygerberg RFC.
It was a match that they expected to be tough, as it certainly was but the Bay triumphed. They won 15-7 after leading 10-0 at the break.
Fortress Florida Park has been the graveyard of many a more-fancied team and False Bay coach Johnno van der Walt was all too aware of this in the build-up. “Saturday was always going to be tough whether we were off for six weeks or it was our last game” he said. “The game was almost that of a derby due to the player and coach contingent in the Tygers squad” he continued in reference to Tygrberg coach Brendell Brandt and three players, all formerly of False Bay.
The opening stage of the game was a stop-start affair and referee Stefan du Toit had his work cut out as the ‘niggle’ prevailed, proceedings settling down after Bay captain received a dubious yellow card. Both teams tried to throw the ball around after that but the scoreline remained intact as inaccuracy hampered both teams.
False Bay scored a 60 metre try when they countered off a dropped Tygers pass, sent the ball through a number of hands for eighthman Ryan Olivier to score. Flyhalf Andri Claassen converted and then extended the lead with a well-taken dropped goal.
Tygerberg knew that their fitness could not match that of the visitors and if the game opened up, so would the gaps. They expertly slowed the ball down at the breakdown partly through good on-the-ground work and the benevolence of officiating. That is a variable of the modern game. They did however also play a lot of rugby and never stood back for their visitors.
Wing Danie Roux scored in the corner to give False Bay a 15-0 lead.
Indeed it was some ordinary handling throughout the contest that hampered their progress, on one occasion the ball being dropped five metres from the line with all defenders beaten. Had this try been scored the vital ingredient in Tygers success, their home support would have lifted the team and the Bay would have had a game on their hands.
Tygerberg scrumhalf Armien Bailley scored relatively late in proceedings to narrow the gap and although they tried valiantly, they never again threatened the Bay line. By contrast, False Bay seemed capable of scoring again, poor ball handling their bane too.
Flank Andrew Whittaker in his 100th outing was outstanding, as were lock Graham Knoop and prop Trokkie Lotter. Hooker Vlam van Vuuren was fiery in contact. At the back fullback Adnaan Osman was calm class and Roux his usual bustling self. The standout player was scrumhalf Ridhaa Damon who was the perfect link between forwards and backs, his defence a feature of his game.
Tygers who caught the eye were centres Granville Jansen and David Johnson, Bailley and lock Melton Hendricks. Bulky prop JB van Ster carried the ball well as the match progressed, confounding as he took a pummelling in the scrums.
The focus is now squarely on Saturday. Throughout the season van der Walt has claimed a one-game-at-a-time approach but human nature dictates that the big contest is forever somewhere in the reckoning. That challenge has arrived.
“The Bay have has had a great season so far, probably heir best since Nick Mallet coached them”, says Anton Moolman, Hamiltons RFC Head Coach. “There is enormous excitement surrounding the potential of what can be achieved and good wins against Maties and Durbel have installed a confidence in the Bay players”.
Then by way of mischievious reminder of the resounding victory Hamiltons registered over False Bay at Constantia last year he adds, “I am sure they will be looking for retribution after last year’s result at Constantia. Indeed the Sea Point lads are expecting a full onslaught from their Constantia rivals.
This is a top class clash between two teams brimming with talent, well coached and prepared physically, mentally and analytically by the respective brains trusts. The benefactors of the contest will be the scores of club rugby supporters who are expected to witness this long awaited contest. It is a potential league decider although both camps will reluctantly acknowledge it this early in the season, early in terms of remaining fixtures and the quality of the opposition.
Official kick-off is at 4pm on Saturday at the Stephan Grounds in Sea Point. Matches may be started earlier to afford spectators to settle in front of their televisions for the Bok clash. Spectators are urged to enjoy the rivalry of a derby day by attending the earlier matches which start at 1.30pm.
Photos: Courtesy of Matthew Withers – Action Pix