On a day when the whole of Cape Town scampered for the comfort of shade as protection against 40 degree heat, Victorians and Stor-Age False Bay RFC contested a fast-paced, highly entertaining match at the Danie Craven Stadium, with the result only etched in the referee’s scorebook on the final whistle.
The students won 45-36 after leading 26-19 at the break.Victorious against the more fancied SK Walmers the week before, Stor-Age False Bay RFC travelled to Stellenbosch seeking their second win in a row, an immense task considering the strength of the hosts’ lineup, the heat and the determination of Stellenbosch University to redress their semi final departure from the Varsity Cup.
Coach Jonno van der Walt had made seven changes to his winning team, an attempt to increase the mobility and speed of his team as part of his game plan against the speedy students.False Bay’s opening quarter proved to be their undoing, a period wherein they made a number of basic errors and found themselves 12-0 down in as many minutes.
Wing Grant Rattray had opened the Vics account as early as the third minute and a few minutes later flyhalf Chris Smith scored another, which he converted.
Character if nothing else has epitomised the Constantia club’s performances in recent seasons and the determination of the Bay boys was outstanding. Opting to take a touch kick from a penalty, False Bay launched an attack from the ensuing 5 metre lineout but were held up.
The powerful Bay front row of Wesley Chetty, Dane Jans and Jonny Simpson put their younger opponents to the sword, setting eighthman, Brent “Slinky” Stevens up to crash over for the Bay’s first try just before the mandatory water break on the quarter.
A few minutes later lock Ryan Olivier who had an outstanding, match broke the Vics defences, shrugging off a number of tackles to offload to centre Jason Pretorius who sliced through a gap and set fullback Byron Mohr on his way to the try line untouched. Flyhalf Andri Claasens converted to level the scores.
Minutes later, Victorians broke the hearts of the Bay’s loyal support through another try, this time by left wing Jaques Swart, which Smith converted for a seven point lead.
Despite the hosts appearing, perhaps through youth, to handle the excessive heat a little better than the visitors, False Bay had enough gas in Stor-Age. They struck back to again level the scores through a try by Simpson at the end of a period of strong, well-controlled phase play and Claasens’ conversion levelled the score.
Play throughout the half was frenetic with both sides running at their opponents. The Bay, not afraid to play the younger students at their strength, viz running rugby, spread the ball wide with confidence after their forwards battered the flyhalf channel.
A highly entertaining half had one last twist as Swart scored his second try of the stanza to give the home side a seven point lead after Smith’s conversion. All too often contests have only one entertaining half, with the other paling into mediocrity by comparison.
This was not to be at Stellenbosch as the scintillating rugby seemed to match the ambient temperature. False Bay levelled the scores six minutes after the break through a try by wing Danie Roux. For those familiar with this speedster’s play, his trademark power runs entail the mandatory barges, sidesteps and free rides for defenders on his way to the line. This score was no different.
The scores level at 26 each and the spectators were calling for a water break.
The Bay blinked first and Rattray scored his second of the match, which Smith failed to convert. Happy hour, the colloquial term for the 60 minute mark when coaches customarily put on their reserves approached. Van der Walt called Happy Hour five minutes early, with Jaques van Staden coming on at centre to replace Angelo MacKaiser and the Whittaker brothers coming in at lock. This injected some pace into the Bay’s game and the entertainment continued.
A few minutes later, the front row was replaced and fresh legs abounded in the forwards.
Victorians, however seemed to break the Bay’s hearts when they extended their lead to 45-26 through tries by flank Jaco de Kock and Lans Estar, both converted by Smith, but the Bay were not done.
Using the full width of the pitch, the Bay continued to spread the ball and struck back with two more tries through powerhouse flanker, Lukhanya Nomzanga and Roux’s second. Neither of these scores were converted.
They continued to threaten the Victorians line and the possibility of another try tangibly existed until the final whistle.
The Bay managed to get a bonus point for scoring four tries and although the game was theirs for the taking, it was not to be.
After match analysis will show that they cost themselves the game with some at times elementary errors, but this performance was yards better than their winning effort the week before.
Standout players were centres MacKaiser and Pretorius who combined like veterans. Scrumhalf Ridhaa Damon, who despite moving his yardstick up a notch each week still impresses and fullback Mohr was solid and dependable. Captain Mike Poppmeier was a secure source of Bay lineout possession and the loose trio of Nomzanga, Justin van Winkle and Stevens were impressive.
Although the result went against Stor-Age False Bay and could easily have been in their favour had they limited their errors, their spectators were treated to a thrilling contest of highly entertaining rugby and for the Constantia outfit there is no disgrace in defeat to a very strong Victorians outfit on a day when the game could easily have been postponed because of the extreme heat.
There is a break for the Easter weekend and then False Bay travel to Kuils River on Saturday 26 April.