Hilton College will start as underdogs against Michaelhouse on Saturday.
Michaelhouse have dominated their KwaZulu-Natal rivals over the past two years, although Hilton have often relinquished leads in the dying stages.
‘Prior to 2007, our record against Michaelhouse was very good, bordering on great, but they’ve had an excellent crop of players in recent years and have turned the tables, doing the double in 2008 and 2009,’ Hilton 1st XV coach Tony Richter told keo.co.za.
Michaelhouse started the 2010 season with wins over Westville and George Campbell, while Hilton beat St Charles.
‘We played nicely against St Charles, and the match went well for us,’ said Richter, ‘but looking at the lineups [for Saturday's match at Michaelhouse], we’re the underdogs. We don’t have the stars they do, with left wing Emil Schwartz – who’s played for KZN Schools and been selected for the SA Elite squad – the only big name in our side.’
Hilton are known for their strong forwards, and will need to build a solid base up front early on if they want to stay in the game.
‘We’re largely perceived as a loose-forward factory, so hopefully the boys will take the game to them up front, but Michaelhouse held up in that department during their win over Westville so it’s going to be hard work,’ said Richter. ‘I’ve also heard a lot about the Michaelhouse backs, in particular their centres [Patrick Howard and Dean Box].’
This early test for Hilton comes after a disruptive pre-season build-up that was hampered by summer sport, like most KZN schools. Richter, though, is looking ahead.
‘We play two derby matches against Michaelhouse, one now and another towards the end of the season, so this is an important game. It’s like a Test match: both teams will go out and give 100%. It will be a great spectacle, and while we are the underdogs, anything can happen on the day.’
By Rory Keohane