‘Gutsy’ Saints won’t slip up

St Stithians go into their big Joburg independent schools derby against St John’s this weekend full of confidence, following their win over Jeppe last Saturday.

Saints rugby director, Mark Percival, says the St John’s fixture is one of those where past results and current form don’t count for all that much, but he believes this Saints side have shown a lot of character this season and he can’t see them slipping.

‘I felt we squandered a number of chances during the 18-16 win over Jeppe last weekend, but this was exactly the kind of game that we would have lost in the past,’ he told keo.co.za. ‘This side gutsed it out, however, and that’s the sort of attitude that has characterised them this season.’

It’s an attitude that has seen Saints win seven out of 10 games so far. Their losses were to Rondebosch and Bishops in Cape Town, and to KES two weeks ago.

‘We performed quite poorly in the match against Rondebosch, but did quite well in losing to a superb Bishops side,’ said Percival. ‘The loss to KES was unfortunate, it was match we could quite easily have won.’

Percival, who was employed by the school two years ago to implement a high performance rugby programme, believes their methods are beginning to pay dividends.

‘We said in the beginning it would take at least three years to show an effect, and I think the development pathways we put in place, aimed at bringing players with the necessary, relevant skills up though the age groups are now starting to work,’ he said.

Percival believes the results against Jeppe bear this out.

‘We still lost more games than we won – across the 20 team fixture – but the margins are getting smaller all the time and there were a few wins in the age groups. That’s important, getting the rugby at a school on a healthy footing is about far more than just the performance of the first team, after all.’