Bishops are primed and ready to lower the colours of Paarl Gym for the first time since 1991.
Bishops last claimed a 15-10 league win away to Gym 19 years ago but have since come a clear second to their illustrious inland rivals, not forgetting the 45-0 drubbing of 2005. However Bishops did win a pre-season friendly 5-0 (no conversions or penalty kicks allowed) last year in a 20-minute-a-half game at Newlands.
But to the present and this could be different story with a happy ending for a Bishops XV eager to seize the chance to show they are a brilliant side rather than a good one. The season’s form alone inspires hope of a change in fortunes for them after recording memorable wins over Paarl Boys (12-11 away) and Paul Roos (33-23). Their only league defeat to date came in unfortunate circumstances when they were on the receiving end of some poor refereeing which led to a 13-15 loss to Boland Landbou.
Worrying, though, has been their drop in intensity levels shown in recent victories against Stellenberg (15-9) and Wynberg (38-20). Against an unbeaten Gym side, that’s courting disaster. But Bishops coach Dave Mallett has assured his supporters this will not surface come kick-off.
‘The boys are raring to go,’ he said. ‘We will come out with all guns blazing in the opening 20 minutes; it’s during this period that Gym appears to be at their fearsome best as shown in some of their massive winning-margins to date. If we can meet fire with fire in the physical confrontations early on, I’m confident my boys have the talent and belief to come away with the win.’
Bishops captain Seb Matheson, whose leadership skills have played a big part in his team’s success, said the occasion offered his players the chance to show they were ready to rise to the biggest challenge his side would face in their school careers.
‘Games of this magnitude define us as players and people,” he said. “It’s about manning up to the challenge, competing as one in a team and, win or lose, to know we left our hearts and souls out on the field in pursuit of glory.’
Gym coach Christoff Lötter is expecting a tough game.
‘We’re up against a very good side and know we have to deliver a totally committed performance to come out on top,’ he said. ‘For us it’s all about the players enjoying themselves and playing a brand of rugby that makes the crowd happy. “We respect our opponents… but we are geared towards keeping our unbeaten record intact.’
Gym’s form to date has been awe-inspiring and includes a 101-0 demolition job over a hapless Wynberg XV. In three matches against teams from the southern suburbs of Cape Town, they’ve notched up 219 points, conceded 21 and scored 31 tries to two against in a show of force that will no doubt have grabbed the attention of the Bishops boys. But they know they will have to deliver a 70-minute effort to shut out a determined visiting team wanting to end a seemingly never-ending losing steak, which would see the Bishops boys returning home as schoolboys heroes for life.
By Mike de Bruyn (Cape Argus)