Glenwood are looking to use the coming weeks to grind away the rough edges of inexperience and forge another Top20 side in 2011.
Last year’s Glenwood unit topped the KwaZulu-Natal conference, finishing 2010 with a 10th place ranking despite a frustrating start where a lack of preseason competition placed them behind the eight-ball. This year has been anything but and improvement, says 1st XV coach Sean Erasmus.
‘We’ve been one of the few schools who struggle to secure preseason matches due to the cricket season,’ said Erasmus, ‘The Potch [Nwu-Puk-Rugby Institute School Rugby] festival our only real hit-out. We need game time.’
Considering the mixed results of those fixtures [a 15-14 loss to Outeniqua despite leading 14-3 at half-time, and a 22-9 win against Framesby coming from 9-0 down], Erasmus’ call for more game time appears justified, but he is sure of his side’s ability to pull through the early passage of uncertainty.
‘We’re traditionally slow starters; hitting our stride midway through the season,’ he told keo.co.za, ‘against Outeniqua we lost our structure and handed over possession, but there were good signs against Framesby. We also beat George Campbell [winning 29-3], where we struggled in a very physical first-half but came back in the second.’
With only seven players in Glenwood’s 2011 squad having a first team cap at the year’s start, Erasmus notes that 2010′s U16 players are the foundation of his current side. However, the likes of loosehead Niel Oelofse (KZN Craven Week in 2010), lock Ferdi Horn and flank Wayne Dalton provide an experienced foundation in the forwards, whilst the new midfield pairing of Dean Moolman (returning to inside centre) and fresh face Nkululeko Marwana has injected potency into the backline.
‘We’re obviously trying to build around the experienced heads, but to incorporate the talented younger players. We’re rotating players for the festivals to give the squad exposure,’ he said, ‘after all it’s a far different game to U16 level; with far less time and space. We’re looking to move past the younger players trying to justify their selection; there’s a lot of talent, but they feel they have a point to prove. More experience will make the side a tighter unit.’
Glenwood now face Christ College (New Zealand), Paul Roos and Marais Viljoen at the Kearsney Easter Rugby Festival, then have two days before the Wilderklawer Super Schools Tournament (April 30th, May 2nd) where they meet EG Jansen then Paul Roos again. These fixtures are all expected to be bruising physical encounters.
‘The tackle area is crucial; securing clean, quick ball. We’re traditionally a strong side up front and we’re not trying to reinvent ourselves this season, so setting up a solid foundation at the breakdown is large focus.’
‘We have a heavy schedule, coming up against quality sides,’ he said, ‘We’re a very young side, but the challenge is a privilege. Our matches with Paul Roos are important, as that’s the level we’re aiming to be competitive: the top-tier. Considering our lack of game time, I’m happy with the direction of the side. The coming weeks will be a chance to build on that.’