Grey College will host Affies on Thursday in the schoolboy match of the season.
This game is so highly regarded that when the initial fixture was cancelled because of water-logged fields last month, a special date was scheduled for 16 June (Youth Day) to accommodate both teams. And this despite their already hectic schedules, with the match being played amidst exams and Craven Week preparations.
Grey College are currently ranked No 1 in the country, and with surprise school of the season Noord-Kaap, they are the only unbeaten team on the national scene with 10 wins and two draws from their 12 games.
Affies’ polished record was ruined as they were shocked 25-22 against the latter side in Kimberley a fortnight ago. The defeat saw them slip to fourth place on the FNB Top 20 rankings. However, the Pretoria school still boasts an admirable record of 10 wins from their 11 matches this year.
Affies 1st XV head coach Sakkie van der Walt believes his side can do the business in Bloemfontein.
‘It was a shock defeat against Noord-Kaap. We had a poor first half [Affies trailed 17-5 at the break]. We picked things up in the second half but it just didn’t go our way on the day,’ Van der Walt told keo.co.za. ‘But it hasn’t left a big dent on our confidence heading into the match against Grey College. Our boys always look up to this game as it’s a major one.
‘Our preparations have gone well and the team is ready. There has been a bit a flu in the last few weeks, but we will be fine. The only injury is our lock Dennis Visser, who’s out for the season with a broken toe.
‘We won’t be focusing on their weaknesses, rather on our strengths. We will be aiming to play 15-man rugby as we have a strong pack and good backline – that’s the plan that should match Grey.’
Grey College 1st XV head coach Ingo Machts said there has been disruptions in the past week, but he’s confident that his team will be ready for the Affies visit.
‘Sixteen boys from our usual match 22 were with the Free State Craven Week side last week and played against the Griffons last Saturday. We also had severe rain in the last couple of weeks, so we haven’t had the greatest preparation for the game,’ Machts told keo.co.za.
‘We are ready and up for it though. Affies normally play your typical Bulls rugby with the flyhalf having a major influence on their game, but this year’s team is different. They have a big strong pack and a decent backline. We have to move the ball around a lot and be more mobile to counter them. If we up the tempo, we should do well against them.
‘We have had a good season so far. It was disappointing drawing our games against Selborne and Boishaai, but we were missing five key players against Selborne while we were just poor against Paarl Boys’. There’s such a small margin between the top schools at the moment. A win against Affies will be great as it’s our last match before the boys head off to Craven week.’
Affies have only won three games out of 53 against Grey College since their rivalry began in 1953, but both teams have the potential to emerge victors on the day.
Grey’s dominance will depend largely on their pack, who are 31kg lighter than Affies’ heavies. Tighthead prop Neethling Fouché will by key up front while Nicolaas Immelman and Henco Greyling are influential loose forwards.
In the backline, Grey will depend largely on their highly-rated centre pair of Jan Serfontein and Dries Swanepoel while their halfback combo of Pieter Jordaan and Arrie Vosloo have been impressive too.
Affies have the strong pack, and if they set the platform for their backs, wings Adriaan Oosthuizen and Marcus Kleinbooi will be a major threat. Scrumhalf Carlo Engelbrecht has been an outstanding performer for Affies this season as he’s the key link between the forwards and backs.
Grey College – 15 Wihan Lombard, 14 Francois Pretorius, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Ruwellyn Isbell, 10 Pieter Jordaan, 9 Arrie Vosloo, 8 Nicolaas Immelman, 7 Leneve Damens, 6 Henco Greyling, 5 Gerhard Olivier, 4 Tienie Burger, 3 Neethling Fouché, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Rudolph Botha.
Subs: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Hennie-Schalk Theron, 18 Louis Karsten, 19 Peter van Biljon, 20 Quintin Beukes, 21 Theodor Arndt, 22 Meyer van Tonder.
Affies – 15 Hanco Deale, 14 Adriaan Oosthuizen, 13 WJ Strydom, 12 Jaco Fourie, 11 Marcus Kleinbooi, 10 Ryno Eksteen, 9 Carlo Engelbrecht, 8 Paul Janse van Rensburg, 7 Bernie Roux, 6 Eital Bredenkamp, 5 Janse van Rensburg, 4 Jannes Kirsten, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 De Wet Steenkamp, 1 Pierre Schoeman
Subs: 16 Wynand Breytenbach, 17 Renier de Wit, 18 Pieter Maritz, 19 Steven Meiring, 20 Louis Venter, 21 Monré Visser, 22 Nico Lee.
Kickoff: 14:00 on SuperSport 1
By Gareth Duncan