Paul Roos tackle ‘underdogs’ Grey Bloem

Grey Bloem are forced to send a weakened team to face Paul Roos in Stellenbosch on Saturday, the Schoolboy Derby match of the weekend.

The Grey Bloem-Paul Roos derby is touted as one the biggest schoolboy matches of the season. While it doesn’t have the historical record of many traditional rivalries, the two schools have become the renowned rugby institutions in their respective regions and have provided a top-class spectacles annually since 1989. Since then, Grey Bloem have won 14 derbies while Paul Roos triumphed in six.

However, this year’s clash mimics the 2009 scenario where Grey Bloem lost nine first-choice players to the SA U18 squad and injury while Paul Roos had four players missing. Paul Roos won 9-3 in a rainy Stellenbosch that year, ending the visitors four-year winning streak.

This week, Grey Bloem have travelled without six 1st XV players. Four of them are part of the SA Schools squad while two are injured. This also includes a settled midfield combination of flyhalf Pieter Jordaan and centres San Serfontein and skipper Dries Swanepoel. Paul Roos will field a near full strength team as they’re only missing one player – WP winger JP Lewis who was a late call-up to the SA schools squad.

Paul Roos have achieved mixed results in 2011, which saw them lose six of their 17 matches. Grey Bloem boast an unbeaten run, with 15 wins and two draws. But Grey Bloem 1st XV head coach Ingo Machts believes the hosts will be favourites to win this year, despite their inconsistent form.

‘We’re the underdogs,’ Machts told keo.co.za. ‘We’re missing four of our backline players, including a settled midfield and both our captain and vice-captain. It will be tough against Paul Roos. Take six players away from the Bok team for this weekend’s game against the All Blacks, and they’ll struggle in PE.

‘Our biggest focus will be at the breakdown. Paul Roos have great loose forwards, and they’ll play to their strengths. I’ve seen them play at this year’s Wildeklawer Super Schools tournament, but they weren’t doing well back then. They always tend to peak at the end of their season, they’ll be tough to beat on Satuday.

‘It’s disappointing that these big schoolboy matches clash with SA junior team fixtures. Something needs to be sorted out to allow schools to field their strongest teams.’

Grey Bloem head of rugby Dries van der Wal said it was an unfortunate situation for the team and missing players.

‘This match has been played in the same month for many years. We’ve scheduled this game well in advance, and unfortunately it clashes with a SA Schools fixture that came up last minute,’ said Van der Wal.

‘Yes, the boys are excited to play for the SA Schools side. But this is a big schools game, and they would’ve want to feature in it as their last match for the school. It’s just one of those things I guess.

‘We have almost half our team out, but we have talented guys to fill in. The match will still be a big challenge for both teams.’

By Gareth Duncan