DHS vs Michaelhouse
This game could turn out to be a real goodie between two well-matched-up teams.
The off the field news from DHS is that long serving Glenwood staff member Tony Pinheiro has accepted the vacant headmaster’s position. Good news for old boys is that Pinheiro is quite big into his rugby but there is no denying that he faces quite an uphill battle if he hopes to improve School’s overall rugby outlook.
DHS will play their first proper match of the season on their Van Heerden’s home ground, having given up this advantage during the first term to play Hilton at Kings Park, an opportunity/decision head coach Scott Mathie correctly pointed out was for the benefit of the players. They narrowly lost to Hilton on neutral ground and have since incurred three further defeats to Tier-1 standard competition in Easter Festival matches. Now the Horseflies, who started the season as the most experienced 1st XV in KZN and have a number of SARU radar players in their team, find themselves bracketed as 2017 underachievers who need to get back on track. If they can win a minimum of three big KZN interschools derbies in 2017, they can at least claim to be a better team than their class of 2016 1st XV. The Michaelhouse game is winnable and at home one has to make DHS favourites.
Having watched the DHS game against SACS at Saints, it’s obvious that if DHS can build a few phases of front-foot play or even get the chance to react quickly in counterattacking mode to a turnover, they are a dangerous prospect, and although like other schools they look to a few key players, there are a number of others more than capable of influencing proceedings in a very positive manner like centre Asanda Kunene did against SACS. Players unavailable through injuries remain are a big concern and for this weekend highly rated half Sanele Nohamba is not listed in their run-on team.
Often under-utilised fullback Cham Zondeki is has the speed and skills to cause havoc but needs to get involved in a lot more gain-line threatening action and the abilities of wingers Tonderai Ndudzo and Luthando Buthelezi simply have to be worked into the execution of attacking plans. However it’s the battle up front that DHS has to master first to secure decent ball.
Off the field Michaelhouse news is that former 1st XV head coach Michael Schwartz, who was in charge back in 2015 when House went unbeaten for the first time in over 100 years, will be leaving in August to join St Alban’s as a deputy headmaster.
House are the KZN overachievers so far this season. They got blanked by Grey PE up at St Stithians but otherwise they should be relatively happy with their results, which include useful wins against Westville at home and Saints in Randburg.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where House’s strengths lie this season. They rely on cohesion but they is no mistaking that their star player is prop Rocky Knox. So far the school season has delivered eye-catching performances by two lively highly rated big tightheads in James Combrinck of Affies and Asenathi Ntlabakanye of Saints. Well Knox is right up there with these two and he’s certainly a player who should be attracting a lot of attention for union scouts. His workrate is high and willingness to get involved phenomenal. More performances on par with his form against Saints and he’ll probably make a very strongest case to be KZN player of the season.
Surprisingly House has five changes to the team that beat Westville. None of those changes are injury enforced either.
Kearsney vs Hilton
It’s been a while since Hilton last won on Stott field and they must be eyeing their chances of causing a bit of an upset this year in a match that could have spectators on the edge of their seats all the way to the end.
The Hilton white-wall defensive system that did such a good job against DHS and Affies, has gradually started to take the back seat as their attacking game comes to the fore but don’t be disappointed if you’re a Maroon One-Stripe fan on Saturday and the Stott looks half its normal size due to Hilton’s well structured D.
At around this time last year Hilton had picked up the pace during the SJC Easter Fest and went on to produce a praiseworthy unbeaten streak that included a surprise win against the more fancied Kearsney 2016 team. History sort of looks like it’s lining up to repeat itself, except that this time around Hilton has a better team while many should agree that Kearsney is not as good as they were in 2016.
There are a few Hilton players who continue to exceed expectations. The fullback Gareth Schreuder is one that automatically comes to mind. However a lot of love has to go the way of hooker Tim Densham and his lineout setpiece partner in crime no.8 Tristan Warren. When KZN looks to picking teams for the youth weeks later this year, they need to concern themselves with the importance of securing lineout ball. And if it’s not happening in the middle there is nothing better than having a hooker who can go long and find a jumper at the tail. Densham accuracy is capable of doing that and Warren in addition to the other contributions he’s making on the park, is right up if he’ not the best lineout jumper in the province at the moment. In the second row is another not so well-known yet forward Andrew James, another who’s going some sterling good work for his team. The lineout is definitely an area where Hilton can build a solid foundation and also cause Kearsney’s at times worrisome one some serious headaches.
Alert “Whites” halfback Graeme Curtis is a dangerman who the hosts will have to monitor closely, especially around the fringes of tackled ball play.
Kearsney’s team look quite settled except at 9 and 13 where unavailable players seem to have forced the coach’s hand resulting in positional changes. Pacey James Sutherland arguably the leading candidate fullback in KZN finds himself at outside centre once again, a move that potential limits Kearsney’s striking power. It’s suspected that the home team will need to come up with a few more creative options to unlock Hilton and they may have to do it while Sutherland is well guarded in midfield, opposed by his opposite number Chipo Mupeso among others.
There are a few other nice head-to-heads:
Wiry Warren’s been mentioned above and his style of play is different to talisman bulldozer no.8 Dylan Richardson in so many respects. Richardson will be the single biggest concern to Hilton, so he bound to be a magnet for two or three defenders at time, opening up opportunities for well-designed attacking play action off the Kearsney captain.
At no.4-lock two tough big ball-carriers in George Putter (Hilton) and Ross Taylor (Kearsney) are set for a metres gained in traffic showdown.
At the start of last year there was a lot of exciting around the KZN flyhalf battle with the likes of quality 10’s like Angus Curtis, Cameron Ritchie, Gert Coetzee, Jerome Bossr and even Maarten Holtshauzen all vying top honours. This year so far the talent may not be of the standard to create the same hype but it is again very much an open race. One of two left-footed players who could lay down a marker are the Hilton captain Nicholas Winskill and Kearsney youngster Jacques Odendaal.
Glenwood vs Westville
Off the field: with Glenwood headmaster Trevor Kershaw now officially retired, the headmaster position is set to be advertised in the next gazette. So it’s potentially an exciting process ahead for Glenwood as they hope to land a top candidate to take on the job.
On the rugby field the unbeaten Green Machine is running smoothly and has passed a few tricky tests at the Kearsney Easter Rugby Festival without seeming to undergo a major stress test yet.
Coach Grant Bell’s 2015 Westville team was the last KZN to beat Glenwood on Dixon’s but Bell is now long gone from Ville’s coaching brains trust and it’s been difficult times for the Highways team so far in his aftermath. So much so that WBHS are not being tipped to repeat their 2015 feat.
The victory is expected to go the home team’s way. The margin of victory might however be within Westville’s power to determine. If they pitch up as a committed unit, organised and prepared to make the vital game changing tackles, they should leave with their heads held high and the crowd would have been treated to a good contest.
The young Glenwood halfback combination are looking like they might prosper as their confidence and experience picks up and the Glenwood wings are proving to be good finishers.
Pretoria Boys High vs Maritzburg College
College should be well adjusted to the altitude by now having spent Easter on the plateau and should have too much firepower to lose this game but can’t afford to underestimate Boys’ High, who are trying to play an entertaining brand of rugby and may just click.
Jeppe vs Northwood
Dick Muir has officially taken over at Northwood now but not in the expected capacity of head coach. He is the Director of Rugby while former assistant Torsten Sorensen is promoted to head coach. Jeppe Boys are not enjoying the kind of highlight year they’ve experienced in 2016 or even 2015. It’s proving to be a difficult season for the Jozi school. Even so they should come away with a comfortable win against an injury ravaged Knights team.