The school rugby history books were rewritten on Saturday 09 March 2019 when Durban North’s Northwood recorded their first ever win against the Maritzburg College.
The action-packed match played on Goldstones in Pietermaritzburg included eight tries and an on-the-edge-of-your-seat finish which ended 30-26.
The Northwood Knights fielding one of their most promising and most experienced teams, scored an early opening try which characterised the more expansive attacking playing style they now employ. It started at the back with standout fullback Ntokozo Makhaza’s penetrating kick return run after College missed the safety of touch. He received support from Sivuyisiwe Mpendu (6) and then after recycled ruck ball the very promising tighthead Vernon Matongo set off on damaging carry which drew in College defenders and allowed for the space wide to the left where lock Pepijn Honing’s pass was crucial to freeing up try-scorer Keane Fourie (11).
The College team on the day were distinguished by two features, their youthfulness as a result of nine starting players who will be available to the school next year again and the extraordinarily high number of positional switches. There was hooker at flank, a loosie at lock, a fullback at flyhalf, a scrumhalf at centre and a flyhalf at fullback. One of the changes seemed to pay off instantly as College bounced back shortly after the restart with their opening try, scored when well-balanced running flyhalf Anele Nzimande backed himself after a scrum near the Northwood 22 and flew through a hole almost untouched to score under the sticks. Fullback Jacques van der Walt added the extras for College to lead (7-5) for the first and only time in the match with just 5-minutes played.
It was a very short-lived lead as Northwood were soon 8-7 up thanks to a Makhaza penalty. The fullback then landed a second penalty to extend that advantage to 11-7 after 20 minutes. 5-minutes on from there it was 16-7 to the visitors. Using a scrum as the base, they executed well with right wing Sali Mlenzama cropping on the left for the key diagonal strike which put Fourie away for his second try. This is how the score stayed until the halftime break.
It was a half in which Northwood’s kicking out of hand via flyhalf JP du Preez was of high standard due to its range and accuracy and College’s handling skills let them down in a way seldom witnessed on Goldstones.
Barely minutes into the second half College’s woeful passing-handling cost them another maximum of 7-points. They had done well to win a turnover when Northwood were on the offensive in the 22 but in the home team’s attempt to capitalise via a counterattack, a long lobbed pass from one forward to another resulted in a difficult catch dipping ball. When it was dropped, underrated Knight Danie van Huizen who himself had switched from tighthead to hooker this season was there to pounce. He picked up, produced a hand-off, a short carry and an offload to centre Joep Hensilijn who advanced into the redzone before being tackled just short of the line. Quickball and slick hands to the left saw du Preez to Makhaza to outside centre Linamandla Majola who finished. With Makhaza tapping over the lead was now a healthy 23-7.
Goldstones has never been a place for fair-weather fans. The huge deficit only seemed to energise the home support both amongst schoolboys and other supporters, who became increasingly vocal. The team responded very well by starting to play the kind of rugby that showcased the talent they possess. Ironically bad handling provided their first chance to eat away at the Northwood lead. From a penalty awarded at the visitors’ scrum in their 22, College worked the ball through a few collisions close the breakdown points and finally lock Siyambuka Ningiza was stopped short but placed the ball over the line for the try which van der Walt converted.
22-minutes into the half, 23-14 became 23-21 as College punished Northwood by scoring a try off first phase possession. It followed a lineout and was the work of established x-factor Philane Simemane, whose attack from scrumhalf last season resulted in a penalty try and ultimately the 10-6 scoreline decider between the sides that year. This time around Simemane from his midfield position near the halfway dummied and then accelerated into the gap, making a clean break and coming up with the gas to see him go all the way. Van der Walt converted.
The tide had seemingly swung in College’s favour. They had all the momentum while Northwood’s attacking mode had died a death of sorts. Then while under the cosh, the visitors defence came to the rescue big time during an encouraging College attack. A ball was not controlled after a good tackle on the 22. Northwood fullback Ntokozo Makhaza managed to hack it ahead several times thanks to favourable bounces. Play retreated all the way back to the College 5m line where Makhaza linked with centre Majola to get over under the posts for the winning score. Earlier on both Makhaza and Majola had taken turns in the bin, which had set Northwood back.
At 30-21, a two-score game with just 5-minutes to play made it look like Northwood had it in the bag. College had not thrown in the towel though. They scored the last try and left themselves with time over for a remarkable come from behind win. The lead up to this eighth try of the match saw was the Red-Black-White put in a big hit in midfield to turnover possession. From there Ningiza lobbed a pass out to the right where fellow lock Michael King showed some of his under-16 no.8 skill and flair by making light work of getting around the Northwood cover D and dotting down near the right corner after starting his carry roughly 30m out.
Northwood used attack as a form of defence at the end but continued to give away penalties which had hurt their chances in the half. They held out for the 30-26 win. The final whistle was met with scenes of great joy as their schoolboys rushed onto the pitch to congratulate the history making team containing so many who had been on the losing end of numerous close games in 2018. The confidence gained by this win could go a long way to shaping their 2019 season.
The Maritzburg College community will no doubt be disappointed by the loss but they need to keep the faith. If this 2019 team irons out the kinks in their game and welcomes back a few injured key players, they have so much potential to never look back and have a memorable season of their own.
|1||Cebo Dlamini||1||Ryan Francis|
|2||Dagan Meuwese||2||Daniel van Huizen|
|3||Tristan Trollip||3||Vernon Matongo|
|4||Siyambuka Ningiza||4||Pepijn Honing|
|5||Michael King||5||Ciaran Bigwood|
|6||Malwande Dlangalala||6||Sivuyisiwe Mpendu|
|7||Trompie Corbett||7||Siyamukela Ndlovu|
|8||Brogan Tedder||8||Chulumanco Mfakadolo|
|9||Henry Trodd||9||Luke Cornelius|
|10||Anele Nzimande||10||JP du Preez|
|11||Khwezi Hadebe||11||Keane Fourie|
|12||Philane Simemane||12||Joep Hensilijn|
|13||Siphesihle Kekana||13||Linamandla Majola|
|14||Tavonga Ablant||14||Sali Mlenzama|
|15||Jacques vd Walt||15||Ntokozo Makhaza|