Over-analysing the KZN tier-1’s heading into Saturday

To put it mildly Michaelhouse are not enjoying the best of seasons. In recent weeks they have been on the receiving end against Glenwood, Hilton and Kearsney. Having watched both the Midlands derby against Hilton and the game at Kearsney a week later, it was quite interesting to note the differences in approach of both winning teams. With the big three private schools taking on the big three government schools, it’s an interesting weekend that lies ahead in KZN Tier-1.

Kearsney is sort of at a crossroads right now. Earlier in the year, they had to get the job done without their powerful SA Schools du Preez twins and the feeling at that stage was that Kearsney would be a much weaker team for it. This really wasn’t the case at all. Around their key player Ayron Schramm, a lot of their unsung heroes came to the fore and through balanced team efforts they produced pleasing wins against both Northwood and Glenwood. Now with the Doops back and nearing full fitness, I sensed during the Michaelhouse game that the balance had shifted away from a total rugby approach to one of a more forward dominating style in which offensives close to the fringes of rucks were becoming the preferred avenues of attack, mainly because this is the immediate area in which the strong on their feet brothers and Schramm tend to operate. What was achieved against House were some outstanding linebreaks near the breakdowns, the quantity and quality of which most KZN SBR teams only dream of. Perhaps in the adverse weather with rain and wind on Botha’s Hill that afternoon, backline play was never going to be the order of the day but against Northwood in worse conditions and with more or less the same backs excluding De Waal on the wing, the Kearsney backline was a well utilised asset proving maximum benefit. Against Michaelhouse things didn’t go as smoothly. The game will make an excellent highlights package for the hosts. It was filled with “wow” moments. However in spite of the memorable plays and the score on paper, the end result left me feeling that it wasn’t Kearsney’s best effort. There was a lot of unconstructive downtime. Many of the line breaks turned into forward play overkill as the secondary attacks targeted the same channels with a level of predictability. There was a tendency once again to slow down instead of speed up recycled tackled ball in order to regroup; something that also affords the opposition time to do likewise. The whole situation wasn’t helped by some poor home team disciple at rucks in the eyes of the referee as well as the backs not really clicking and perhaps also looking a touch to conventional when ball came their way. This will definitely come across as a bit overcritical of Kearsney giving the margin of victory of 38-5, but it was a day on which they were capable of inflicting a lot more scoreboard damage on their opponents and didn’t. Nevertheless the victory in the context of Kearsney versus Michaelhouse games over the many years will be looked back as a good one.

Hilton’s style against Michaelhouse was total rugby. Yes the weather at Hilton was a lot more conducive to playing an expansive game but so was their game-plan. Without taking anything away from Rob Baldwin and Co for their outstanding work they did to neutralise the bigger House forwards, Cameron Wright at scrumhalf was the key figure in getting them to 42 points on the day. His box kicks are unbelievable. The distance and hang-time from fairly well disguised thumps that didn’t need big wind-ups or backward launchpads either were fielded with uncertainty at the back by the visitors and proved to be impossible to return without losing huge chunks of ground. This along with the defensive is the best form of attack attitude from eight hardworking Hilton players up front allowed them to dominate the game territorially. However Wright’s contribution to open play didn’t end there. The Hilton captain controlled the tempo from the base. His instinctive decision-making brought about the variation that kept Michaelhouse’s defence unsettled. Long passes, pop passes, snipes and short carries were all in the mix. Hilton played the game with a high workrate throughout but the speed and points of their attacks were always varied and therefore difficult for defenders to read. The Hilton wings and fullback were the recipients of plenty of passes. They were every bit as much part of the overall game as their pack of forwards. The ball didn’t die out wide either. Often it was the starting point of the next assault.  Kearsney and Hilton achieved almost the same margin of victory over Michaelhouse but the techniques they employed to put points on the board could not have been more different.

For Kearsney this weekend, the opportunity exists to dominate proceedings up front once again. One naturally just expects their forwards to have a big say at rucks and with ball in hand. The challenge on go-forward remains for them to execute their ball in hand play in a fashion that has their hosts Westville continuously guessing what will happen next. Westville will quite possibly miss out for the season captain Andre de la Rey the most this Saturday, as he would surely have led them in the vital tackling stats. Defence aside, the hosts should have opportunities of their own on attack. Bowdens field has not been a happy hunting ground for the One-Stripes of Kearsney. The Westville mobile scrum is decent and if they can bring about that same kind of stability in their lineout game, something they didn’t achieve against Pretoria Boys High, they should be presented with set-piece platforms that allow them to target width. Rated amongst the outstanding against PBHS, was the WBHS ability to get across the gain-line with either crisp passing or by using a bit of vision when putting ball to foot. Equally good was the speed they arrived in numbers in support at the ruck. Whether it’s for clearing out and generating quickball or providing a contest that slowed down opponent ball and won a few turnovers along the way, it was all good to watch.

Interestingly Glenwood beat Michaelhouse in Balgowan by virtually the same 30+ point margin as Hilton and Kearsney did on home ground and from feedback received, Glenwood went about their business in a completely different manner to the aforementioned winners with against expectations all out running rugby tactics in poor conditions that cried out for a tactical kicking approach. For Hilton who will be at Glenwood for the first time in ages, the box kicking that was so effective against House, could quite possibly become enemy number one. As mentioned, House lacked confidence at the back. The same cannot be said of Glenwood. Home team fullback Corne Vermaak is in peak form. So much so that the 2012 KZN Craven Week player was able to turn around a bad first half against Paarl Boys High with his performance in the second 30-minutes. While the Glenwood pack was struggling to compete in the tigher phases during the first few months of the 2013 season, the team spent a good deal of time pinned back in their own half and had no choice but to attack from deep. Practice makes perfect and this is an area where they now have supreme confidence in their own ability to go coast to coast via a few swift interchanges to whoever their player is that happens to have a bit of clear air in front of him. Glenwood’s willingness to play a high risk brand of rugby, means that on certain days their rewards are going to be equally high. So if there is to be a blow-out in this one, chances are the Glenwood supporters will leave Dixons afterwards the much much happier of the two sets of followers.  For Hilton, the main objective on Saturday is to bring a well organised defensive structure to the party. They don’t have a Kearsney type pack to outmuscle the hosts, so they are not going to be able to starve anyone of possession. What they have to do is work doubly hard to ensure that quality is removed from the term used to describe the kind of ball on offer to Glenwood. It should be an enjoyable contest at the breakdown watch unfold. Elsewhere Glenwood have on occasions been vulnerable defensively the further the ball gets carried away from the breakdown. There are bound to be options for impressive centre Tristan Blewett to use that strongly build frame of his to punch holes and for the back three to exploit the tackling technique question-marks that crop up from time to time.

For Michaelhouse against Maritzburg College, well everything points to another defeat for the fourth week running. The most surprising feature of MHS has been the demise of their backline. Granted that injuries have not helped their cause at all but prior to the end of the first term, a huge win against Northwood had everyone in attendance talking about the fantastic backline movements that had ripped the Northwood defence to shreds. Against Hilton their backs struggled to get near the advantage line and against Kearsney, the reluctance to use a line set back by injuries to first choice players was evident in the gameplan. Michaelhouse still has a formidable set of forwards though. Their scrum and lineout game is good. With the return from injury of captain Cian Grendon and Cameron Bird, they certainly have the kind of backrow firepower that would have stood them in good stead against Kearsney. However if Michaelhouse wants to see improvements in their results this year, it is going to be conditioned upon coming up with solutions for their backline. The worry for them shouldn’t be what College bring in the forward exchanges as House have more than the means to cope that. Rather it should be how they will deal the College running game onslaught with flashy players like Lindo Ncgobo and Banele Ngwenya picking exciting lines at full tilt.

Elsewhere I expect George Campbell to be too strong for Voortrekker, although Voortrekker did get a good one point win against St Charles and there is talk that the Pietermaritzburg school has a couple of very talented players who will hopefully feature at KZN trials.

The much improved Northwood would probably dearly love another crack at Michaelhouse but for this Saturday, they have to make sure they stay focused and shut the door on any hopes of a DHS home win by using their big forwards in a Paarl Gim like manner. Northwood won the 20-minutes per half encounter at the Sharks’ rugby day but one can’t forget how DHS looked the more complete team that evening and even dropped an easy dot down ball over the try-line which would have won them the game.

St Charles plays St Albans at home. Given that St Albans beat Hilton who just beat St Charles 35-0 last weekend, it’s not looking good for the hosts. It’s a serious affair for both schools but for many of us here, the contribution towards SBR’s fun Grogper Cup in which Gauteng leads KZN 5-3 at present, is where a good deal of the interest in this outcome will come from.   

40 Comments

  1. @RBugger

    Yep agreed awesome game ahead of us………… are you gonna be there to watch ? You should get there early and head to waxys for a pint or 2 then make your way to get a decent seat. Defo on paper KC should win but my heart says no ways and our record v you is good ! But yep you have those 3 factors as in the doops and schramm and we lost de la rey to injury for season … but anyhow such if life and rugby. Play to win. Jubula Westville !!! 23 – 18 to us.

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  2. Unbelievable rugby in KZN this weekend… Must say, overly amped to watch a powerful Kearsney team take on a very spirited and skilled Westville. Can’t help but feel that the power of the Du Preez boys combined with the speed and skill of Schramm, will prove the difference not only in the forward battle, but the overall game as well – GO KEARSNEY

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  3. @BoishaaiPa: Not directed at the behaviour of anybody at school games. Just said that is why the games is so early is to prevent the “Papsak Brigade” attending matches intoxicated :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

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  4. @Tjoppa: At Interschools there is no “Papsak” brigade as all of the spectators are either old boys from the schools or families of old boys and players…They know how to behave…The odd rugby spectator that is there with no affiliation is not inclined to be of the “Papsak” brigade either…

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  5. @beet: When i saw you say ID’ing players a rush of cold blood swept over me, jeez we where burnt last year and just hope there are no age issues this year and especially under carpet sweeping :wink:

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  6. @GreenBlooded: Good question, although generally just about all the candidates with realistic chances make it thru to Tuesday’s round. It’s more a case of IDing players that have performed well during the season and were overlooked.

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  7. @BoishaaiPa: You can fool a lot of people with the culture thing and that but the whole country saw how the farm workas behave and that was without the papsak deluxe. Been there and saw that. I mean the resident All Blacks is known everywhere. Can imagine their support next to a Boishaai vs Gym fixture at 3 in the afternoon. uh Uh

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  8. Regional trials in KZN have come and gone – does anyone have the team lists for the various regions?

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  9. @Grasshopper: My lighty took the article to school today but it definitely states an agreement has been made. GW has a fixture against Development 20 July which would be ideal but reading between the lines, the intention seems to be that rugby will only start again next year.

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  10. @CyndiAtRugby: Great news if that is right Cyndi, maybe squeeze in a 3rd term rugby fixture? Although Westville don’t play 3rd term rugby :-(

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  11. @CapeMan: The starting times depends on where the opposition comes from. I have also noticed the games against the private schools start a bit later.
    On a totally different topic, I see that the Glenwood vs Westvilles fixtures have been re-instated from the 3rd term. It was in the Daily News last night.

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  12. @Tjoppa: I think you are confusing Krugersdorp with the Cape!…Here we do it with personalised hipflasks and trendy gumboots cause of the usual cold and rain!…The months of June and July will again see us whip out the umbrellas and gumboots and fill those hipflasks with some good port to keep the blood flowing!…

    I prefer the morning games as it frees up your Saturday afternoon for some other leisure activity..we have plenty to do down here!

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  13. @kcob: Fair comment about the over-analysing but unfortunately nothing new in this content for the opposing coaches to pick up on at this stage of the season. It’s the boys on the field that now have to provide some new surprises.

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  14. @Cape Man

    Nah incorrect – trust me Grassy means well by that and us kzn boys would/will give as much as we got. 100 bags of cement.!!!!

    Defo though the boys of now are way better/bigger and all than our day……… and great !!!! Gotta go with the times i guess !!

    @Grassy – yep remember those ol days… fantastic memories !!!

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  15. @Grasshopper: The boys in the cape still have those 7am games. Maybe its just the kzn boys that are getting softer :mrgreen:. Its Bishops vs SACS this weekend, not bosch.

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  16. @Grasshopper: Fairies? Today’s 1st XV scrumhalf is probably as physical as the loosies in our days – conditioning is at a totally different level now.

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  17. @Rhino: Yep, the smell of deep heat in the change rooms as we all tried to warm up the muscles, then all the flipping strapping and duct tape…….the good old days. Heavy loose jersey’s too big for us, ankle boots for the forwards……thick woolly socks, compare that to today’s bunch of fairies in their skin tight tops made from space age material and fancy strappings, massage therapists, psychologists etc….

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  18. @greenblooded / grassy

    I too remember being outside bowdens at 530/6am waiting for the bus and the fields up PMB way and higher were bloody freezing and hard as hell…

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  19. @GreenBlooded: I was surprised to see the late start – normally it is 8:00am. Perhaps the 3 away games has bought the coaches a sleep in.

    Karrent like the games against Grace generally – perhaps not too bad at First level. Age group games are a crock of shoot, they pack in overage kids with no shame whatsoever, most definitely no “grace”.

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  20. @GreenBlooded: that is exactly how I remember it too. Onto dewy wet fields at 7.30 with virtual no warm up or team chat. Sometimes without reserves as they were on the next bus. Michaelhouse side was prepared and ready……,

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  21. @Gungets Tuft: “To allow the MHS busses time to get to Maritzburg” – what the hell?? When I was at Glenwood and we played against House, the busses would leave Glenwood at 5am!! We would arrive at House in the freezing cold, get changed and run onto one of the outer fields at 7.30am – just as the mist was lifting. You made damn sure you passed the ball early in those matches – better than being tackled onto those icy cold fields. It’s true what they say – boys are definitely getting softer.

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  22. @Grassy

    Yep this is true. I know we got a good/decent home record and yes i watched us lose 6-3 to you boys in 2010 and was gutted as was on my birthday and a draw woulda been fair i think but thats life. Yep on paper KC should win… Noooooooooo hope not.

    @Tjoppa – haha hilarious !!

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  23. Kick off maybe at 3 also due to number of teams, 26 on a big derby saturday and most urban schools only have 3 or 4 fields on campus. Luckily most have access to other fields now too. All the girls sport is finished by 3 so we have a nice crowd of beauties to cheer us on!

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  24. @BoishaaiPa: For the College home days there is no way to fit all the games in and be finished by 12. Matches start on 5 fields at 9:00am this weekend, to allow the House busses time to get to PMB, then fields are full until 2pm which allows the boys to get showered and to Goldstones to watch the 2nds and 1sts.

    See the MIGHTY U14F’s are away to Westville tomorrow.

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  25. @Rhino: Difference in kick off times is @ 15h00 the papsakke in the Cape is all finished. Can you imagine how the parents and lanies will behave by three. No then you can only control them by police and security companies :twisted: . Not the people you need at schools.

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  26. @Rhino: Westville are tough at home, most of our wins there have been by a couple of points only. Kearsney better on paper but we all know about paper teams…;-)

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  27. @BoishaaiPa

    hahaha – well times have changed and i defo agree with grassy that a 15:00 kick off is the best by far. The whole town or area will come to a standstill and its just a great atmosphere of rivalry, excitement and generally just a buzz. Wouldnt change it for anything but guess its also about what youre used too and all.

    @ think GW will win on sat – and by 10.
    Our game v Kearsney hmmm.. dunno hey… but ill stick with my heart and say we win a close match.

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  28. @Grasshopper: The reason for early games in WC is not clubrugby, but provincial rugby. Boys use to finish by lunch…then go off to Newlands to watch a clubgame, WPb and WP play…KZN had no decent adult rugby untill the 90’s so they dont have the culture of going to a Curriecup A league game!.. :mrgreen:

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  29. @Grasshopper: Will be a good one, but PRG/Gim must be the top pick for the weekend. You have been to Brug, so maybe Boland/PRG at the Farm next week?

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  30. @CapeMan: yeah in KZN the clubs play Friday night or in the week. If they play weekends no one goes to them, schoolboy rugga is bigger there. Old Boys (merger between Glenwood and DHS old boys) even played a curtain raiser to the schoolboy game last year and the oldies loved the extra crowds….but the main event was the schools game. Where you watching this weekend?

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  31. @beet dunno Beet, sometime I think you over analyze the games, considering conditions and are occasionally weigh heavier on your home school… Too much detail too! Should not give too much away either…

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  32. @Grasshopper: hahaha. You really hate our morning games. I do concur with you that the 3pm kick off is way more epic and its as if the town or city comes to a stand still. Unfortunately, we have early games because of the rugby clubs.

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  33. @CapeMan: there was a 5 year cooling off period after an incident at Hilton, I think parents were involved. Last year the fixture was restored and game played at Hilton so it’s been about 7 or 8 years since the fixture was on hallowed Dixons at Glenwood! I’m off to watch Bushops vs Bosch this weekend at the stupid hr of 11am…

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  34. Great write up again Beet, written in a neutral manner too. The Green Machine will want to win this one big time, first home game, big crowds, white jerseys to tackle! I used to love dirtying those crisp white jerseys with big tackles. If the Glenwood pack can stand up and win the ball, the backline will cause havoc!

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  35. @Beet Why has it been years since Glenwood hosted Hilton? Maybe Hopper can answer my question.

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  36. Defo some great games ahead of us this weekend in KZN. Keep us posted please on the scores !!!

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