Kearsney & Northwood get KZN underway

Kearsney and Northwood will be the highlight match as the KZN regular season 2020 gets off to a bit of a watered down start. In the only other official match Clifton hosts Michaelhouse. St Charles’ lack of preparation particularly amongst their junior teams, has resulted in their match against Glenwood being reduced to a controlled practice match. The more unfortunate outcome is the Hilton-Westville practice match, as these are two schools that could be vying for a high place finish in the province. DHS and Maritzburg College are not in action at all. It all underlines the difficulties with scheduling matches in a region made unique by the high percentage of  private schools making up the tier-1 league.

The Northwood 1st XV’s biggest achievement of 2019 was probably beating Maritzburg College (30-26) for the first time ever and achieving this on Goldstones as well. After that they also ended droughts against Westville (19-15), Michaelhouse (20-13) and Kearsney (20-12) on home soil.

Two out of the last three Northwood visits to Kearsney pointed to missed opportunities on Stott Field. Northwood played well enough to win both those matches. Kearsney had a dynamite team that won comfortably in 2016 but in 2014 and 2018 they had to dig very deep indeed and sneaked home 19-11 and 23-22 respectively after seemingly being able to draw on psychological strength of character aided by game-breaking moments from star players to help overcome physical disadvantages.

This year the Knights from Durban North will once again travel to the summit of Botha’s Hill with the same sort of genuine optimism and opportunity as in 2014 and 2018. The formbook is hardest to read at the start of a season but the prediction is for a close match and the outcome may once again boil down to mental stamina and the conversion rate of chances into points.

For Kearsney three of their go-to players of 2019 are all back – captain Mass Fierro (no.8), versatile Derick Marshall (flank) and SA Sevens player Connor de Bruyn (inside centre).

Northwood’s potent and experienced frontrow will be minus one due to Ryan Francis’ ankle injury, leaving  Vernon Matongo (prop) and Danie van Huizen (hooker) as the remaining two KZN Sharks youth week representatives. At pivot the visitors are excited about the potential of flyhalf Immanuel Bhiya to ignite their backline.

Anyway talking about missed opportunities in close Kearsney-Northwood matches on the Stott, here is a short trip down memory lane – all the way back 30 years to 1990.

1990 was the first year of existence of Northwood, a school’s who name came about through the amalgamation of two Durban North boys’ high schools Northlands and Beachwood. As the report below depicts, Northwood left many points on the field that day, eventually losing 10-12.


  1. Wow an amazing bit of history there from the archives.
    Kearsney will be out for revenge for last year. Based on the fact that apparently almost that whole NW 1st team matriculated last year, and on the NW u16A results from last year…I fear it will be Kearsney who walk this one back at home.

  2. @Skywalker: I think these days at Northwood one can not Judge on the previous years teams results as looking at the make up of the Northwood teams yesterday … there has been mass recruiting, looks
    Like a at least 10 new players in the opens , 4 or 5 in the u16s , 5 or 6 in the u15s and the u14s looked very well recruited … Some one spending big time !

  3. I presume that the Kearsney 1st XV was a bit weakened as the 1st team cricket is playing in the National T20 tournament this weekend?

  4. @linespeed: I have actually heard the opposite. I know their u16A team has actually lost 1 or 2 players since u14 to other schools.

    And just looking at the team lists from this fixture last year.. The current Northwood 1st team no. 4,6,7,8,9,12 and 13 all played 2nd team last year and the 15 was u16A. 1, 3 and 11 all played 1st team last year as well.

  5. @Vleis: not sure of that. I know they had about 5 or 6 back from last years team and all 3 of their Craven Week players were in action.

  6. @Skywalker: In fact 4 and 12 both played 3rd team even and no 2 was from u16B. A sign of good coaching I think to work with those players and raise their games. I wish them well for the season.

  7. @Skywalker: ok thanks … so it looks like a new boy at 10 In the firsts ….
    U16s , my Northwood mate tells me a few new zimbos …. and some new u15s ….

  8. Overall I enjoyed this match. It provided good entertainment. It actually reminded me of Kearsney’s recent home games against Hilton, especially last year’s one which ended in a draw. It was at the same level of physicality with both teams doing their best to punch their way over the gain-line with not much expansive backline play on offer. There were some big collisions.

    Towards the end of this NW game it seemed like KC had done enough to secure a win. The end was different to the last couple of home Hilton games because in those it was like KC just could not produce a finish from good territorial positions against a stubborn Hilton defence. This end was more reminiscent of KC’s loss to HTS Middelburg in the dying minutes of a KERF festival game a few years back, where their own lack of composure or understanding of how to run down the clock to zero whilst leading, resulted in an error, a turnover and a match outcome changing try to HTSM. But full-marks to the NW Knights in this match, they played to the death and were rewarded.

    The match started with NW trying to pound KC into submission. Defences on both sides was solid. Not everything went to plan for NW but they moved the scoreboard up to 12-0 mainly through effective use of their forwards with the backs profiting with two tries made through some good individual moments off the front foot ball. They had a few other chances to get more points as well. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the effort of the NW Latvian flank. Expecting him to be a tight low profile worker, he actually turned in a terrific half. I could not help but think back on the 2013 season when NW had Jonas Mikalcius from Lithuania on the flank. Jonas has a great prospect and even played for the Sharks u19 a year later. He had all the physical attributes needed to be a good pro player and just holding him back then was not growing up in a competitive age group rugby surrounding which meant he couldn’t fall back on a natural feel for the game in terms of positioning and reading of play. But I googled him and see he is an established pro in England now, playing on the wing in Div 2.

    At 12-0 to NW, if that trend continued it looked like it shaping up to be a miserable afternoon for KC because the home team didn’t look like they were going to shape up to NW in any department. But as the match went on KC started to claw back possession and territory and especially in the second half, NW forwards appeared to run out of that energy that had made them so threatening in the first half. When the scores had leveled at 12-12 in the first half, it must have felt like a let down in the NW camp after their early domination.

    In the second half the NW 13 deserves much credit for their third try. He got static ball and with his footwork, hand off ability and strength on the feet made a try for himself and his team when really he would have been forgiven for being driven 5-10m backwards by the D due to the quality of ball that came his way.

    Then there were two tries for the One-Stripes where the KC 12 provided the assist to both to add to one he scored in the 1st half. He is a strike player very much in the mould of James Tedder, a top KC centre from a few years back, who was also encouraged to back himself at every opportunity, something that worked very well for the KC team but seemed to hurt him later in the season when he had to adapt to a more rounded CW style of play that required quicker hands and quicker decisions to link with those on his outside. The KC 12 had an outstanding game against NW and particularly sublime was the second well timed pass after an assertive run that put the gasman 14 into clear space to score and given KC the lead for the first time at 24-17. That was a highlight moment for the KC supporters but it was also sad in a sense because KC seemed to pick up where they left off last year with backline play that only offered one-dimension, had no designs that encourage fastball, quick hands, creative input attack and placed little trust in the ball-in-hand abilities of the back three or even the 13 for that matter. To see a wing with that sort of pace not have any chance on the outside from structured or phase ball play was unfortunate and hopefully the team is able to introduce more width variation and up the tempo on some of their plays in future matches. NW have made improves in this department in recent years but they too struggled to up the gears and have a lot of work to do to harness those individual line-breaking skills that several of their backs possess into coordinated plans executed as high speeds that support players understand and benefit from. In NW 9,10, 13 and 15 there looked like there was something that a backline coach could really build a more varied and dangerous attacking game around. 14 is possibly another in this boat.

    Towards the end of the match KC lost their talisman captain at 8 to a shoulder injury. He looked threatening every time he carried the ball up. He made hard yards and was difficult to stop short of the gain-line. Helping him win the collisions was quality use of his arm to vend off tacklers. It’s not certain if he could have provided the calming effect their pack and young 9 needed towards the end. KC instead became a little too loose and determined to play in the NW half instead of controlling possession. NW persistence at the fringes of the rucks paid off, they won a crucial turnover by putting KC under pressure and did ever so well to round it off with a seven-pointer. It was a BMT moment.

    The draw was probably a fairish reflection of the match as a whole.

    Personally I think if you can leave a ground feeling that you watched something that kept your attention for 70 minues, moved you emotionally at times with affecting your overall mood in a negative way and left you with an appreciation for schoolboy rugby, for the effort the player had put in, with respect and admiration for what the coaches contribute and with opportunities to add your critical 5c worth afterwards like I have done above, you had a super afternoon of SBR… please be grateful like I am and pray that you can come back and have many more similar experiences.


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