Kingswood, the English-medium independent co-ed (±200 boys) from Makhanda (Grahamstown), finished 2023 as the top school in Eastern Cape interschools matches. It turned out the 2023 season was on par with those of 2010 and 2016 when they also only lost 2 matches per season during those campaigns. Under the guidance of head coach James Winstanley they proved to be massive overachievers.
EASTERN CAPE INTERSCHOOLS RESULTS 2023
KINGSWOOD RESULTS 2010-2023
First XV rugby report 2023 – compliments of Kingswood College
Fortune favours the brave is one of the tenets that this impressive team was built upon and enabled an ordinary group of boys to become extraordinary. Success by one definition is to reach your true potential and this year’s team walked an impressive journey together as they demonstrated a consistency of effort and performance that I have not observed before in my many years of coaching.
The season officially started in October of 2022 with the unorthodox announcement of the captains and leadership group which set the tone for the off-season training. The success of this team was going to be determined by its ability to self-regulate and develop a player driven culture underpinned by accountability. Looking back this was an essential building block for what was to come. The sense of excitement was tangible however aligning a talented group of players towards a shared mental model is no easy feat and the leadership group deserve immense credit for steering this team.
The preseason was gruelling and competition for places ensuring that the group stayed on task through the storming process. We commenced the season with two trips to East London for our first two games and with lofty expectations, and we delivered an unconvincing performance against a willing Cambridge High School at the Grens festival. We came crashing back to earth at our first attempt and truth be told a sense of panic crept in. With tough conversations taking place and an emphasis on role clarity, we were fortunate to have an opposed session with Brandwag the following Tuesday which thankfully demonstrated that we had valid reasons to have high hopes for the year. We returned to East London for a team building weekend and attended the Border Schools festival. Our mental conditioning coach Matt Francis laid his foundations and our second showing was worthy of our ambitions dismantling Grens Hoerskool, returning to Makhanda with confidence and improved cohesion.
The Graeme College festival beckoned with two stern tests, firstly against the highly fancied Queens College which started at an electric pace and a two score lead before the rain came down to significantly change the nature of the contest. We felt the pressure and despite kicking well Queens took control for a prolonged period until a late try opening the lead to safety and a 21-12 win. Despite the result we knew we needed to be better in our next encounter against Marlow who entered the season as the EC favourites. In the performance of the festival we fired the warning shots for all to see that this team had intentions with a compelling 34-5 win. The scenes of celebration from the school were heart warming and inspired the team to continue on its path.
The St Stithians Easter festival was a watershed moment for the team as we grew deeper connections and explored our higher purpose. The talent competition revealed some distinctly unique personalities and the songs created will be remembered for life. We produced glimpses of our best rugby in the wins against Clifton and the hosts St Stithians in the main game. The Helpmekaar performance revealed that we hadn’t been under pressure and needed to be better at generating momentum when things weren’t going our way. “Lose the game but not the lesson” best describes this event in our season as we returned after the holiday with renewed focus on what we really wanted to become. With the continued impact of Matt Francis the “Best team ever” theme started coming to life as we aimed to become the best team in the Eastern Cape.
So much of this team was about growing off the field which helped play a significant role in accepting our privilege as a first team as we partnered with the Eluxoweni boys shelter and regularly visited the boys with so little. The interactions made an impact on both groups and the perceived pressure of representing your school pales in comparison to the life of an orphan.
The sense of purpose combined with our clear goals put in a motion a number of compelling performances. Despite a rusty first half we demonstrated our ability against Stirling in the second period for 36-11 win. The tactical ability of this team to implement a plan ensured a near floorless display against Pearson away at their reunion. Playing in a torrential storm into the wind we held the ball for the majority of the first half to enter the change rooms scoreless. With the damage done we shifted to the kicking and field position strategy in the second half to score eighteen unanswered points for a notable result. A trip to Eat London allowed us to try some new combinations against Port Rex and we recorded another half century of points scored.
The theme of tactical execution continued with Dale College at home and we successfully controlled possession and momentum to register another 22-0 win. Worthy of mention was the impressive defensive performances having conceded no points against Pearson and Dale. Take a bow Mr Sisusa.
The season defining week arrived and whilst we celebrated eight of our boys making Eastern Province U18 teams (the highest producing school for the second consecutive year), the calendar conflict meant that these boys had to play against SWD in Plettenburg Bay the day before our biggest derby of the season. The disruptions did not end there and the K-Day game was not going to plan, despite scoring two early penalty kicks we were giving away numerous penalties and found ourselves defending our third for most of the half. College to their credit were producing their best performance of the season. The second half continued in the same way and with two mins to go College were leading 10-6 with a line out in our 22m area. The next two mins will be remembered forever as we managed to secure a penalty and then win the subsequent line out on the 10m line. Having never visited the college try line at any point in the game, the team made a line break before controlling possession with thirteen consecutive pick and goes to score under the posts in injury time. The character and belief shown won the hearts and minds of the Makhanda community in scenes that were almost fictional, such was the joy. The classy touches of our mental conditioning coach were visible on this occasion.
The next challenge awaited and the unbeaten Woodridge team were intent on spoiling our year. With many of our provincial reps absent the team had to dig deep and survive a late onslaught away having been reduced to twelve players to hold on for a 22-19 win. Mission accomplished!
The team entered its last three games unbeaten in the Eastern Cape and the formidable Nico Malan had plans of their own in Humansdorp. Another tenet of the team is “we don’t lose” which means that we compete meaningfully in every match and that a team must be better than you on a day to get a result. As predicted Nico Malan threw the kitchen sink and we hung on to stay within 12 points as the half drew to a close. Despite the ferocious head wind, we managed a score just before the break to enter into the half 5-12 down and a shift in momentum for the first time. The team’s composure over the next twenty odd minutes was impressive as we took control of the game to lead 20-12. Nico Malan scored a fortuitous try and with eight minutes to go and a lapse of concentration saw us concede on the last play of the game to lose 20-26. As much as the defeat hurt we had played really well to come from behind and it took their barrier breaking performance of the season to beat us.
Malvern College from the UK, coached by long time Kingswood friend Nick Tisdale tested us on the Tuesday afternoon however some fantastic tries scored in the second half ended in a 36-12 win.
The last dance of the season was against Graeme College at home. The intense rivalry needing very little description was played out on a sodden and rainy day at City Lords. After a tense first half the team pulled away with some gutsy running rugby in the wet to secure a credible 26-14 win. Makhanda is RED in 2023.
In closing the results are a source of pride however the consistency and honesty of the team who played for their school and its wider community created a truly special feeling. Many tears were spilled as the team forged special relationships that embraced its diversity and dared to become extraordinary. Special mention must go to the incredible coaching and support staff who made this memorable year possible. In no particular order I would like to thank Murray Ranger for his exceptional leadership contributions towards our team culture, Murray provided clarity throughout and was both the heart and compass of our team. Mr Thabo Sisusa for his phenomenal work in defence earning our team a widely respected reputation in this area. Mr Kieran Skae for his excellent work on the strength and conditioning of the team, Kieran is truly loved by the boys. Matt Francis made enormous impact as mentioned and it was pleasing to see his heart become Kingswood in the #BestTeamEver.
Lastly Mr Mohammed Sonday & Anton Rancati the team physio’s, who gave such high-level support and medical care to the boys. This staff really complimented one another and was a pleasure to be a part of an incredible team working so hard for one another.