Hilton on course for the KZN title in 2022

Hilton have been impressive for the last few seasons in a row. In this their 150th birthday year, their first team has delivered on the promise they showed in the lower age groups. So much so that they are on course to claiming a Top 10 national finish and going unbeaten in KZN. For the latter a few obstacles lie in their way in the coming weeks, beginning with Westville, who have had a pretty decent campaign themselves. This will be followed by an often tricky encounter with Maritzburg College and then Glenwood, who have players at their disposal to do damage to a team that does not bring their A-game.

Westville would have come into this game on a cold wet Gilfillan in the Midlands in local unbeaten shape themselves, had it not been for a last play of the game try by Northwood scrumhalf Gareth Viljoen, to seal a come from behind 27-23 home victory for the Knights. This after the Durban Northers had lost 24-10 to Ville, in the wet away fixture during early April. So a bit of the gloss has been removed off the affair as a potential KZN decider but the defeat may prove to be inspiration to Westville.

Interestingly Westville came unstuck in that Northwood rematch via a scrum 5, which duly earned Northwood a penalty and the platform to go on and win it. There might be a debate about the legitimacy of the penalty but it has provided an interesting theme in recent local matches.

Potentially Hilton overcame their biggest obstacle in the province on Van Heerden’s field in Essenwood a few weeks back, when they earned a deserved 24-17 win against in-form Durban High School. That match won’t be remembered as a classic, but Hilton structure and game-planning on attack, coupled with organised defence was good when it needed to be. Standing out in their physical pack were the likes of Sharks Craven Week players Ethan Bester (2) and Jack Waterhouse (5). Captain Thomas Dyer is the KZN player of the season for 2022. During the match, his hands were not always as trustworthy as they usually are but he an advantage line bully, that forces defences to over-commit if they want to maintain any hope of containing him. Hilton Craven Week tighthead prop Nick Snyman is another player who can be brutal with ball-in-hand. He is easily one of amongst the best in country in the tight-loose carrying department.

A memorable highlight of the DHS match was the scrum contest where Horseflies had the sort of first half upper-hand that would have the referee awarding them numerous penalties and perhaps going to his pocket had it been senior rugby. Under the circumstances and with the current safety measures in place, the young up-and-coming ref, handled the situation well.

If this Hilton 2022 has an Achilles, then it has to be this scrum setpiece. In all other facets they are solid. Its no longer unusual to rate a Hilton scrumhalf. This year’s edition in the form of Craven Week player Christopher Roy generates serious hang-time on his base kicks. Amongst his other assets flyhalf Christopher Horak has this accurate flat-ball pass is able to send rated outside centre Michal de Beer into space, as his timing and strength to get through the holes appear impeccable more often than not.

For this big match, both teams are blessed to be at almost full strength given how numerous other schools around the country are suffering with injuries and sickness. Westville are underdogs though. Their setpieces and ball retention will have to be good to reduce the defensive workload. In their pack they have two players selected for Craven Week – Liyema Ntshanga (1) and Kungawo Mbanga (6). Going forward they will also look to the likes of creative flyhalf Brett Kriegl and nippy x-factor Craven Week back-three Tshegofatso Ramaloko to conjure up something special.

Final score: Hilton 40 Westville 0

22 Comments

  1. Hilton set themselves an open goal a few years back to be one of the top teams in the 4 major sports: Rugby, Hockey, Cricket and Waterpolo. At 1st team level (and most age groups) they have done this over the last few years. If you go and look at current rankings right now, they are no.1 in SA for Hockey, they have been No.1 in Cricket previously and this year are top 10 I think, and Waterpolo they were top 5. Currently for Rugby they are top 10 in SA.

    They have all the ingredients to compete with the best as long as they wish. I dont think they are very dependant on any local communities as they have always been a destination boarding school. They dont sit in the heart of a suburban community and therefore become that local school, like Northwood, DHS, Westville or even Kearsney do.

    They obviously have great facilities, coaches etc. and are geared for housing boys from all over SA and outside. They have always had boys from Joburg etc. So all it took was for them to decide to be bold and dip their hands into their deep pockets and make it happen. They did cause quite a stir and have ruffled feathers over the last few years and many boys from JHB got poached, but it has given them what they are after.

    So as long as they wish to continue and they have the money, they will continue to be a force to be reckoned with I believe. Mhouse and Kearsney fell way behind them and they have both been fighting hard to compete for talent to catch up, which is what has happened now in the u16A rugby age group. Hilton obviously took their foot off the gas after a few big years and for this 150th year team, and others went hard to catch up and now they hold the upper hand in the u16A teams. I expect a response to correct this though. Will be interesting.

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  2. @beet: Very interesting perspective on rugby (sport) vs academics and also your perspective of private vs model c schools. I specifically mention model c schools, because in my opinion model c schools are actually “semi-private” schools, who can also “allocate” money for rugby bursaries. Do you therefore suggest that Hilton, Kearsney and Michaelhouse will always move in cycles based on the fact that there are only so many boys in the region they can recruit, and therefore sometimes Hilton will get the best players and will be the best and then it might move over to Kearsney or Michaelhouse at another stage? If that is the case why can’t these schools start recruiting from other regions?

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  3. @BoishaaiPa: BoishaaiPa, hear hear!! I cannot agree with you more. Glenwood and DHS already featured at North/South and played very, very well and I believe Hilton actually have the best 1st team of all the Natal schools this year.

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  4. We must remember that this is Hiltons 150 year. So they have spent alot of money on this years Matrics. It was said 5 years ago that they will be the best team in KZN in 2022. We can see this, because of the different results the other age-groups have gotten. If they do not spend big for next year, we will see very different results to this years first team.

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  5. @BoishaaiPa: Yes the 1st XV flyhalf and the 2nd XV flank (with 1st XV caps) are both Michael’s sons.

    I think in the past Wildeklawer was a bit of a cultural shock to the system for the English speaking schools. Now that DHS and College (Glenwood has for many years had a strong Afr speaking influence/presence in their rugby) have committed to WK, it is bound to make life easier for others. Just the number of players available may pose a challenge becs to stay the premier SBR festival, WK has to reserve places for the national big hitters.

    I could be mistaken by Hilton were meant to be part of last year’s WK. It would have been great if they could have been part of this year’s event.

    Things do seem to move in cycles amongst the KZN privates. It wasn’t too long ago that Hilton were struggling and drawing negative press what appeared to be attempts to pad their fixture list. Now after more attention, they are no.1 in KZN and it seems it has had positive benefits in terms of filling their school.

    Michaelhouse are on the up at the moment and may take over as the top KZN private soon.

    Kearsney rugby is where Hilton was midway through the last decade – in need of a bit of introspective to identify where they are going wrong.

    It’s not so easy for all three privates because achieving 100% Varsity pass rates seems to be the standard now, while even schools like Westville which once prided itself on strong academics seemed to be resigned to having numerous matric fails every year these days. This same standard does make the likes of DHS, Glenwood, Northwood and Westville more amenable to rugby boys who want to focus on rugby ahead of classroom work, even if this is not the schools’ educational stance. College finds itself somewhere in between as they still strive for the 100% matric pass rate so again they may look pass on a rugby player who is less likely to pass matric. However this is not nearly as limiting as only recruiting boys who are IEB Varsity pass standard.

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  6. @beet: Hilton impressed me this year. What I saw at St Johns had me a bit worried for the Boishaai game. I think that they would have given some other top teams a real go. Perhaps a Wildeklawer call up is not to far in the future. We need more traditional English schools at Wildeklawer to make a a true SBR spectackle. Would love to see the likes of Bishops, Hilton , KES , Pretoria Boys, Wynberg, Rbosch etc invited to replace some of the not so competitive schools. Is the 10 of Hilton any relation to Michael Horak?

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  7. @Skywalker: One of the players I didn’t miss when NW played Wvl was Caedin Sparks in the secondrow. I know in Ohlsson and even Mabuza when he’s at his best, NW have two good ball runners but having Sparks there has allround benefit to the team as well in terms of his tight play and contributions in the scrums. The scrum contest against DHS will be grand for sure.

    I watched two DHS games in a row at Van Heerden’s reffed by two good young refs. I hope both can go far. Of interest was how the dominant DHS scrum were treated. In the Hilton game, the ref did not see the need to penalise the retreating scrum, so much so that the DHS forwards coach told his troops to not waste their energy there in the second half. A week later against Michaelhouse, once Don van Staden went off in the second half, DHS started to gain huge ascendancy and were rewarded with penalties.

    Would be nice to have an expert view on the differences between the scrum circumstances of the two matches.

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  8. @Henkies: 100%!so happy for them. Their scrum has worked very effectively all year, and it was very special that it earned them that crucial penalty to go for the win.

    Everyone knew this team would struggle a bit this year compared to the last few, and they also then had to deal with losing Grant Bashford last minute and getting a brand new coach. It has taken a while for the coaches to get to know the boys and even figure out positions. They have changed line ups literally every week.

    Just happy for them to have found a bit of traction now and to get 1 big KZN scalp at least. They deserve it. They have been scoring 2,3 tries a game even when losing to Kearsney, College, Mhouse etc.

    DHS I think will be a bridge too far this yeae, they are very impressive! But Old Boys Day will give some impetus and hope for a decent fight.

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  9. To be fair Covid has played its part as they could only play a handfull of local games in the last 2 years. But I would say they certainly have had the team to take on some of the big CT, JHB and Pretoria teams etc. Think they just kept their season tight to ensure great local results and unbeaten seasons.

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  10. @Kantman: Over the last 4 years their 1st teams have been excellent. This perhaps the strongest of the lot. They played Paarl Boys High this year and lost only 14:5 in muddy conditions. They just should tour a bit more or join a festival with some bigger names. Would have bene good to see them really compete with some of the best outside of KZN. They are well coached by Brad Macleod Henderson. They are always well drilled and effective.

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  11. Hilton is an enigma for us folks not living in KZN. Difficult to determine if they should be taken seriously outside KZN?

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  12. @Jakkals: Every game I’ve watched him in, he has been good. Really just bad luck to be a 13 in KZN this year. I’ve followed for many years. We have had good 13s in the past but I still think there are a lot of years that he would have cruised into the Craven Week team. The two guys ahead of him have had incredible form this year. Bester was playing like an SA Schools candidate before injury and Sibisi well even against Hilton when Ngobese put him into space with that wonderful offload in traffic, showed that he is a different level attacking player with ball in hand. He would have/should have scored a try of the season on Goldstones as well.

    A top national agent once told me he does not like signing private school players because they prefer to study after school :mrgreen: but nowadays that is just as good a path to the top as any in SA.

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  13. How did Michal de Beer play at trials….I rate him highly. Did he not even get close or was he on the radar?

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  14. @Skywalker you must have been chuffed with the win last weekend. That last scrum to win the penalty at the death was legendary. If you watch carefully you could see the loosehead geeing himself up before that scrum and he delivered. Awesome to see a front row getting some kudos

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  15. 40:0 is very comprehensive. This Hilton team is seriously a cut above. As I mentioned previously I do think they could have challenged themselves a bit more this year. They have played it very safe with the schedule.

    Interestingly their u16A team has had the opposite season and has been well beaten by virtually every other KZN team. Some massive scores against them in fact. Would love to know how many new boys enroll next year who happen to be great open age group rugby players…

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  16. Also while Kearsney and Michaelhouse were off on a midterm weekend, in a change took Monday off after the Pretoria trip and Hilton played today. If MHS could have done the same, their whole school could probably have played College today.

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  17. @Henkies: Agreed. It would have been nice if they could have faced one or two more of the big hitters this season as they have a quality team.

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  18. Some brave souls manning the camera in the tower at Hilton today – fortunately the food and drink in the dining hall for afterwards is always good :mrgreen: It was not easy to follow on stream. The conditions were miserable on Gilfillan pool. The feedback from someone in Camp Westville was Hilton were very good in spite of the weather. Well drilled and played well today.

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  19. Hilton have had a great season so far and look very well drilled and organised. It’s a pity they don’t play more schools out of KZN like Monnas, Waterkloof, EG Jansen for example. They did play Paarl Boys but it was unfortunately played in a mudbath so wasn’t the spectacle it could have been.

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