Affies, a team with a big pack of forwards, would have been forgiven for using their size advantage to play a 10-man bash it up game against Maritzburg College. Instead they impressed with their expansive style of rugby. The Pretoria school went on to record a five tries to one 33-7 win against Maritzburg College on Goldstones.
The Affies support runners stole the show. They pick wonderful lines often identified the right space. This wouldn’t have amounted to much had these support runners not had the privilege of being on the receiving end of some high quality passes. It was a game plan built around using spaces but also relied on speed. Once Affies got in behind their opponents, they continued to work the ball with urgency until College ran out of defenders.
Amongst the players that caught the eye were captain Pierre Schoeman and hooker Francois Steyn, who both made a habit of either breaking the defensive line or making big plays. Schoeman has set himself apart from other forwards this year as a ball runner and playmaker. Affies’ second try was evidence of his wide range of skills. Having forced his way by a tackler, Schoeman then managed to stay upright long enough to make a textbook offload to the try-scorer Heinrich Viljoen. Later on in the first half, Schoeman once again showed great determination and presence of mind to firstly get to the tryline and then dot the ball over the line, only for the unsighted referee not to award the try. With his attention-grabbing performances week in, week out it’s becoming increasingly difficult to imagine a shortlist of SBR players of the year without Schoeman’s name appearing on that list.
Hanco Posthumus filled in well at flyhalf for the highly rated Ryno Eksteen. He was instrumental in the opening try by speedster Andries van der Merwe. He also did the kicking and succeeded with a conversion to help Affies to an early 12-0 lead.
Affies came close to scoring at two more junctures with College just doing enough to ensure that last passes did not go to hand, this after more breathtaking build-up work.
Just when College were beginning to look dead and buried, they then lifted their game. With better possession the College team forced Affies to do some of the defensive work. Kicker Marcel Coetzee missed a penalty but made it up to his teammates with a well-taken try. The young centre who will certainly be a leading candidate for Craven Week selection in 2013, collected a well-timed pass from Lucas Booysen, then accelerated past the first line defence before selling a dummy to the cover tackler and racing clear for College’s opening score. Coetzee added the extra two points and at 12-7 things were looking up for the Red, Black, Whites all of a sudden.
Affies responded by scoring the next try. A kick did not find touch and well positioned Affies no.8 Steven Meiring ran it back strongly. From the next phase Frans Steyn pulled off a “Sonny Bill Williams” pass to Janse van Rensburg. The tall lock came agonisingly close to scoring. It was then left to scrummy Louis Venter who picked the ball up from the ruck, spotted a gap and sniped. Posthumus converted for a halftime score of 19-7.
After the break, Jurie Linde extended the Affies lead with their fourth try. Magnificent handling was once again the architect. The free flowing rugby presented an overlap opportunity for Thys van Wyk on the wing. He raced down the right-hand touchline and fed inside to supporter Linde who then just had to canter in for the converted try.
The next highlight came when Louis Venter’s box kick wasn’t controlled by a College player inside his own 22-metre area. Janse van Rensburg picked it up brilliantly but then lost the ball over the try-line.
College then placed some sustained pressure on the visitors in a good field position for an attack. The home team had three attacking lineouts in quick succession. The first two did not work out well but the third one found the target. The territorial advantage was abruptly ended though when Booysen was caught in possession. Without support the ball was turned over and within a few seconds Affies took play down town to inside the College red zone.
There were a few more good Affies moves featuring firstly Venter and then Meiring in open play but it was left to a setpiece to lay the platform for the final try of the game. College conceded a tighthead from a scrum near their own goal-line. Meiring picked up at the base, bounced off a first defender and then powered his way over despite the attentions of second defender. Posthumus’ fourth conversion ended the scoring at 33-7.
It was pleasing game for Affies and their supporters. Despite the holiday break they were full value and looked to be on top of their game. For College, they have now probably put their most difficult game of the season behind them. A stiff challenge at altitude against Pretoria Boys High awaits them next weekend. Once again they need to reexamine their methods used to win and then protect possession. Changes and/or improvements in this area are vital. A game on Monday at 15:00 against touring Dulwich of the UK might just present the perfect opportunity to focus on these aspects and get back some confidence at the same time.
Maritzburg College: : 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Cyle Muil, 13 Marcel Coetzee, 12 Richard Bamber, 11 Banele Ngwenya, 10 Lukas Booysen, 9 Josh Rencken, 8 Reegan Smith (captain), 7 Cameron Christie, 6 Jacque Conradie, 5 Robert Kamhoot, 4 Everett Pieterse, 3 Mvelo Khumalo, 2 Vuyo Khathide, 1 Njabula Gumede. Replacements: 16 Alex Cahill, 17 Seko Buthelezi, 18 James Smith, 19 Jacque Conradie, 20 Kelvin Elder, 21 Murray Janse van Rensburg, 22 Thato Molelekoa
Affies: 15 Costant Pretorius, 14 Thys van Wyk, 13 Jurie Linde, 12 Nico Lee, 11 Andries van der Merwe, 10 Hanco Posthumus, 9 Louis Venter, 8 Steven Meiring, 7 Heinrich Viljoen, 6 Albert van Heerden, 5 Nicolas Janse v Rensburg, 4 Jean Droste, 3 WP Eloff, 2 Francois Steyn, 1 Pierre Schoeman (captain). Replacements: 16 Cornell de Waal, 17 Xander Swart, 18 Gerhard de Beer, 19 Calvon Allison, 20 Heine Lombaard, 21 Marchant van der Heever, 22 Andrew Langridge