"Remaining combative each week is my first and last goal," says Bishops' First XV coach, Dave Mallett.
The reason for that, he intimates, is that school-boy rugby in the Western Cape is very competitive.
"I would venture to suggest that the Premier League in the Western Cape is the most competitive in South Africa," Mallett told Classiclashes.co.za.
"In no other region do you have the likes of Paarl Boys, Paul Roos, Paarl Gym, Boland Landbou and local rivals (Rondebosch, Wynberg and SACS) week in and week out. There are simply no easy games. For that reason, you do not get ahead of yourself and start 'targeting' wins."
It would seem that Mallett has a point as Paarl Boys, Paul Roos, Paarl Gym and Rondebosch have all made an appearance in our FNB Top 20 rankings. In fact, the first three schools have consistently been ranked in our Top 20 for most of the season and do provide stern tests for anyone playing against them.
And with a young team under his care, the coach was looking for his charges to be competitive throughout the season.
"In essence, one has to start afresh each new season. Six of my players played 1st XV rugby last year - the rest came from other Under-16/17 teams.
"So, my goal for the team was to get them to play to the best of their ability and hopefully remain competitive in the hurly-burly of our Premier League," the brother of former Springbok and Italy coach Nick Mallett said.
And if that were not pressure enough, the school was celebrating the 150th anniversary of rugby at Bishops as well as marking the 100th year of playing rugby against fierce rival Rondebosch Boys' High.
"My 2011 team had the added pressure of playing in the 150th year of Bishops Rugby and the 100th year of matches against archrivals, Rondebosch Boys' High. On the whole, they dealt with the expectations fairly well - but it required strong leadership on the field and constant reinforcement from us, as coaches."
The leadership on the field was provided by captain Tarquinn Carlson, one of the standout players for Bishops this season. The No.8 was one of three Bishops players to represent Western Province at the Craven Week competition and has been accepted into the Western Province Rugby Institute. Prop forward Tshepo Motale and fullback Timothy Swiel were the other two Craven Week representatives for Bishops. Swiel went on to play for the SA Schools side. Inside centre John-Ben Kotze played Craven Week for the WP Academy side and also went on to play for the Under-18 SA Academy side against an Under-19 France side earlier this year.
So just how did the Bishops boys do this season?
"I can honestly say that all the games were tough in their own way. We had some memorable victories, but also had one or two disappointing defeats - not the fact that we lost, but the manner in which we lost," Mallett admitted.
The coach was proud of the victories over Paarl Gym, Maritzburg College and Boland Landbou, but he was particularly happy with the win over local rival Rondebosch.
"Our 37-12 win over Rondebosch at the end of the season was a particularly big win, having lost to them at home in the first round."
Coming into the game, Bishops had suffered a 20-13 defeat to SACS and were very much the underdogs for the derby against Rondebosch. Bishops, though, emerged from the match as 37-12 victors to even up the honours for the year after Rondebosch's 34-18 win earlier in the season.
Bishops' coach Dave Mallett was cagey on how his side would perform in 2012, saying that "anything is possible..."
By Zunaid Ismael
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