An unseasonably hot sunny day contributed to a wonderful opening day of the Swartland Festival in Malmesbury on Thursday 14 July. The crowd was treated not only to two nail-bitingly close contests, but also to several games of expansive running rugby in the ideal conditions.
The mid-afternoon clash between Die Brandwag of Uitenhage and Tygerberg High turned out to be the most thrilling game on the day, the visitors taking the laurels 11-8.
In the opening 1st XV match between Charlie Hofmeyr of Ceres and Somerset East’s Gill College an early handling error by the EP side on their own try-line gifted lanky Charlies centre Oscar Isaacs a try which put them into a lead which was never seriously threatened. Although flank Zandré Schoonbee kept Gill in the hunt via three penalties, Charlies crossed their opponents’ line three more times. Scrumhalf Marco Manus nabbed two five-pointers and reserve centre Carl Stassen, one, as the Boland outfit cantered home 25-9.
Next up Augsburg Gym put on a commanding display against Strand, making their intentions clear from the start with converted tries by left wing Anwill Swartz and full back Gerrit van Wyk. The Beach Boys gave notice that they were not about to lie down as left wing Paul Zietsman raced in for a great try, which, along with the conversion and two penalties by centre Deon Taljaard, meant that they trailed only 13-14 at the change-over.
Despite Taljaard's putting Strand ahead with a third penalty early in the second period, the Clanwilliam machine soon clicked into gear to score two more tries, a second by Swartz and a deserved reward for outstanding flank Aubrey Faul. Flyhalf Janco Lehmann again converted both, added a penalty and slotted a neat drop goal, while all Strand could manage was a last-gasp try by no 8 Stephan du Preez. Augsburg Gym 34 Strand 21.
Game No.3 was perhaps the scrappiest affair as neither De Kuilen nor Despatch really got into any sort of rhythm. However, the Kuile’s right wing Daniel Nsumba showed an eagerness to display his impressive skills, scoring two excellent tries, the second of which, with flyhalf Jonty Gray’s conversion, effectively put paid to Despatch’s hopes, even though no 8 Wynand Grassman and reserve back John-Herman Krause did manage to cross the locals’ line. De Kuilen 22 Despatch 10.
The next attraction proved to be the match of the day. Die Brandwag were missing flyhalf Ricky Gardner at Craven Week; for the same reason Tygerberg were without scrumhalf André Warner, centre Justin Geduld and front-ranker Entienne Swanepoel. While the Parow side missed their stars more in open play, the Uitenhagers could have done with the place-kicking skills of Gardner as their three different hopefuls missed several relatively undemanding shots at goal.
The first half yielded a single penalty by Brandwag centre Jannie Bezuidenhout, but a try just after the break by Tygers No.8 James Schietekat saw the lead change hands. Penalties by the visitors’ fullback Romeo van Heerden and Tygers’ pivot Dewald Claassen meant that the Cape Town lads led 8-6 going into the last minute, only for a fine try, following a sniping break, by right wing Llewellyn Pieterse to give Uitenhage’s finest an 11-8 victory.
In the 16.40 kick-off HTS Drostdy faced Campbell College of Belfast in a titanic contest. The score – and scoring – reflected the cut-and-thrust nature of this exciting tussle. Two Michael de Boer penalties and a converted try by hooker Marius Paulsen gave the Donkeys what seemed to be a commanding 13-5 lead, but the Irish youngsters, whose kit is significantly all black, hit back towards the end, first via a Rory Scholes penalty and finally through a superb second try by lightning fast left wing Josh Fullerton to claim a share of the spoils in this 13-13 draw.
Hosts Swartland closed the day in style with a surprisingly comprehensive 34-12 trouncing of neighbours Piketberg. The Rockies appeared to have put their early season jitters firmly behind them as they ran at every opportunity. Props Zuan Arendse and Estevan Janse van Rensburg established the home pack’s superiority, their powerful driving play giving the backs the confidence to run the ball at every opportunity.
Tries by left wing Jeremy van Wyk, tearaway flank Daniël Griebenauw and right wing David Tippens opened up a 19-0 half-time lead. ’Berg no 8 Ferdie Bothma did manage to crash over for two tries, but a pair of brilliantly crafted five-pointers by centre and captain Johan Nelson settled matters 34-12 in the hosts’ favour.
A long day, indeed, made just that much more pleasurable by the uniformly outstanding match officials, many of whom are youngsters being taught the ropes by the tireless Ben Theron. Western Province schools may have a few obvious problems on the rugby field, but, in the whistle and flag department, they are surely the envy of many.
The programme for Saturday 16 July is:
08:45: Campbell College vs Piketberg
10:00 Swellendam vs HTS Drostdy B
11:05: Gill College vs Strand
12:15: Augsburg vs De Kuilen
13:30: Die Brandwag vs Charlie Hofmeyr
14:45: Swartland vs Despatch
16:00: HTS Drostdy vs Tygerberg
By Tony Stoops
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