Affies did not have things entirely their own way in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday but they were strong enough to win a hard-fought battle against a resilient Maritzburg College by 19-6.
Following the rather one-sided match won by Affies up in Pretoria in May and given the irresistible form of the high-flying powerhouse this season, the focus in the lead-up to this rematch was firmly concentrated on the improvements Maritzburg College had to make in order to turn themselves to a more competitive unit. It had to be assumed that the word “damage control” although not necessarily on the lips of home supporters, was definitely going through their minds at some point before kick-off. However this line of thinking wasn't shared by the College team that ran out onto Goldstones for the last time in 2011 with the set intention of winning the game.
There is a tremendous amount of love and pride that goes hand in hand with donning on a school first team jersey. This was evident in College’s gutsy performance. The team put training ground complications behind them and bonded well. Young Regan Smith was called on to lead the team in the absence of Ungerer (ankles). He did a fine job and received good support from his teammates. Motivated and filled with positive school spirit, they put their bodies on the line time after time, with several players working through the pain threshold to stop their opponents in what can only be described as an extraordinary display of tackling.
A feel-good story that played itself out on the day and goes a long way to explaining where these young men are able to draw that extra bit of motivation from that sets them apart from the rest was that of the College half back pairing of Ant Bompas and Ethan Marais. The two begun their College rugby careers as the under 14D combination on one of the school’s lower fields in 2007. The dream of playing first team rugby one day may have seemed a little far-fetched back then but it was that ambition that motivated them and now five seasons later they were reunited as the first XV halves, playing their hearts out on Goldstones against a team that on its day is arguably the best in the country.
Apart from tackling for all they were worth, College’s contesting of the breakdown and counter-rucking was of a high standard. Matched against the tall Affies locks, the home team’s line-out work also showed signs of improvement and it was equally encouraging to see Matthew Dickens making life difficult for the visitors on their throw-ins.
On Affies’ part there was precious little to criticise. In the absence of regular captain Eital Bredenkamp (shoulder), Bernie Roux did a marvelous job of leading by example. The Affies pack worked industriously to build solid platforms from which their line could attack. They were dominant and in control for a good part of the game. The compliment that had to be paid to the backs was that at no stage during the match did they get frustrated, try to force the situation or run out of ideas in their many attempts to crack the Trojan-like College defence. Their ball handling was also of a high standard. On the few occasions when they had to defend, Affies were attentive and well organised with missed tackles being few and far between.
Perhaps two areas where Affies could have been better was in the tactical kicking game where they lacked the desired accuracy at times and their protection of the tackled ball that afforded College the opportunity to steal several balls when Affies were in good field positions. However all round it was a high quality Affies performance and on a different day against a less committed team, the same persistence shown could quite easily have opened the floodgates.
After a fast-paced start to the match, Affies scored first in the 13th minute when quick-thinking flyhalf Nico Lee snatched a ball that unexpectedly popped out the back of a College ruck. The stolen ball was then spread wide where speedy wing Marcus Kleinbooi was on hand to round off in the corner. Hanco Deale did not enjoy a good day with the boot by his high standards and missed the conversion along with two other penalty attempts in the half.
The second try seemed to come in the blink of an eye. After some sustained pressure towards the end of the first half, the referee awarded Affies an offside penalty comfortably inside the College 22m area. Given the 5-0 score at the time, the logical option would have been to take the three points on offer but the alert Affies players had other ideas. Their quick tap caught College off guard and by the time the ball was in the hands of the rushing Pierre Schoeman, the resistance was not in a position to stop the SA Schools prop from powering his way over the try-line. Deale’s conversion extended the lead to 12-0 before the half time break.
College produced their best spell of attacking play in the first 20 minutes of the second half. During this time Jesse Kriel who had had an outstanding game at the back, slotted 2 out of his 3 attempts at goal to narrow the deficit to 12-6.
Luan de Bruin who tips the scales at 125kg had worked particularly hard all afternoon long. The big tighthead often had to pick himself up off the deck after set scrums to chase the game and get to the next breakdown on time. He was finally rewarded for not shirking his open play responsibilities during the game. The prop’s try came about as a result of another patient build up by Affies. Once they had secured the penalty deep in the College 22, they again opted to take the tap and fed to de Bruin on the blindside who managed to work his way over the line despite receiving a lot of attention from defenders. Deale added the extras to round off the scoring at 19-6.
After the dismal performance of the Springboks earlier in the day, this good match no doubt helped to lift the spirits of all in attendance, even those who happened to be on the losing side.
Tries: Marcus Kleinbooi, Pierre Schoeman, Luan de Bruin
Cons: Hanco Deale 2
For Maritzburg College:
Pens: Jesse Kriel 2
Maritzburg College: 15 J Kriel, 14 L Sithole, 13 M Janse van Rensburg, 12 T Molelokoa, 11 Z Makiwane, 10 E Marais, 9 A Bompas, 8 R Smith (captain), 7 A Smith, 6 P Shezi, 5 R Odendaal, 4 M Dickens, 3 M Khumalo, 2 D Marx, 1 R Mhlongo.
Affies: 15 H Deale, 14 A Oosthuizen, 13 M Visser 12 J Fourie, 11 M Kleinbooi, 10 N Lee, 9 C Engelbrecht, 8 P Janse van Rensburg, 7 B Roux (captain), 6 S Meiring, 5 N Janse van Rensburg, 4 J Kirsten, 3 L de Bruin, 2 D Steenkamp, 1 P Schoeman.
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