Three new champions were crowned at the Burger finals at Brug Street in Paarl on Saturday. Paarl Boys High repeated their success of 2007 by beating Oakdale 24-13 in the Big Schools division, the Medium Schools title went to Nico Malan (18-16 winners in quite astonishing circumstances against Schoonspruit) and Hawston held on to claim the Small Schools laurels 10-7 against Sao Bras.
The games were played on a beautiful clear day, which was a bit chilly to start off with but which warmed up to a windless 18 degrees later on. Conditions underfoot were, however, less than ideal, the good rain of recent weeks making the going pretty heavy, to the particular detriment of Hawston and Schoonspruit, both of whose styles of play involve swinging the ball out wide at pace.
The early game went nowhere at the approximate speed of a severely hamstrung tortoise. Mossel Bay’s Sao Bras and Boland side Hawston took quite a while to suss each other out, the result being that the only score of the first half came when Sao Bras lock Dorenzo Jordaan crashed over for fullback and captain MacDillon Saayman to convert.
Not long after the break Hawston captain and inside centre Roland Swarts put his side on the board via a penalty and, when his centre partner Arno Fortuin managed to dot down, it was his conversion that ended the scoring in this pretty forgettable affair, in which the colourful team outfits at times made it look like a contest between packets of Skip washing powder and boxes of Jungle Oats, at 10-7.
The Medium Schools encounter seemed to be following its anticipated path as Schoonspruit built up an 11-0 lead by the break through a try by left wing Bronwin Lemonie and two penalties by flyhalf Ashlon Davids.
Evidently a new script came out with the water bottles as Nico Malan took a firm grip on proceedings in the second period with a no-nonsense approach spearheaded by their workmanlike pack. A great surging try by no 8 Martin Groenewald was sandwiched between penalties by right wing Selvyn Davids, levelling matters at 11-11 with a quarter of the match to go.
The closing minutes turned out to be packed with more drama than the works of Shakespeare.
First Schoonspruit were deemed to have collapsed a maul on their own line, resulting in a penalty try to the Humansdorp lads, which their Davids gratefully converted, putting Nico 18-11 up.
Then, with just three minutes on the clock, the Schoonspruit right wing François Willemse dived over in the corner only for the referee to award them a penalty try as one of the defenders had crashed into the scorer after he'd touched down, which is not what the laws of the game require.
With Ashlon Davids off, the kick was entrusted to the usually reliable outside centre Andy Huisamen who, for reasons best – make that definitely – known only to him, decided to take the simple conversion only some 15 metres away from the line. That was asking for it and it duly happened: the kick was easily charged down and barely a minute later Nico Malan were delighted 18-16 winners!
It might not have produced the fireworks of a Rammstein concert, but the main attraction did provide an engrossing forward battle. The hosts had done their homework since Oakdale’s previous visit, particularly in the front row, the one area in which the Bulle had held the upper hand last time round. With the young Riversdale trio, all of whom will be available again next year, effectively nullified, Boishaai managed to build solid driving moves a lot earlier than their legendary last 20 minutes spurts.
In any event, Oakdale settled down the quicker of the two sides and had established a 10-0 lead by the eighteenth minute, thanks to a penalty by flyhalf Christiaan Willemse and a superb loose forward try by flank Janneman Stander, which Willemse goaled.
In reply, after full back Rhyno Smith had opened the local lads’ side’s account with a penalty, Boishaai strung together a series of attacks, swinging the ball slickly from one side of the field to the other. With the defence very much on the back foot, it fell to tireless lock and captain Takkies Reitz to trot in under the crossbar for the simplest of tries. Smith’s conversion took the score to 10-10.
Just three minutes later the Brug Street Brigade turned over possession near the Bulle’s line and spun the ball wide to the left for wing JP le Roux to score with the luxury of an unused two-man overlap outside him.
The visitors in general and Willemse particular weren't about to roll over just yet and the pivot dropped a great goal to reduce the deficit to 13-15.
That is just about where the thrilling part ended as the last 43 minutes yielded only three Smith penalties. Not that it was boring: it was a captivating war of attrition with all the players just about out on their feet by the final whistle. Boys’ High had turned a 21-13 lead at the water break into a well-merited 24-13 triumph.
The event’s sponsors, Die Burger, must have been elated with the all-round success of Finals Day. Perhaps the only factor detracting slightly from this competition’s growing allure is the tendency of the Boland Schools bigwigs to nominate Hawston and Schoonspruit to represent the province year after year without consideration being given to a few arguably more deserving – results-wise, that is – sides, such as tiny Swellendam in the small school section. With HTS Drostdy being the only large school in the province in terms of the competition’s parameters, not even a committee could mess that one up!
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