When you consider that not that many people in rugby circles actually know where Porterville is, the local chamber of commerce must be immensely grateful to the schools 1st XV, the Bulls, in general and SA Schools rugby cap Andrew Beerwinkel in particular for helping to put this beautiful little town on the South African rugby map.
Not that the town which boasts the provocative number plate prefix CEX is totally off the radar: it has long been internationally famous as a glider’s paradise, thanks to the thermals that weave around the mighty Winterhoek mountains that dominate its skyline.
In size Porterville High School is fairly typical of Cape platteland schools, with 520 learners enrolled between grades 1 and 12 under the proud eyes of dynamic young principal Willem Engelbrecht and his spirited staff. Across the road from the school sits comfortable Huis van Riebeeck, a well-appointed home to up to 60 weekly boarders.
Beerwinkel is by no means the first Porterville student to gain widespread recognition recently. Grade 12 learner Ellani de Jager, whose father André teaches in the junior section of the school, is well known nationally as a violinist of extraordinary talent. A member of the Miagi National Youth Symphony Orchestra since 2009, she was leader of the second violins in the Prestige Orchestra at the International Chamber Music Festival in Stellenbosch in July 2011.
A very full cultural and sporting programme has seen the school produce several provincial representatives this year: three athletes made it to the SA Schools Championships, the golf team reached the Boland finals, one swimmer was chosen for the Western Cape team and five lasses gained provincial colours for netball, the first team coach being accorded the honour of Best Coach at the 2011 SA Under-17 tournament.
Over the three years that they have been attending the Tony Stoops Rugby Festival in Goodwood, the development of the pride of the school’s rugby players into a formidable rugby team has been quite astonishing.
In 2011 they ran up a daunting 674 points in their 20 match programme, scoring 104 tries, a truly remarkable feat for a team best known for its tight five!
Beerwinkel may have played for Boland Schools for two years and SA Schools of late, but he is no one-man army, even though his kicking acumen may have seen him accumulate 176 points this campaign. Significantly fellow front-rowers André Minnaar, the Bulls captain, and Erik Meyer were chosen for the Boland Academy Week team.
The decision by coach and old boy Heini Redelinghuys, the school’s tireless sports organiser, to move nippy flyhalf Dylan Isaacs to scrumhalf added thrust to a backline hungry for tries, left wing Garth Hendricks leading the way with 18 touchdowns. Hard to believe it may be, but seven of this year’s dream team will be turning out proudly for their school next winter.
While it is optimistic to expectt a team like this to spring up again over the summer months, everyone associated with these talented youngsters is optimistic that the Blue ones are not the only Bulls people will be talking about in 2012.
By Tony Stoops
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