Hoërskool Noord-Kaap of Kimberley ended their season on a high, beating fierce rivals Diamantveld for the second time this season, this time in the KOVSIE Central Region League final. The cherry on top for the victorious Kimberley side, though, was finishing the season unbeaten and claiming a few big scalps in the process.
For headmaster and coach of the side, Henk Brand, there was no doubting the side's ability to achieve what they did.
"It might sound arrogant, but there should have been no excuses for the boys not doing as well as they did. They are so talented and have so much belief that we (the coaching staff) were not expecting anything less from them.
"Right from the first practice, the players themselves had the goal of finishing as one the top five rugby schools in the country. This goal guided them and the coaching staff in everything we did. In all our preparations and actions we were always asking ourselves: 'Is this how we are going to reach the top five?'
"To achieve our goal, all of us knew that we could not afford to lose a single match," Brand said.
As a unit, the Noord-Kaap side has been playing together for about a year. All but two of the players have been at the school since Grade Six. The side's flyhalf, Kobus du Plessis, switched from Kakamas in his Grade 11 year and centre Dawid-Johan Minnie joined the school this year from rival school Diamantveld. In all, Noord-Kaap was able to field nine matrics in their title winning side.
Brand, though, believes that the school has plenty of depth, saying that the school's age-group rugby is prospering and that the competition for places is fierce amongst the players.
The headmaster is immensely proud of the boys’ achievements and lavished high praise on the group.
"This team was probably the best team I have worked with in the last 23 years. Their absolute hunger for success really made an impression on me. No matter the success they had, they had their feet firmly on the ground. Above all, the fact that they knew their talents were gifts from the almighty God, also made a big impression on me.
"What stood out though, was the fact that they kept their composure under pressure."
What pressure, one might ask?
Why taking on school's rugby powerhouse Affies, of course.
"Before a season starts, we plot out the important games on the fixture list and the team works towards that. The match against Affies was the biggest one of the season and we worked towards that. It was the first time we played them and they were ranked number two (in the FNB Top 20) at that stage.
"After the Affies match, the next big one was the FNB Classic Clash against Diamantveld. But I am certain, though, that for the boys, the game against Affies was the more important one," Brand said.
While beating Affies certainly ranked amongst one of Brand's highlights for the season, the headmaster was also proud of the way that his charges developed through the season.
"In a season such as the one we had, one cannot single out one particularly exceptional moment. Certainly, the fact that we are unbeaten, that we've won the Central Region League for the third consecutive year and that we've beaten our local rivals Diamantveld twice this season are great. For me, though, the highlights were watching each of my players growing into their roles in every match,"
As for next year, Brand is fairly bullish that Noord-Kaap can replicate their success.
"With a number of different players (coming into the side), we have to alter our strategy. But we have enough talent to go all the way again."
Henk Brand profiles his First XV:
1. Gerhard Roux - Developed into a fine loosehead prop. He finished the season very strong. Was Man of the Match in the Classic Clash against Diamantveld.
2. Waldo Botha - He is very strong and will fit in a No.6 jersey as well. After a disappointing season in 2010, he played very good rugby this year and formed the heart of the engine room.
3. Berne Bergh - I've never worked with a stronger tighthead in 23 years of coaching. He can run like a runaway truck. He is an old-fashioned tighthead who can dominate and strikes fear into the opposition.
4. Gilbert Chalmers - Despite not playing Craven Week in 2011, he is the best front-jumper in the province. He is a kick-off specialist and, given the chance, can run like he is playing 7's. He is fearless.
5. Pikkie Nortjé - At 118kg, he is massive. He has developed in leaps and bounds during the 2011 season. When Pikkie hits a ruck, the opposition know it. A very strong ball carrier and extremely agile under the kick-off.
6. Hendrik du Plessis - A nightmare for any team to contend with. He steals balls and makes more turnovers than anyone would expect. Never slipped a tackle. Along with Berne Bergh he was Affies' biggest nightmare.
7. Christiaan de Haast - Not flamboyant, not flashy, but extremely effective. A strong ball carrier and a tower of strength in the line-outs. A very clever player who made hundreds of turn-overs during line-out time. Scored the second most tries for the team during the season.
8. Jaco Buys (captain) - Probably the success story of the season. Being moved from centre where he played Craven Week last year, he made a huge impact with his sniping runs from the base of the scrum. His cover defence was excellent and he could kick as well. Played Craven Week at No.8 for Griquas this year.
9. Zane le Roux - He's a wicketkeeper as well. Need I say more? He is strong, quick and can kick with both feet. He is clever, has an excellent pass and can tackle. He is physical. In some matches he was the "best loose forward" on the field. And if opponents allow him to chirp them, he becomes a nightmare.
10. Kobus du Plessis - If you have a winning team that needs some injection, Kobus is your man. He is lightning quick and has a devastating boot. He can kick, he can run with the ball and he is never afraid to defend his channel. He was rated as one of the 10 best fly-halves in the country by a leading sports magazine.
11. Charlton Koopman - He is a rugby player. Give him some space and he's away. What he lacks in physical size, he makes up for with heart.
12. Len le Roux - He has the ability to tackle a player out of his boots, and he has a keen eye for a gap as well. A natural, very clever player. We will definitely hear of him again.
13. Dawid-Johan Minnie - He is excellent in spreading ball. His work rate without the ball is of a high standard and he is ultimately a team man - never selfish. According to his own standards he was "not good" in plenty matches. But in those that counted most, he was a tower of strength - against Outeniqua, Affies, and twice against Diamantveld.
14. Heinrich van der Walt - Originally a scrumhalf who started playing out on the wing in 2011, he's amongst the smallest wings in provincial rugby. But what a surprise. He is devastatingly fast with a great little shimmie that saw him score great tries. He still has a lot to learn on the wing, but he is so comfortable there.
15. Henco Olivier - If you ever need someone to go to war with, its Henco. He is a defender with the biggest heart I've ever seen. He organises the back three with ease and confidence and has the ability to read the game from the back.
By Zunaid Ismael
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