Amateur sport across the country has suffered tremendously at the hands of the pandemic over the last two years and club rugby is no exception.
The 2021 WP Club Rugby season initially showed promise of life on the pitches returning to normal as clubs prepared for their respective campaigns.
Pre-season friendly programmes were undertaken and just as coaches were ticking their boxes, yet another wave of the virus hit and the season was at risk, moth-balled as we rode another wave of the dreaded virus.
Players maintained their interest, keeping themselves in condition for a season which by all indications seemed an almost certainty. Yet, as time ticked by hopes for a competitive season faded and players across the region lost hope and interest.
When the SA Rugby Union gave the go-ahead for rugby to resume late in August, hope was high that even an abbreviated season between clubs with sufficient player resources and preparation would take place, but sadly that was not possible.
The folks at False Bay RFC managed to maintain that interest, driven by a desire to get some rugby under the belt.
Three “tournaments” took place, each driven by the desire of the player base to simply play some rugby.
The False Bay Ladies played the away leg of their two-match series against Stellenbosch University, the first round a raging success, the second no less so and a bond between the two Ladies clubs was born. This group of athletes deliver a high-intensity, quality game and next season is bound to deliver the same in a busier schedule.
A three-match series between the False Bay FIFOs and the Hamiltons Dynamiters, both powerhouses in the WP Reserve League, took place on consecutive Friday evenings. These teams have forged a close relationship through the years, vying head-to-head for line honours in the Reserve League. The FIFOs took the spoils but it was a close run competition with each team winning a match and the third ending in a 3-3 draw.
The main player pool at the Constantia club had been training hard within prescribed guidelines. Friendly matches at the beginning of the season against Brackenfell and Hamilton showed glimpses of what was to come in the 2021 season. That player pool, including a large under-20 section, traditionally slow starters, were kicking their heels with energetic frustration. It was the very same pool which took matters into their own hands and the third “tournament”, the False Bay Tens, was born.
Last Thursday saw the final of this highly entertaining tournament. Now with vaccination card-carrying spectators in attendance, the final round was evidence of what players across the province want, to simply play rugby and spectators lapped it up.
Each of the four teams were coached by a high quality panel of coaches, led by Gunner Hughes, Ryan van Niekerk, Ashley Wells and Morgan Newman. Intensity was a given, rivalry ingrained from sharing the training pitch under normal conditions, and as players adapted to the nuances of a normal sized pitch with less personnel, quality improved and forcibly dragged entertainment along with it.
The tournament was won by the Bay Broncos, who clipped Won Direction in the final, while It’s Muller Time and The Plumbers contested third and fourth position.
“It was great to see some sort of competition after a year of training and uncertainty”, said Hughes.
“The coaching teams mix meant that we got to know our coaching colleagues in a competitive environment,” he said in reference to all coaches at the club being employed in the four-team brains trusts.
The rivalry of the players was matched by that of the coaches but at the end of each game night, all involved retired for a cold drink, a laugh and a promise to be back the next week.
“The camaraderie, or ’gees’ was superb”, said Hughes.
“Of course competition was intense but teams achieved their identity and it was interesting to see how they achieved this in so many ways: kit, YouTube videos, fines sessions, etc”.
Fine sessions is a common sports team practice of involving all in a fun process of recognition of performance, mostly frivolous highlights of performance. It is a proven winner in involving all in a squad and making every player feel a part of the team.
Player quality, as previously mentioned, was one of the outstanding features of the tournament. “There is currently great depth at the club. Some gems were discovered and this sort of competition lends itself to building quality and experience among less experienced players and those who have been “hiding” in the lower teams”, Hughes said.