False Bay RFC took another step towards the Super League A golden chalice when they easily overcame a determined Brackenfell 52-9 after leading 24-9 at half-time at Constantia on Saturday.
False Bay head the table and are within striking distance of securing their first premier championship since 1972 when rugby icon Basil Bey coached his team to the Grand Challenge title.
Newly-promoted Brackenfell have done exceptionally well for their first year back in the top flight and were expected to test the Bay’s resolve on the day. Judging from the initial stages of the contest, they were ready to surprise the Constantia outfit.
With Bay coach Johnno van der Walt showing confidence in the capacity of his squad by giving the majority of his bench a start, the less intrepid among the home support may have felt a flutter of nerves during this phase.
The visitors were physical and flooded the breakdown, contesting ball on the ground, at times driving the hosts off the ball with their aggressive rucking. As proceedings developed, a clear pattern emerged. False Bay were throwing the ball around, coast-to-coast so to speak.
The deep Brackenfell kicks were collected and returned with power drives and crisp handling, the Bay back three thriving on the space this afforded them. This tactic was to take a toll on the fitness of the visitors as the contest progressed.
It was, however, the visitors who opened the scoring when scrumhalf Wouter Whitmore converted a penalty. He went on to score all of his team’s points with two subsequent penalties.
With the elusive Mustaqueem Jappie at fullback and young Roemark Smith getting a rare start, the Bay back three was completed by the hard-running Danie Roux, who nowadays attracts three defenders every time he gets the ball.
Scrumhalf Ridhaa Damon and eighthman Ryan Olivier, constantly fell back to cover the Brackenfell kicks and launched repeated counter attacks which gave these three flyers ample opportunity to wreak havoc, as indeed they did.
Smith was rewarded with a brace. His second a piece of individual skill, a seventy-metre chip-and-collect using his pace and vision to score, his first having come off broken play.
In between his scores, tighthead prop Royal Mwali crashed over after an extended period of phase play by the home team.
Centre Riaan O’Neill scored to give the Bay the four-try bonus point before half-time. Flyhalf Andri Claasen converted two to complete the tally at the break.
Brackenfell’s pack were a determined band of men in the opening stanza, demonstrated by their scrumming, which seemed to overshadow the home side in the opening quarter. False Bay’s patience allowed them to absorb the pressure, winning two tighthead scrums from their opponents as matters settled.
Their aggressive loose play with young lock Brandon Wood and veterans Justin van Winkel and Brent Stevens in the vanguard, built a platform from which they launched their successful forays. Prop Wesley Chetty continued his fine form with another fine all round performance in a dominant pack.
False Bay repeated their try-scoring tally in the second half, scoring four tries through Chetty, Jappie, scrumhalf Dylan Frylinck and Stevens. Claasen and replacement flyhalf Adnaan Osman shared the one hundred percent conversion success rate. It was a match that spoke volumes of both teams. The visitors acknowledged post-match that they had work to do, especially in terms of fitness, to become more competitive in the SLA. They deserve kudos for their performances thus far in the season and will certainly build on them. They play a physical game with backs who are not afraid to run at pace with determination.
On the day fullback Daniel Ochse did exactly this. Whitmore at scrumhalf was hardworking and his replacement, Sheldon Castle kept defences guessing. Up front lock Christo Brand worked hard and flank Pieter Spreeth caught the eye.
As the SLA season draws to a close, False Bay stand on the verge of a historic achievement. They require seven league points out of a possible 10 to shut out any challenge that Stellenbosch University may launch in their characteristic late season volley.
The Bay face bottom-placed Sir Lowrians at home and then travel to Kuils River who find themselves one place above them. Stranger things have happened and the Constantia outfit realise that these two matches present two of their sternest challenges in this dream season. Kick off at Constantia on Saturday is at 4pm.
* Jon Harris is a member of False Bay RFC.