The Super League A delivered a scrap between three teams for top spot, all of whom ended on 60 league points, however, False Bay RFC claimed bragging rights by virtue of a superior points difference.
Under previous rules of the competition, the Bay would have been crowned champions on Saturday but the format for the competition was changed at the commencement of the 2018 season where the top six finishers in each league under union auspices enter into a knock-out phase. Effectively the last team standing is crowned champions in each division, with promotion of teams also being decided lower down.
Last weekend saw Stellenbosch University hosting Durbanville-Bellville (Durbell), perennial title challengers needing a sublime victory margin over the Maties to topple the Constantia team from top perch. They managed a bonus point win which elevated the Durbanville-based club to second spot.
Out at Ravensmead, UCT required a bonus point win with a margin greater than 33 points and although they got the bonus point, they fell short of their points difference target and now host Hamilton in the quarter-final playoff on Saturday.
Uni-Mil host Maties, who they surprised many to beat the students at Milnerton during the round-robin phase. Stellenbosch, determined and proud, will defend their honour with great determination, but “Millies” have tasted blood and will have their passionate supporters behind them at Theo Marais Park. They last played a fortnight ago, which may count against them against a wounded Stellenbosch University.
Of matters counting against them, False Bay and Durbell, automatic semi-finalists, will have this weekend off and with the next knock-out phase only scheduled for September 17, the lack of game time could be a disadvantage against teams hungry to knock over the supposed big guns. Then again that is the precise situation Uni-Mil find themselves in, their last league match would have been three weeks prior to Saturday’s upcoming encounter.
It’s all chatter from the sideline. Coaches are in the know, and equipped to manage the situation. These challenges add to the spice of the knock-out stages and match-day performances of all on the pitch, including the officials, is all that matters on the day.
False Bay may well hold special motivation to finish victorious. Coach Johnno van der Walt will be standing down at the end of the season, his 10-year stint as Head Coach of the club ends this season as he has decided to step back from coaching to focus on his business and family. While this may seem to be a negative for the Constantia club, Van der Walt has laid the solid foundations for a continuance of style and success.
He has set the bar high for his successor but in itself has always believed that on and off the field, one man does not make a team or a club. Looking at the structures at the Bay, there are two under-20 teams, two women’s teams and six senior teams thriving in an on-field environment cultivated by Van der Walt.
Andrew “Gunner” Hughes has been appointed as Van der Walt’s successor. Hughes has been involved on the Second XV coaching panel, and was a Gold Cup and Super League A winning coach under Van der Walt. The coaching depth at the club is solid, with high quality personnel guiding the player base.
Change is unsettling but it encourages growth, and the Bay are poised to grow further as they enter this new phase.
The player depth at False Bay is encouraging, demonstrating the desire of young people of both genders to participate in the sport. An example of this is the False Bay under-20B team. Stranded at the beginning of the season with the setting aside of plans to have a B section in the Club Leagues, these players were all dressed up with nowhere to go, having spent months physically preparing themselves for the season. In stepped the UCT Internal League, which broke the mould and allowed the team to compete in the Internal “Koshuis” League up at Groote Schuur.
The Bay team added value to the competition and contested third position on the table in their final fixture, the result of which is unknown at the time of print. As a legendary Life Member of False Bay, the late Larry Coe, always said, “have boots, will play” and this is a demonstration of the desire of school-leavers to play this game.
Speaking of young people wanting to play the game, the False Bay Senior Women’s team faced Eerste River and delivered a resounding 79-0 win, while the Junior Women beat Groote Schuur Women 37-5 on Friday night.