False Bay RFC take on the third of their tough pre-season friendly encounters when they travel to face Community Cup champions Durbanville-Bellville on Saturday.
With two warm-up matches already under the belt, Coach Johnno van der Walt will have learnt an enormous amount about the players he has at his disposal and their ability to meet the high expectations of the supporters.
The Bay beat Hamiltons 27-19 at Constantia, almost a fortnight ago, before challenging the Maties Varsity Cup side, eventually going down 21-8 at Coetzenberg last weekend.
This week’s encounter will be tough. Durbell play a different style of rugby to what the Constantia team has faced thus far. They have big forwards, supported by seemingly equally big backs with pace.
Playing away friendly matches for False Bay was at the behest of Van der Walt, who felt his team needed to deliver high quality performances away from “Fortress Constantia” as the Phillip Herbstein Fields are sometimes called in reference to the difficulty visiting teams experience in beating the Bay at home.
The entire club has enjoyed a busy start to their 2016 season. The second and third teams successfully hosted Old Mackayans from Santiago, Chile, on Friday night, delivering two close victories while extending the hand of rugby friendship to visiting teams. The under-20s got some early match practice against teams such as Hammies, Belhar and SK Walmer, while the fourth team eagerly anticipate their mini-tour to Knysna over the coming long weekend.
The fifth team face friendly rivals, the Villager FC Shebeen Boys on Friday night at Brookside in a match honouring Ryan “Gary” Reaper who suffered a neck injury in a match between the two teams last year. The match forms part of the Shebeen Boys initiative, #ALLinforG, aimed to assist Ryan and other players with spinal injuries. Kick off at Brookside is at 7pm and all are welcome.
With the start of the Super League A season barely three weeks away against a resurgent, newly-promoted NNK at Parow, just how does False Bay really measure up?
Their victory over Hamiltons was sound although the visitors were short of a few of their top players. The same can be said of the Bay, of course. A number of their senior players are being rested or are being injury-managed. The depth is there and undoubtedly the talent too. Saturday’s performance against the full Maties Varsity Cup team was further endorsement of this.
Call-ups for Western Province are further indication of the talent in Constantia. A number of False Bay players have been attending WP trials with flyhalf Andri Claasen and eighthman Ryan Olivier selected to don the blue and white shirts this coming weekend.
“The Bay is definitely evolving and the younger generation is coming through nicely,” said Van der Walt.
“This season consists of four parts, namely pre-season friendlies, the first half of league season, the second half and then the Gold Cup in September and October. We view each performance in its context.
“Our fitness has improved tremendously over the last two months and our scrum appears pretty solid,” said Van der Walt.
Looking at the performances of the Bay scrum against their recent opposition, they do indeed appear solid. The younger fringe players have been given opportunity to test the rigours of top flight club rugby. Play in the engine room of rugby can never be taken for granted and the report card can sometimes be brutal with every scrum presenting a new test and the marks never counting for an aggregate. “Our set piece is a work in progress, always will be”, quipped Van der Walt.
An outstanding feature of the Bay’s game so far is their defence. Against Maties, they repulsed sustained attack with structured offensive defence, which inevitably resulted in a turnover after a number of phases.
“We constantly work on our defence and breakdown as this is a major strength of ours. Of course we always focus on skills and handling. Our pace in the backs is good with great ball players to boot.
“2016 will be exciting to say the least,” said Van der Walt.
* Jon Harris is a member of False Bay RFC.