In an exciting Southern Suburbs derby, SACS overcame a determined Wynberg Boys High School to run out deserved winners at Hawthornden, in Wynberg, on Saturday. The final score was 31-20 after the hosts led 17-10 at the break.
Wynberg celebrated its 175th anniversary last week. Saturday’s derby came at the end of a week of functions and celebrations that saw Old Boys of the school gather to honour the school’s history.
Their hopes of a victory to seal these commemorative celebrations were kept alive by the “Berg” until nigh the end when the power of the visiting pack took its toll and the Newlands school put some daylight between the scores through a well-worked try by flank Nishaad Yacoob.
Until then Wynberg had simply refused to capitulate, mounting a series of comebacks just as their fervent supporters sensed something resembling a dam wall breaking was imminent.
Indeed the match was a contrast of two styles of rugby, ostensibly between SA College Schools’ big, physical and very organised pack and Wynberg’s exciting and dangerous backline, capable of creating points from nothing.
The SACS forwards were brutal and unrelenting in the execution of their play. Spearheaded by flank Lance Steytler who inspired his teammates with his strong ball carrying and omnipresence at the breakdown, the visitors’ pack had their opponents reeling at times, creating space for their backs, who it has to be said, sometimes squandered the surfeit of possession afforded them through some ordinary execution. Let it not be implied that the Berg forwards were absent from duty. They defended well, often effecting turnovers at the most seemingly hopeless moments to keep their line intact. Their line-outs were impeccable with lock Gideon Boshoff and flank Cameron Bowes their primary targets.
SACS opened the scoring through a penalty by fullback Michael Sutton but the hosts negated the lead a few minutes later when flyhalf Dominic Coetzer stroked a penalty between the posts.
By now the dominance of the SACS forwards was becoming more apparent and the pattern of the Berg contributed to the extreme pressure they endured for the better part of the first half. Coetzer, a fine ball player with good feet and slick hands, posed a threat whenever he foresaked the “pocket” to take the ball flatter and get his line going.
The apparent predetermined ploy of having him stand back to effect kicks did not work, mainly due to the dominance of the SACS pack and the front foot momentum created as a result.
The visitors settled into their familiar pattern which had the Berg under extreme pressure, and it was their typically terrier-like defence and cheeky confidence which saw them reverse the ground gained by the visitors and repulse them with brave counter attack, on two occasions from their own try line.
One such instance saw fullback Labib Kannemeyer collect the ball behind his line and gobble up the space on the left flank, feeding the elusive wing Siya Nombakuse, who gallantly continued an audacious counter, his pass narrowly missing the clasp of the supporting hands which would have had the SACS cover defence stretched had it been successful. All this from within the hosts 22 metre area.
The message was clear. It was going to be a match between the organised power of SACS and the flair of Wynberg. This was the order of the day and in the end power subdued flair but not before the latter made a few strong statements which included a heart stopping comeback to within four points with a few minutes to go.
After Coetzer had levelled the scores, SACS centre Nick Redelinghuys scored after they had built up momentum through quality phase play. Sutton converted but the feeling that power would prevail was ominous and it seemed as if the celebrations would be dampened by a one-sided affair.
Fortunately a contest is not between those outside the four boundary lines and the Wynberg spirit burned strong. They struck back with a typically precocious try by Kannemeyer who had started the movement from his own half, spotting oodles of space which had defences scrambling and the Berg playing the ball with confidence. Coetzer converted to level the scores.
Shortly before the break, flank Callum Stryn crashed over for a deserved try and the Coetzer conversion gave the hosts their seven point lead.
With the warm winter sun creating a festive vibe, SACS brought rainclouds above the heads of the local supporters when they scored two tries in quick succession. First burly prop Duncan Ferguson crashed over for a try at the end of the umpteenth phase and then Redelinghuys completed his brace in similar fashion. Sutton converted both to give his team a seven point lead.
By now the visiting pack were in ascendancy. The aforementioned Steytler unrelenting and well supported by hooker Liam Larkan, lock James Brewer, Yacoob and eighthman Kyle Coles. Behind this juggernaut, scrumhalf Lucky Diepu revelled in the space, feeding his line smoothly and creating consternation with his breaks around the edges.
Wynberg, however, had not read the script being passed around the stands. They had no intention of folding, school pride one motivation, personal pride another.
By now Coetzer was lying flatter and getting his line away nicely, Kannemeyer was enjoying the space and Nombakuse taking great pleasure from running out of seemingly hopeless situations. In between these, centre Christian Colbourne was scything down opposition, stymying the promising SACS attacks.
Coetzer brought the score to within a try when he converted a penalty about eight minutes from the end and with Wynberg’s proven capacity to score from the most unlikely situations, it appeared as if the School Founders would be suitably honoured.
SACS were having none of it and worked their way back to the Berg red zone, Yacoob breaking local hearts with his score. Sutton added another five through the conversion and a penalty moments later.
It was a contest which honoured the occasion and even though the hosts were on the losing side, the due honour and respect was brought to the school and the occasion. The visitors were deserved winners on the scoreboard but victory was cast wider than on the field.
This clash is traditionally the final match of the season for the teams and what a way to celebrate the game and their respective schools.
* Jon Harris is a Wynberg Old Boy.