More than a year after last taking to the pitch, be it in a friendly or a league match, False Bay RFC travel to Strand on Saturday to face old friendly foes, Helderberg.
Nothing more can be said of the effect of Covid-19 on society and the economy, nor shall it be said in a sports report. Suffice it to say, the boys want to play and their dedication and commitment to training, even through hard lockdown, now manifests in an abbreviated season that starts for the Bay on Saturday.
SLA2021 will be vastly different to previous competitions. The 15-club league of 2019 (sans relegated teams but including the promoted Kuils River and Hamlets) will be split into two groups. Pool A comprises DurBell, False Bay, UniMil, Tygerberg, SKW, Villager and NTK, while Maties, UCT, UWC, Brackenfell, Hamiltons, Paarl, Kuils River and Hamlets make up Pool B. This means that the Round Robin stage of the season will be a six match affair for Pool A.
Helderberg RFC, intent on regaining their SLA status, have been just as hard at work since the cancellation of the leagues in 2020 was announced. Testimony to the work of the two clubs in keeping the interest alive is that both clubs are able to contest four matches on Saturday, three senior and one under-20.
To put this into context, for the majority of the time since the 2020 season was cancelled last year, clubs had the daunting task of keeping the interest of their players without a goal at which to aim. For non-players this may not seem a challenge, but to retain interest in training without being able to complete the purpose is difficult for most, perhaps more of a challenge for the players.
Yet, Saturday sees almost 200 players between the two clubs take to the field, fully fit and well-prepared for an exciting day at the Charles Morkel Stadium in Strand.
Among the Bay’s half of that group are two players celebrating special milestones. Eighthman, Ryan “Vleis” Olivier will run on for his 200th False Bay First XV cap while lock Graham “Snoopy” Knoop makes his 150th appearance.
In accordance with Covid-19 protocol, the matches will be a no-spectator affair, somewhat disappointing in terms of the entertainment value on offer. Club rugby fans enjoy a special brand of spectatorship. It is rugby for all the senses, as they are close enough to touch the players after the match; feel the bone-crunching tackles mere metres away; hear the players communicating on attack and defence; smell the liniment and of course see top talent display their skills.
Modern communications come to the rescue as the game will be live-streamed on Saturday, which allows supporters around the world to share in the fun of the day. For details of the link, visit the Bay’s Facebook page, False Bay Rugby-Club.
The club has been phasing in a return to rugby in accordance with protocol. A practise match against UCT last week, including six of their Varsity Cup squad, saw the Bay triumph, an indicator of their preparedness for SLA2021.
This Friday the club’s Crocks take on Reserve League Champs False Bay FIFOs, in a no-spectator (and sadly no streaming) affair.
False Bay, however, are not alone in their endeavours to compete this season. There is a buzz of excitement around the peninsula as clubs ready themselves for the upcoming league. South Africans love being active, they love their sport and we are one step closer to some sort of normalisation with the return of club rugby.