New coach at the helm for False Bay RFC

Members of False Bay Rugby Football Club Johnno van der Walt, Ryan Williams and Gunner Hughes.

False Bay Rugby Football Club (RFC), under the guidance of new coach, Andrew “Gunner” Hughes, has started their pre-season training at Wynberg Military Camp.

No, it’s not a boot camp or something along the lines of the infamous Kamp Staaldraad, rather a simple case of logistics as the Constantia fields are undergoing rehabilitation after a particularly gruelling programme of matches across the team spectrum.

Just as the pitches are being prepared for a gruelling season, so is Hughes working on his player base to get them ready for what promises to be a very competitive SLA 2023, where the tag of defending champions makes them a target for all.

Hughes is no stranger to the team nor the club. He has been a part of the coaching panel since 2016, which included the SLA 2016 Championship and the Gold Cup 2017 National Championship. He has intimate knowledge of the player base and is an innovative thinker and charismatic motivator of players.

Hughes’s experience of working closely with outgoing coach, Johnno van der Walt, afforded him a front row view of what is required to prepare a squad; maximise resources; strategise according to the strengths and weaknesses of each opponent. Although assistant coach, Ryan “Slab” Williams has also taken a break, his role and skills as video analyst is not lost to the Bay and Hughes.

False Bay experienced an extraordinarily successful season across the board this year. Bagging their fourth “Premier” title in 93 years of existence, the 1972 Grand Challenge win, the 2016 SLA victory, 2017 Gold Cup championship, and this year’s SLA title, the club enjoyed a remarkable season.

Their Second XV were unbeaten and won their league; their Third Team ended in the top three; their Reserve League teams all fared exceptionally and occupied top three positions mostly. The Bay under-20 As ended third on the table, bagging the scalps of UCT and Maties in a truly remarkable season.

The ravages of Covid-19 left the WP under-20 section limited, the under-20 League to just an A-section; quite sad as many clubs were positioned to field more than one team. The UCT Internal League kindly invited False Bay’s under-20B squad to participate in their league, where they ended third on the table, a truly remarkable achievement.

The darlings of the club, the Bay Women’s team, ended second in the inaugural Women’s Rugby League and have added a new and thoroughly enjoyable dimension for the club rugby enthusiast. This section will again be headed by Zoe Naude and her assistant coach, Ryan Henry.

Hughes’s First XV coaching panel includes Pieter Benade on skills and Shawn van Rensburg as forwards coach. Club scrum coach, Ashley Wells is taking a break and the prototype of the modern prop, Springbok Keith Andrews, steps into this role. His knowledge and skill will be of great value to the Bay and solid support to Hughes.

The Second XV will again be coached by Ryan van Niekerk, while Chris Hewetsen and Frans Boshoff continue their successful roles with the Third Team.

The all-important U-20 section, the receptor to club rugby for young school-leavers is headed by Chris de Klerk and Kwaks Ngwanya, again supported by Richard Lawson, the former provincial centre, who was pivotal in the U-20A’s success this last season.

A full list of coaches, medics and role-players will make this report resemble a telephone directory, but the essence is that continuity across the board has been retained and with players already busy with pre-season training and fitness, buy-in from this segment is clearly evident. The depth at the club is clearly evident, demonstrated by the results of the teams including the U-20s. This means that competition for places in the top spots will be keen.

“Training at the Wynberg Military Camp and False Bay Crossfit has been enthusiastic, clear intent for the new season already obvious,” says Hughes. “From a player’s perspective, it has been exciting. The main priority for me at this stage is maintaining the services of the First Team players who won the SLA 2022 and we have a wealth of talent from the Seconds and under-20s coming up.”

• Jon Harris is a member of False Bay RFC.