The South African College High School (SACS) travel down the road the Diocesan College (Bishops) on Saturday. The two teams are thought to have first played each other in 1863, 150 years-ago, making this the oldest recorded rugby match in South Africa. SACS may be the oldest school in South Africa but the Bishops rugby heritage is massive, having amongst other things given their colours to the Springboks.
Bishops have been one of the top rugby schools in South Africa for the past three decades, perennially appearing in the Top 20 rankings. Having been the envy of all of their Southern Suburb rivals for a long time, 2012 saw them have a poor season by their high standards. One bad season in thirty years would seem an acceptable return to most but memories are short in the age of instant gratification and the swords were out in no time when Bishops lost to both SACS and Wynberg (home and away) in 2012.
This year coach Dave Mallett has assembled a good squad of players and has trimmed down his coaching team (Kevin Foote having left for the Western Force) and their results have been reasonably good thus far. They have won all the games they should have and have been desperately unlucky on a number of occasions. A draw to Paul Roos away (22-all) was followed by a loss to Paarl Boishaai, 22-18 (having led 18-8 with ten minutes to play). Their other defeat was to Pretoria Boy’s High when it seemed for all money as if flank Wesley White has scored a legitimate try to win them the game.
Like all good Bishops teams over the years this side has a potent back-three who can punish opponents on the counter-attack. Similarly Bishop’s loose-forwards have always been a key component of their running brand of rugby and this year in Wesley White they have a hard, abrasive flank whose style is perfectly complemented by the free-running No. 8 Suad Abrahams. Abrahams, who went to SACS Junior, is a potential game breaker who will have to be closely marked.
In Herman Share Bishops have a very talented flyhalf who has the ability to vary his play. Unlike many of his predecessors he has the ability to kick for position should the conditions or the situation require it, while his running and passing game is equally impressive. His kick-offs are something to behold and the Piley Rees field hasn’t seen such skyscrapers since the days of Herschelle Gibbs.
SACS have played two of the same opponents as Bishops. SACS also lost narrowly to Pretoria Boy’s High at the St. Stithians Easter Festival but copped a hiding at home two weeks ago from Paul Roos. SACS have no real stars and rely on a solid structure and good team spirit to pull them through. Lock Dean Basson has carried the ball well this year but SACS will miss his sidekick, hooker Struan Murray, who is out injured. Shane Fourie has kicked well at poles this year and has enabled SACS to regularly convert pressure into points.
These local derbies are usually won the team who makes fewer mistakes and is hungrier on the day. Having lost to SACS the last three times they have played, the last time by a record score at home, Bishops will not lack for motivation. For their part, SACS will want to try and build on their recent successes against their close rivals. It promises to be a highly charged encounter. May rugby be the winner!
15. Seb Roodt 14 Aidan Deary 13 Richard Rodgers 12 Keagan Wheeler (C) 11 Matthew Wadling 10 Shane Fourie 9 Michael Henning 8 Devon Barnard 7 Justin Williams 6 James Ambler-Smith 5 Dean Basson 4 Justin Joubert 3 Yandisa Maqenukana (VC) 2 Travis Raa 1 Joel MacQuene
Venue: Piley Rees Field (Bishops)
Referee: Joey Salmans
Weather: 10/23 °C Wind: 6km/h SE 0% Chance of Rain