Affies sink Maritzburg College in late-season schoolboy clash
In the first set of schoolboy rugby matches since Craven Week, Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool continued their outstanding season to overcome rivals Maritzburg College 29-12 in an entertaining encounter in Pietermaritzburg.
‘We’re very happy with the win. With the build-up to the match, we always knew it was going to be tough. It’s always tough against Maritzburg at Goldstone so we were preparing for a very hard battle,” Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool (Affies) head coach Ruan Jacobs told Daily Maverick.
Affies got off to a brilliant start with their flyhalf and captain Stehan Heymans — who was also selected for the SA Schools side after his excellent Craven Week display for the Blue Bulls — playing the territorial game, keeping play in the Maritzburg half with his educated right boot.
A combination of patient build-up play and well executed passing led to the opening try by right wing Gustav Maritz, cantering home with lots of green grass in front of him.
Heymans hit the upright with his conversion attempt from out wide, a rare sight for the accurate sharpshooter.
The Wit Bulle [White Bulls], as Affies are affectionately known because of their proximity to Loftus Versfeld and the Blue Bulls rugby union, showed the strength of their pack with an excellent driving maul try scored by hooker Hanro Venter.
It was Venter’s 17th try of the season — most originating from the back of driving mauls — to add to the three tries he scored at Craven Week for the junior Blue Bulls.
“I think it’s down to the players having the discipline to execute the skill [of mauling]. At Affies, we’re very lucky to have one of the best forward coaches in South Africa in Jaco Koch. He works a lot with the forwards… his skill in coaching a maul is very good,” said Jacobs.
“That’s why the combination between very good players and one of the best forward coaches in South Africa culminates in what you see on a Saturday. Even though we’re not the biggest pack in South Africa, we’re very disciplined.”
Heymans rectified his earlier miss by converting from virtually the same spot moments later, giving Affies a 12-0 lead within 14 minutes.
A succession of driving mauls and close carries by the Affies forward pack ensured they increased their lead in no time, with lock forward Anton Grotius reaping the reward of the hard work of his whole pack. The away side led 19-0 with 19 minutes on the clock.
“I was very happy with the way we started because the message was to just get out of the blocks as quickly as possible and I think we did that. We kept them very quiet in the first half-hour, which we were very happy about,” said Jacobs.
Courageous defence and excellent breakdown work by Maritzburg College’s forwards — cheered on by their home crowd — stopped the bleeding for the side from KwaZulu-Natal.
Maritzburg eventually built some momentum and fought their way into Affies’ half through the hard work of their forward pack. A scrum inside Affies’ 22 was Maritzburg’s best opportunity for points in the match.
A perfectly timed reverse line by outside centre Lile Bester — who was also selected as outside centre for SA Schools — from the base of the scrum left the Affies defence flat-footed and unsure of what had happened, as Bester coasted over for his side’s first points of the match.
The score read 19-7 at halftime.
A moment of magic at the start of the second half, by fullback Sphakanyiswa Ngcobo, gave Maritzburg College a sniff of a comeback win.
Superb work by the host’s forward pack once again saw them deep in Affies territory. With play going right for several phases, Ngcobo called the ball left from scrumhalf AJ Knoetze. With seemingly nothing going on in front of him, the fullback dabbed the ball through with his weaker right boot and regathered the ball over the line himself to score a wonderful solo try.
Momentum continued to swing Maritzburg’s way as their set-piece picked up from the first half.
“It’s a combination of us being a little bit complacent and the referee punishing us on any small mistakes we made,” said Jacobs.
“We weren’t as clinical as we wanted to be after halftime, but we spoke about it before the match. We knew there would be 15 or 20 minutes where we’re going to be under massive pressure against Maritzburg [College] at Goldstone, which is always the case.”
Unfortunately for Maritzburg, they were unable to take their opportunities. Knoetze missed the conversion of Ngcobo’s try, as well as two relatively easy penalties in succession, to let Affies off the hook.
Neither team was able to pull ahead as the score remained at 12-19 for a long period of the second half. Maritzburg continued to squander opportunities, despite incessant pressure on the Affies line.
Affies absorbed the pressure well and eventually began to feel their way back into the match through the boot of Heymans, who converted a simple penalty chance to stretch his side’s lead to 22-12 with less than five minutes to go.
“I think we did well in riding out the storm, because the last 10 minutes we came back and we were like we were in the first half again. I think it’s a bit of a lapse in concentration and us not being clinical enough. [Maritzburg] College and the ref just put pressure on us, which we expected,” said Jacobs.
Affies tighthead prop Zack Maritz scored next to the uprights with seconds left on the clock, to knock the last remaining steam from the Maritzburg pack. The try was characteristically converted by Heymans.
“[He’s] just a fantastic person as much as he is a very good rugby player. I think that’s why the people around him follow him so easily, because he’s a very good person off the field as well.
“He’s very dedicated to his craft — he kicks a lot on his own, he watches his games a lot — a guy like that, I give all the glory to him because of the work ethic he has off the field and the type of person he is,” said Jacobs about his skipper Heymans.
Maritzburg fought until the final whistle, but lost their umpteenth lineout inside Affies territory with time up on the clock.
Affies registered another win in an excellent season that has seen them lose only two matches.
“This group doesn’t have a good history against Maritzburg — they lost under-15 against them here in Pretoria — so it was a big talking point in the week to rectify that. There’s no better place to rectify it than at Maritzburg, so we’re very happy with the win,” said Jacobs.
“I think it’s just the boys that are really looking forward to playing every Saturday after two years of lockdown. These matrics, last time they played they were 15 years old. They’re really hungry to participate and just to play every Saturday with their friends.” DM
Selected results around the country:
Boland Landbou 13 Rondebosch 29
SACS 11 Paarl Boys High 33
Paul Roos 32 Wynberg 17
Paarl Gym 57 Bishops 26
Stellenberg 27 Outeniqua 17
Bellville 33 Durbanville 43
Oakdale 22 Drostdy 20
Selborne 27 Hudson Park 26
Framesby 14 Grey High 10
Grens 10 Queen’s 27
St Andrew’s 20 Marlow 20
Glenwood 54 Northwood 13
Maritzburg 12 Affies 29
Durban High 27 Kirkham 20
Pretoria Boys High 14 KES 17
Parktown 7 Jeppe 38
Menlopark 23 EG Jansen 19
Garsfontein 34 Helpmekaar 10
Marais Viljoen 34 Monument 47