The schoolboy derbies hosted by Paul Roos and Rondebosch are the highlights of a weekend which also offers the final round of SA Schools fixtures, writes DYLAN JACK.
As schools start to turn their attention to summer sports, the final weekend of schoolboys rugby action has a number of highlights, most of those taking place in the Western Cape.
As a starter, this Saturday is the final day of the U18 International Series, with the SA Schools and SA Schools A sides both in action at Hugenote High in Wellington.
The SA Schools side, victorious in both their matches against Wales (23-13) and Argentina (48-14), take on the England U18s, who lost their opener against Argentina but were able to bounce back with a narrow win over France.
Meanwhile, the SA Schools A team will be on the hunt for their first win of the series against Argentina. Following a disappointing opener against France, the A side bounced back and were able to claim a 31-31 draw against with on Tuesday.
It is strange that the U18 International Series still clashes with the conclusion of the schools rugby calendar as it means a number of players will miss the opportunity to play a final derby for their respective 1st XVs. It also results in a split in the spectator base that will undoubtedly see more people in Rondebosch or Stellenbosch than in Wellington, which is a pity as it would be something amazing for schoolboys to represent their country in front of packed stands.
However, it is what it is and in the first of two major derbies this weekend Bishops and Rondebosch play their return match at Rondebosch Boys’ High.
Bishops were able to grab a 36-26 win in the first half of the season this year, thanks to a strong second half where wing Luca Liebenberg scored a hat-trick. While Bishops have struggled against the Paarl and Stellenbosch schools, they have been top of the Southern Suburbs schools this year, claiming doubles over both Wynberg and SACS.
Rondebosch, meanwhile, started the season well, claiming especially good results at the St Stithians Easter Festival where they beat St Andrew’s, Grey High and Northcliff. However, the second half of the season has been far tougher for the 1st XV, as they lost three consecutive matches against Paarl Gim, Wynberg and Paarl Boys’ High. They did bounce back with a 24-5 win over SACS and will look to end the season on a high with a morale-boosting victory.
Later in the day, the highlight of the schools calendar takes place as Paul Roos host Grey College in their annual derby.
The match has traditionally closed off the schools rugby season and will do so again this year in what is expected to be a fiery encounter at the Markötter.
The schools first played against each other in 1967. Annual derbies started in 1988 and in 1992 the entire schools started participating in the Interschools. Since 1967 Grey and Paul Roos have met 35 times, with Grey winning 26 of these encounters.
Paul Roos have had a tough season after travelling to Japan for the Sanix World Schools Festival. While they were crowned kings of the tournament, beating two New Zealand schools convincingly in the process, it did make their season difficult to manage, especially after they lost their captain and two centres to injury. Despite this they have produced good results, only losing to the two Paarl giants and winning the rest of their fixtures.
However, they face a tough prospect against Grey College, who have continued their unbeaten run through this year and are currently 29 games without a loss from the beginning of 2018. Grey have been victims of their own success, as they have lost five players, including No 8 George Cronje, as well as coach Wessel du Plessis, to the SA Schools system.
Further north, the Virseker Cup final will be taking place in Pretoria. Menlopark have a major opportunity to claim their first-ever title against Helpmekaar, who have also beaten the odds to make it into the final.
Photo: Bertram Malgas/Gallo Images