Forget the Boks, Boland vs WP is tops

Schoolboy coach Petros Augousti highlights a very different rugby match he experienced at the same time as the Boks vs All Blacks Test on Saturday.

Two of the biggest rugby matches in history starting at the same time – how could fate be so fickle as to make us choose?

In the end the bigger of the two matches, at least in the eyes of thousands of spectators, won over and with the strains of the haka drowned out, the derby of all derbies kicked off.

Instead of watching the Springboks take on New Zealand in the air-conditioned club house of Oakdale High School in Riversdale, the spectators lined the fields and filled the grandstand as Western Province A kicked off against bitter rivals Boland A in the final of the U12 Coastal Tournament.

Aaron Smith had just started stretching his tongue as the eye-bulging rendition of Kapo o Pango kicked off when the crowd started baying: ‘WP JOU LEKKA DING, WP JOU LEKKA DING!’

The rivalry between Western Province and Boland stretches back many years, and with the Paarl schools opting to turn out for the blue-and-white stripes many moons ago, the feelings are raw, real and invoke as much passion as any silly old haka.

The hundreds of players, from Grey PE to Brackenfell, were not interested in the angle of Faf de Klerk’s box kicks, the perceived one-eyed raven Jerome Garces nor the swift feet of Cheslin Kolbe. They were too busy watching the biggest match of the festival.

Boland A had glided into the final on the back of a solid win over hosts SWD and a thumping of the EP Kings and were expected to show the WP team no respite.

Province only managed to sneak into the final after losing to SWD narrowly and then comfortably defeating the EP Kings.

The final was played at a frenetic pace, and even though the boys were exhausted after a long week of rugby they had enough in their tank to keep the spectators from drifting into the club house and watch Kolbe turn on the gas. There were too many Cheslins on the park as it was.

Western Province made the early running and eventually ran out 19-10 winners in an absorbing encounter.

I had a birds-eye view of the action being part of the WP coaching team and I was taken aback by the level of attention these 11-year-olds get. There were pre-match meals (J&M Biltong), video analysts (I-Sport), heart-rate monitors, physios, medics, strapping, meal plans and statistical spreadsheets for the coaches (Matchpoint).

This was as close to professional rugby as any pre-teen will ever get. This will only increase with time as the boys start preparing for life after … PRIMARY SCHOOL.

The boys, parents and coaches were all abuzz with talk of bursaries, scholarships and preferred scholastic destinations and it will be interesting to see, out of the 250 odd players, how many will get into the ‘big’ schools.

WP took 75 players, made up into three teams and every one of those players could be strutting their stuff for the Boks one day, maybe at the 2031 World Cup, wherever that may be.

The WP B team finished the weekend undefeated, winning four out of four games, while the WP XV won five out of five matches.