By Dries Badenhorst – As epic rugby clashes go, the u19 Interschools match between Curro Durbanville and Curro Langebaan, this past weekend, produced everything that a rugby lover could ask for.
For Curro Durbanville, whom have never walked off the field as interschools victors, this particular match was beforehand billed as the most important match in the school’s young rugby history. Similar to some of our national sports teams, this team’s rugby résumé was riddled with tales of “so near but yet so far.”
A very narrow loss, the week before against the highly rated Glenwood House, galvanised these boys into a strong unit that refused to consider defeat. There was a totally different atmosphere during the week’s preparations, as the intensity was visibly higher. In their minds Glenwood House was the last game where this group of players would deal with the emotions of being denied a famous victory.
Some would ask what the big deal is. The big deal is that in a school with only twenty u19 players, a watershed moment is required to ignite interest in the sport. The reality is that the results of a school’s u19 rugby team is the best vehicle to market the school. Many Curro Durbanville Primary School rugby players leave Curro after grade 7 to pursue their ruby ambitions at the bigger “rugby schools” in the Northern Suburbs. It was thus a match and victory, such as the one that was achieved this weekend, that made all younger learners (and their parents) sit up and take notice of what the school has to offer on the rugby field.
But enough about that.
From the moment that the game started, it was clear that both teams had a lot to play for. As the one team wanted to get rid of the losers tag, the other wanted to keep their undefeated status intact.
The first half failed to produce any points on the scoreboard, for either side. It was an arm wrestle to try and get dominance over the opposition. The lack of points did however not mean that it was bad quality rugby. The game flowed nicely as both teams created many scoring opportunities.
A lack of patience however led to bad execution when the scoring opportunities presented itself. It was initially the boys of Durbanville that dominated the exchanges. Their powerful forwards gave the backline front foot ball and allowed them to cross the advantage line on many occasions. They also ensured that the game was mostly played in Langebaan’s half. Credit must however be given to the Langebaan defence that kept the visitors away from their try line.
The determined defence of Langebaan infused them with confidence as they started taking control of matters in second quarter of the match. Their forwards slowly but surely managed to turn the tables as they managed to provide their backline with more quality possession.
It was now time for Durbanville to show their character on defence. In the backline it was Hanre Steynberg, centre for Durbanville, who set the tone on defence. He not only organised the defensive line to perfection, but also made aggressive tackle after tackle to take the sting out of the Langebaan attack. Besides his man on man defence he also managed to get in the way of Langebaan’s outside centre and wing to starve their wings of quality ball.
It was clear that Langebaan wanted to attack the centre channel with their centres and fullback entering the line at speed. The ruthless defence of Durbanville however maintained their intensity to frustrate the boys from Langebaan.
In the second half Langebaan decided to change their strategy by playing a more direct game with their forwards. An early try, meant that they took a 7 point lead. Playing against the wind, their shift in strategy seemed to work as they initially starved Durbanville of possession in the 3rd quarter. They maintained their dominance upfront and also got the better of Durbanville’s 1st phase opportunities. It was especially in lineouts where Durbanville’s game fell apart.
With 20 minutes of the game to go, Coach Janes Benadé systematically introduced his bench to combat the dominant forwards of Langebaan. This strategy seemed to work, as Durbanville wrestled possession back in the final quarter. This possession meant that their backline got another opportunity to showcase their skills. Powerful runs from Johan Coertzen (inside centre) and especially the fullback, Israel Israfeel, slowly but surely created space on the outside. As in the 1st half, opportunities were created but not converted into points.
With 14 minutes to go, Johan however managed to get a ball to Israel at pace who made valuable yards before passing to the ever present Hanre on the 22 meter line of Langebaan. Hanre however had a lot of work to do, as three defenders surrounded him close to the touchline. He however backed his pace as he ran over the 1st defender, and showcasing his strength as he made the last few meters with two defenders on his back. He was brought down centimetres from the line but somehow managed to place the ball over the line with one hand.
Scoring in the corner, Marno Stander had a difficult conversion kick to level the scores. He absorbed the pressure and struck the ball perfectly to convert the try.
The next 12 minutes felt like an eternity as both teams threw everything they had at one another. Every spectator was on the edge of his/her seat. It was now just a question of character and of who wants it the most.
The looser nature of the game seemed to suite Durbanville better and it was them who threatened to score.
Israel received the ball at pace on a few occasions and one felt that the winning score might come in a similar fashion as their 1st try. He just could not manage to get that final pass to Hanre.
In the last minute and with everything to play for, captain Johan broke the defensive line with one of his trademark power runs and managed to get his pass away to Reagan Damos. With the Langebaan cover defence racing to tackle him, he managed to step to the inside to create some space for a sprint to the try line. Still having to negotiate some defenders on his way to the winning try, he managed to get over the line with absolute determination.
And then something happened that has never happened before. As he stood up, he was met with his team, coaches and every Durbanville supporter in attendance around his shoulders. It was in this moment that I understood what this victory meant for these boys, but most importantly for Curro Durbanville. It was a magical moment that neither I, nor the spectators, coaches or players will ever forget. With no time left on the clock and with the field flooded with jubilant supporters, Curro Durbanville did not take the final conversion. The score, 12 – 7.
I believe that as time goes by and as this moment move further back into history, the memory of this victory will not only be cherished by those that were there, but will also be passed down to every rugby player who pull the Curro Durbanville jersey over his head. These boys will go down in Curro Durbanville rugby history as the pioneers of what is still to come. The class of 2017 will always be remembered.
The lessons are simple. Attitude, Character and Hard Work does equate to success. Never give up and ALWAYS play to the final whistle.