False Bay RFC’s much-anticipated Super League A 2016 season launches when they travel to face newly-promoted NNK at the Jan Burger Stadium in Parow on Saturday.
The Bay, by their own design, have had a strenuous introduction to their season having accommodated UCT and Maties Varsity Cup squads in warm up matches in January and then embarking on a gruelling schedule of friendly matches, facing Hamiltons, Maties and Durbell on consecutive Saturdays, immediately before the recent long weekends.
All the huff and puff is now over and last year’s table is history. The “also-rans” of 2015 are determined to escape the nervous insecurity of the relegation zone.
That drop is tough and is an inevitable reality for two teams which falter along the way.
Traditionally there has been a marked difference between the top and bottom halves of the league but that chasm is rapidly becoming a crack as clubs identify just what is required to stay among the top 15 in the province and endeavour to become more competitive in the competition.
There appears to be a resurgence in club rugby, not only in terms of supporter attendances but in participation too.
The club game delivers visual stimulation in terms of rugby entertainment with the added experience of a social environment which lingers so much longer after the television has been switched off.
It is against this backdrop that SLA 2016 presents possibly its most intriguing plot for the rugby follower.
Fifteen teams who have worked hard at being where they are with the belief that on any day they can beat the best.
It is this scenario which presents a mouth-watering prospect at Parow on Saturday. NNK were unceremoniously dumped out of the SLA at the end of 2014, a bitter pill for an illustrious club with a number of SLA titles under the belt to swallow. Yet it is their recovery and subsequent re-entry to Super League A status which is the measurement of the fight within the dog but it is to be seen if they can maintain their momentum.
False Bay RFC may deliver the “been there bought the T-shirt” riposte having tasted the exhilaration of promotion and pain of relegation a few times over the last decade.
They are on the up and deservedly so having ended second to Maties in last year’s SLA and gaining automatic qualification for this year’s Community Cup in September.
The Bay is a well-balanced, experienced, well-coached team with a clear, demarcated, planned path for the season.
They intend, like last year, to take each game as it comes, always treating their opposition with respect.
NNK, are determined to make a mark. They have attracted some quality players and are coached by the talented Wilbur Kraak, a student of the game. Former provincial hooker Rayno Barnes is their most notable signing and his presence will be felt.
A “tale of the tape” comparison is churlish as the difference on the day will not be talent. Indeed attitude will be the difference and False Bay’s vast experience and cohesion will count for much but the NNK passion could derail their plans.
“We trust our squad” says False Bay Coach Johnno van der Walt.
“It’s about our processes; our set piece, breakdown, defence and attack”, he continued.
“It cannot only be about our opponents, who we respect. We have to execute and perform in those areas otherwise it will all be about our opponents”.
The WPRFU’s SLA competition promises to be an exciting affair with every participating team determined to deliver performances worthy of the status of being among the best in the province and the club rugby spectator stands to be the greatest benefactor of the competition. Join the migration.
Saturday’s match at the Jan Burger Stadium kicks off at 4pm. False Bay RFC host Belhar at Constantia on Saturday 9 April.
* Jon Harris is a member of False Bay RFC