The much-anticipated Super League A (SLA) 2022 season kicked off on Saturday and it was clear to all out at Mamre RFC, where the “newly-promoted” hosts faced False Bay, that club rugby had been sorely missed. The Bay won 66-7.
The irony in describing Mamre as newly-promoted is very much intended, with the community club gaining promotion to the SLA at the end of 2019 and only getting their first chance at playing at this level more than two years later.
They proudly, but firmly with tongue-in-cheek, mentioned that it is the first game in more than two seasons which they had lost.
The Mamre pitch is lined with small stands, which were packed to the brim with passionate, committed supporters who cajoled their heroes with screams of encouragement, yet were never malicious in their appreciation of match proceedings.
It is on the wings of this passion that the players simply never gave up or resigned themselves to defeat. The evidence of how this working-man’s club has been debilitated by the recent pandemic is visible in the facility’s stripped buildings, yet two rugby fields hosting six matches and a netball court used to full capacity demonstrated the spirit of this town.
Mamre is coached by former Free State Cheetahs legend Gavin Passsens.
It would have been game on if Mamre had scored once or twice early in the contest. The passionate crowd would have become the extra man on the pitch and coming back would have been as difficult as climbing the nearby sand dunes.
The Bay’s Johnno van der Walt knew this all too well, but he would have surely silently fretted about False Bay’s tendency to camp in the Mamre quarter without converting to points. Scoring opportunities were squandered but as the half progressed, the Bay’s stranglehold tightened and the lifeblood was drained from the hosts.
Hamlets had the more-than-a-breeze behind their backs in the first half, exploiting this with clever kicks for territory and marauding attacks on the Bay lines.
Lock Jordi Jacobs, centre Brynn Gericke and full back Daylin Arendse, all impressed with their tireless work rate and refusal to succumb.
Arendse was rewarded with an excellent try, which he converted for his team’s points.
False Bay were strong. There is of course the usual player attrition but Van der Walt is blessed with the depth of his pool. Tighthead Tariq Allen formed a formidable unit with hooker Andre “Vlam” van Vuuren and loosehead, Dave Geffen. Starting lock Adam de Carvalho and his replacement Umar Salie did the hard stuff and shone in the loose. Centre Muzi van der Hoven, a product of the Bay’s under-20s, impressed with his silky skills and was full value for his two tries on the day.
Scrumhalf Niyaaz Johnson, his half-back partner Ewan Adams were full value on the day.
In all False Bay scored 10 tries, of which Adams converted eight and they can be happy with the start they have given themselves.
A special mention should be made of young referee, Andre Witbooi, who managed the main fixture exceptionally well after Elias Jacobs was forced to withdraw late in the first half. Witbooi handled the match professionally without allowing the occasion to overwhelm.
The Bay host their friendly rivals from Claremont, Villager RFC, on Saturday. The Brooksiders did not have an easy introduction to SLA 2022 when they were soundly beaten by Maties 7-90 at home, but derbies are always special occasions and this club day, the first with spectators in attendance since before the pandemic, is a very special occasion indeed.
Villager will most certainly rise to the occasion, with many of the supporters making their way to the Bay to witness an always entertaining day of rugby.Matches start at 1.30 with the main fixture kicking off at 4pm. Spectators are welcome.