With challenges of altitude and the Highveld heat to overcome, the harsh reality of knockout rugby could so easily have weighed heavily on the psyche of the visiting coastal team, but on the evidence of their opening quarter this did not appear to be the case.
False Bay is a balance of youth and experience and a blend of maturity, and Saturday’s performance was testimony to this.
The Constantia-based team entered the massive stadium, stands rising sharply into the air barely a stone’s throw from the sidelines, mostly empty as the throngs of fans expected at the ensuing Currie Cup semi-final between the Blue Bulls and Western Province were yet to arrive in any numbers.
Adding to the enormity of the occasion, the match was broadcast live on television, the cameras strategically placed around the ground, the big screens filled with action images of the players.
None of this seemed to bother the Bay as they gained the ascendancy from the kick-off, Graham Knoop chasing and forcing the receiver to spill the ball.
Police weathered the initial storm, working their way out of their quarter but False Bay were soon back on attack with a five metre lineout. This advantage was soon negated when the referee ruled that hooker Vlam van Vuuren, whose lineout inputs were outstanding on the day, had taken too long and the Bay found themselves back on the halfway line. From the ensuing lineout, the visitors hit up and spread the ball wide with quick hands and the lightning-fast Mustaqueem Jappie turned on the burners to dot down under the poles.
Flyhalf Andri Claasen converted and the message that False Bay were there to play rugby echoed through the stands.
Experts believe that the altitude has a “dark patch” which effects the players from about the 20th minute until around the 30th. It’s a tried and tested observation but of course the psychological effect of having that knowledge cannot be discounted.
Whatever the science behind the theory, the Bay certainly displayed signs of entering that negative zone. Clearly in the ascendancy during the opening quarter, the Constantia team missed some scoring opportunities.
The second 20-minute period saw the “Bobbies” creep back into the game through tries by wing Pieter Botha and later scrumhalf Andries van der Nest who collected a chip kick to score under the poles. Flyhalf Dillon Laubscher’s conversion reduced the Bay’s lead to a single point at the break and the outlook was not good for the visitors as they disappeared down the tunnel. Well not to the spectators anyway.
False Bay returned to the pitch with a plan for the second half, and their bench made a telling contribution to the game.
First up was replacement scrumhalf, Dylan Frylinck, a gap-finder of note, who exploited a chasm at the back of a lineout on the halfway line, to scythe through the Police defences and score under the posts. Claasen converted and minutes later he had everyone agog when he succeeded with a mammoth 60-metre penalty.
The Bay were on fire and there was no holding back.
Hooker Dasch Barber crashed over for a try and in the dying minutes, centre Jason Pretorius sold a bunch of dummies to score the Bay’s final try, Claasen converting.
Outstanding too for the Bay was evergreen flank Justin van Winkel, Knoop, lock Brandon Wood, prop Ashley Wells and centre Riaan O’Neill, although it may be remiss to highlight individual performances in a squad effort of note.
“We were by no means perfect on the day,” said Bay coach Johnno van der Walt.
“However to travel to Pretoria and play in ridiculous heat at altitude with not many water breaks, I thought the guys handled themselves well considering everything thrown at them.”
False Bay now travel to Durbanville on Sunday to play Durbanville-Bellville, the reigning Gold Cup Champions. Both clubs know so much about each other, this being our third clash of 2016 and come Sunday there will be a huge battle to make the final from both teams, but we will have to play above ourselves if we are to book a spot in the final”, says Van der Walt.
Kick off on Sunday is at 1pm and the match will be televised live on SuperSport.
Meanwhile, the False Bay Sevens team, “Blitzbay” have been impressing at the WP Sevens tournament held over seven weeks at Goodwood Sports Ground.
They are currently unbeaten after six matches and are showing improvement with each game. They are functioning well on attack and are playing with more cohesion on defence, testimony to this being them not conceding any tries in their three Round 2 matches.
“Fewer mistakes with ball in hand allow our runners plenty of opportunities, with flyers like Leon Oliver and Sheldon Fortune to be high up on the try scoring charts,” says Blitzbay coach Pieter Benade.
“A tough weekend awaits with four matches this Saturday against Young Stars, Langa and Strand before ending with the former champions UWC.”
Round 3 takes place at the Goodwood Sports Ground this Saturday with first matches starting at 10am.
Jon Harris is a member of False Bay RFC.