It’s crunch time for False Bay RFC as they face Stellenbosch University at City Park in the semi-finals of SLA2022 on Saturday.
Coach Johnno van der Walt has had his work cut out for him in trying to keep his team fresh, motivated and sharp.
By time the Bay takes to the pitch on Saturday, it would have been four weeks since their last outing, a narrow 20-16victory over UCT at Groote Schuur. Both Ikeys and Maties played in the quarter-finals a fortnight ago, so have a little more recent match action than False Bay and DurBell, first- and second-place finishers at the end of the round robin stage.
False Bay beat Maties in this season’s league match at Constantia, but the students will be a different entity on Saturday, their experience in knockout stages equipping them to up the intensity.
Saturday’s encounter is potentially the last match in which Van der Walt and his assistant, Ryan “Slab“ Williams will be at the helm. After 10 years of coaching False Bay, the talented duo are retiring to allow younger blood the opportunity to steer the Bay through the next phase of its existence. The prospect of departing on a loss is certainly not something they would like to endure, the players determined to send off their coaches on a high.
Indeed their record is nothing short of remarkable. In 173 matches played under Van der Walt, False Bay has won 152 of them, lost 19 and drawn 2, an impressive spread indeed.
Maties dispatched of UniMil in the quarter-finals almost a fortnight ago. “Millies“ rocked Maties in the league stage by soundly beating the students and the reversal in the quarter-finals is proof that Maties pride runs deep and two losses to the same club in one season is indeed very rare.
Whatever theories put forward in a preview such as this, it is merely the opinion of the writer, detached from the team. The reality is vastly different. Underdogs or favourites, both teams take to the pitch with a clear plan, with the intention to execute at pace with minimal errors.
Van der Walt, in an effort to keep his team fresh and relaxed, has taken a low-key approach to training. In the four-week break, he cancelled practices for the first week, and then had his three sessions per week programme, but at a lower intensity. This week is all about focusing on match situations, attack, defence, set-pieces, etc.
Saturday at City Park promises to be an enthralling day of rugby, with matches starting at 11am. DurBell and UCT lock horns on the B-Field at the same time as the False Bay and Maties game, 4.30pm.
It will be well worth making the short trip to Athlone for the matches.
• Jon Harris is a member of False Bay Rugby Football Club.