False Bay started their 2017 season with an emphatic victory over Tygerberg in the first of their warm-up matches played at Florida Park on Saturday. The final score was 33-17 after the Bay lead 14-3 at the break.
Depth of talent is central to the success of the Bay this season and considering a number of their normally first choice players were absent, depth abounds at the Constantia club. Resounding victories by their second and third teams underlined the depth available to coaches in the set up.
These warm-up matches are as competitive as league contests and the desire for victory is often hidden behind a thin veneer of disinterest in the result. It may not be as important as getting the plays right and combinations clicking, but victory creates a positive mindset for which both teams were hungry.
This attitude was perhaps best demonstrated in the first quarter by the contrasting approaches of the teams in terms of penalty options.
The Bay opted to put their front row to the test immediately, opting to scrum when awarded penalties in the opposition’s red zone.
Young prop, Simon Raw, up against the gargantuan provincial prop Tiny van Wyk, passed his test with flying colours, negating the destructive powers of Van Wyk come scrum time.
He not only scrummed well on the day, but carried the ball well and featured positively on the tackle count list.
Tygerberg throughout the match opted to kick for points whenever given the opportunity, keeping their own scoreboard ticking over and bringing themselves within two points early in the second half, their passionate supporters spurring them on to an upset. Florida Park is a wonderful venue but can be a stark battleground for the on-pitch warriors as the home support add weight to their team’s efforts.
“I arranged this fixture last year September while Gold Cup was still on the go as I knew we would play Tygerberg away in the league,” says False Bay coach Johnathan van der Walt. “I wanted all players in the club to come out and get the experience of Florida Park behind them.”
Van der Walt delayed the start of his training to January due to his team’s late finish to their season last year, which ended in October when they contested the final of the Gold Cup, South Africa’s national club championships.
The players were hungry and eager to impress, multiple newcomers grabbing the opportunity to stake claims in the absence of established stalwarts. Scrumhalf Niyaaz Johnson was one, a livewire behind the scrum, his energetic play was rewarded with a quality try which started with an 80metre counter-attack, highlighting the Bay’s attacking power in the backline.
“With eleven new faces in the Firsts, it was never going to be plain sailing but I thought the guys did well under the circumstances”, said Van der Walt.
“A few guys stood up and put their hands up for future contention, which is all a coach can want”.
In all, the Bay scored five tries to one, their enterprise and desire to run impressive.
Yes, there were inaccuracies in play; dropped balls and misdirected passes, but when they got it right, it enthralled all present and surely encouraged the coaching staff.
Newcomer Michael Botha, although rusty, showed great promise and wing Jacques van Staden was industrious with ball in hand.
Right wing Roemark Smith continues to impress and was rewarded for his efforts with a brace of tries, the first oozed flair which saw quickly recycled breakdown ball creating space for the quick backs.
The final pass saw Mustaqueem Jappie execute an audacious behind-the-back pass to Smith, who then chipped and collected to complete the score.
In the second half, the Bay encountered a different Tygerberg who kept the visitors pinned down in their own half for much of the opening quarter hour of the stanza.
During this time, wing Elroy Brandt converted three penalties to bring the score to within two points and then flyhalf Wayne Petersen produced a piece of magic which could have turned the game on its head.
From a lineout, he chipped over the rapidly advancing Bay defence and dribbled the ball to the tryline. His last kick-through, slightly heavy, added the deadball line to the Bay’s defence and the visitors breathed a sigh of relief.
The Constantia team struck back with two tries, the second starting in their own quarter and executed with pace and crisp passing, the aforementioned Johnson completing the score. Replacement centre Josh Pinn added the Bay’s fifth try later.
Flyhalf Andri Claasen delivered a clean report card in the goalkicking department, converting all four of his conversion attempts.
He delivered his usual polished performance in general play before being afforded a rest in the fourth quarter.
For Tygerberg, centre Deon Taljaard converted one penalty while Brandt succeeded with four penalties and the conversion of his own try.
False Bay host Hamiltons in Constantia on Saturday in the second of their warm-up matches. Kick off is at 4pm. All are welcome.
Jon Harris is a member of False Bay RFC.