- After months of hype and anticipation, the rugby poles were finally hoisted up on a misty and rain-soaked Lower Field in Grahamstown in anticipation of the clash between Nico Malan and St Andrew’s College.
Nico Malan, from Humansdorp, made the 2.5 hour trip up to a foggy Grahamstown.
With Nico Malan already playing 3 games this season, they were filled with confidence arriving at St. Andrews College, who hadn’t played a game this season prior to the clash on Saturday.
With a few SAC first team players away for other sporting commitments, there were some great opportunities for younger players to step up for the St.Andrew’s side.
Both grade 11 backs, Lloyd Koster and Jason Thomas, made their full home debut for the First XV.
The Grahamstown boys had to be wary of the incredibly talented fly-half, Delron Dicken, who has represented his province at the Grant Khomo rugby week and also played alongside some St. Andrews boys while representing Eastern Province last year.
Nico Malan boasted a skilful backline, with the pacey winger Christiaan Denysschen always ready to break through any defence.
Nico Malan had dominated SAC in the earlier part of the day, with impressive wins in their u14, u15, and u16 age group. The Humansdorp school capitalising on the fact that they had already played 3 games this season.
In the senior age groups however, St Andrews played with intelligence and heart, beating the Nico Malan 3rds and 2nds, which gave all St Andrews boys some confidence before the main fixture of the day.
After a long day of exciting school boy rugby, the stage was finally set for the long anticipated first team clash.
St. Andrews came out firing almost immediately with a well worked try scored by Chris Poole, who was the last player to his feet ball after a strong rolling maul crossed the line.
From then on, St Andrews dominated play with the forward pack showing exactly what they were made of.
Wet conditions forced both teams into playing many crash balls throughout the game and we unfortunately didn’t see too many creative backline moves from either side.
Both teams coped incredibly well under the high ball and fullback Lloyd Koster launched many dangerous attacks from deep inside St Andrew’s own half.
Mid way through the first half, Dicken cleverly found a hole through the St Andrew’s defence and scored a beautiful solo try for Malan.
Scrum-half Chris Janse van Rensburg was always on hand to create chances for Malan and appeared not to be phased by the slippery conditions.
Unfortunately for Nico Malan, St Andrew’s kept the scoreboard ticking over with multiple tries from both the forwards and the backs.
The boys in blue seemed to be very well prepared for Saturday’s game, showing very little signs of any rustiness.
After the solo try scored from Dicken, Malan rarely managed to find a weakness in the St Andrews defence, barring a second half try from one of their substitutes.
Malan couldn’t find a way through the tight SAC defence, with the beefy inside centre Miles Danckwerts defending dominantly.
The away team’s wingers, Christiaan Denysschen, and Janku Heydenrych should be proud of their efforts though, as they always appeared to be dangerous on the outside.
Knock-ons weren’t uncommon in Saturdayʼs game due to the drizzle but the St Andrew’s forward pack outclassed Nico Malan in the scrum set piece.
Twin props, Basi and Bame Malesu, physically dominated the Humansdorp boys and the entire SAC pack looked clinical and incredibly well conditioned, thanks to the hard work of Sports Scientist & conditioning coach, Mr.Laurence Christie.
Home debutant Jason Thomas appeared to slot in seamlessly for the SAC side and didn’t seem as though he was out of place at all, or show any signs of nervousness. The young centre flew into tackles and scored a brilliant try. The season aheadappears to be a bright one for him.
As the game progressed, St. Andrews kept the Nico Malan defence honest and they kept their visitors on the back foot for the majority of the game.
Flyhalf Connor Stulich kicked with precision and converted the majority of St. Andrew’s tries.
When the final whistle blew, one could’ve called it a one-sided affair with Nico Malan never really looking as though they were capable of wrestling the game away from St Andrews.
The 1st XV had dominated in almost every aspect.
However, with SACS from Cape Town coming up for St. Andrew’s next weekend, the First XV boys should be wary of just how tough of a test their next fixture is but after their completely convincing display on Saturday, they should be full of confidence.
Credit must be given to Hoërskool Nico Malan though, with valiant efforts from their players throughout the match.
Dicken played phenomenally with a brilliant all round performance whilst controlling the entire Malan backline. His form will only improve as the season goes on.
The Malan boys should travel back to Humansdorp with their heads held high. They asked questions of impressive St.Andrew’s College teams all day, winning every game in their junior ranks.
Despite these gutsy performances, it was St. Andrew’s College’s day.
The team gave their home crowd a thrilling performance to remember.
Robbie Kirkpatrick – St Andrew’s College student