With Covid-19 having wreaked havoc with sport all around the world, including, of course, the schools’ rugby season, we’re taking a look back at some past teams and, on this occasion, we’ll focus mostly on the Michaelhouse 1st XV of 1986, which also had its own issues with quarantine. The side’s captain, Bruce Herbert, chatted with KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan.

Shortly after the start of the 1986 season, an outbreak of hepatitis saw the Michaelhouse 1st XV quarantined to the school sanatorium for three weeks, (the rest of the school continued to function normally) undermining the form of a very talented side, which produced five Natal Schools’ players, including Bruce Herbert (prop), Philip King (hooker), John Pool (lock), Richard Firth (flank) and Murray Collins (scrumhalf). That was, at the time, a Michaelhouse record.

Bruce started in the 1st XV in 1985, having made the move straight from under-15 A after the departure of Mike Reilly, which opened up a place at tighthead prop. He was still 15 when he made his debut on a pre-season tour to East London against Selborne College. Up against players three or four years older than he was, it was no surprise he termed it “a massive baptism of fire”.

Michaelhouse were captained by Wayne Witherspoon, who was an excellent mentor, said Bruce. He used the lessons he learnt from Wayne when he was appointed captain the following year.

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The 1985 Michaelhouse 1st XV, captained by Wayne Witherspoon. Bruce Herbert is directly behind him.

He also mentioned some standout memories of the 1985 season:

Facing Glenwood at Glenwood, ‘House were 3-6 down, but they had a penalty right in front of the uprights to draw level. Victor Anderson, the fullback, who played Natal Schools in both 1985 and 1986, duly slotted the ball between the posts to make it 6-6. But… The referee ruled that Richard Firth had been in front of Anderson and the successful kick was disallowed.

“Richard was next to me and we were definitely behind the kicker,” Bruce reckoned.

There was a late escape against Kearsney in a match played in Botha’s Hill. Down by a few points, Michaelhouse faced a 22m drop out from the home side. The kick didn’t gain much height and lock Sean Stringer plucked it out of the air before racing through to score to win the game for ‘House.

Then there was a game against Maritzburg College, a team that had lowered the colours of Grey College that year in a hugely anticipated showdown. Bruce reflected: “I remember thinking how small the College side looked before we ran on, a schoolboy error. I guess I was expecting much larger guys but, don’t get me wrong, they were tough. The loose head I scrummed against looked like a third year varsity student! Just remember, I was 16 years old.”

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Michaelhouse won the first of the Hilton/Michaelhouse derbies when Victor Anderson scored all of the red and white hoops’ points in the last minutes of the contest. Hilton reversed the result in the second clash, claiming a 12-6 win in an ill-tempered affair.

It was tough for a 16-year-old Bruce Herbert in 1985, but it was excellent preparation for 1986, even though he remained young, turning 17 in April.

To put it into context, Bruce was born in Eshowe hospital on 11 April 1969. Pete Smith, who attended Maritzburg College, was born in the same hospital the day before Bruce. Yet Bruce captained Michaelhouse in 1986 and Pete captained College in 1988, two years later! By then Bruce had played for two years for the Natal and SA Air Force under-20 teams.

Fortunately for Bruce, during his time at Michaelhouse he captained some very strong teams at age group level. He led the under-14 A team in 1983, the under-15 A side in 1984, and then moved up to the 1st XV the following year, culminating in him captaining the team in 1986.

The under-14 A team lost just one match in ’83, going down to DHS away from home, while the under-15 A side fell in their last game of the season only, going down to Hilton at home. “Methinks a bit of complacency crept in,” he ruefully admitted.

Along the way, though, there were wins over the always-strong Maritzburg College at both under-14 A and under-15 A level, as well as victories over the big government schools: Westville, DHS and Glenwood.

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Bruce attributed much of that success to the under-14 A coach, Gordon Paterson, who put together five excellent seasons while in charge of the team, with winning percentages of 92% in 1977, 85% in 1978, 100% in 1979, 80% in 1982 and 92% in 1983. He missed out on the 1980 and 1981 seasons because he was busy with his PhD at Stellenbosch University.

So, on to the 1986 1st XV. Statistically, it was the most successful Michaelhouse team of the 1980s, winning 14 and losing five games for a 74 percent winning mark. With four Natal Schools’ players in the pack and the Natal Schools’ scrumhalf, it was a powerhouse up front. But hepatitis likely cost them an even better record.

A win that stood out was a 52-32 defeat of the Old Crocks, who were loaded with former Natal provincial players, including former Springbok eighth-man and Natal skipper Tommy Bedford. That Old Crocks’ team included Tommy Bedford (c), Tim Cocks, Gary Joubert, Laurie Sharp, Tubby Hannaford, Robbie Savage, Garth Giles, Peter Ripley-Evans, Rodger Bond, Brian van Rooyen, Wally Watt, Dave Coleman, Brian van Zyl, Dick Cocks, and Matt Taylor.

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The clashes with DHS and Marizburg College were undermined by illness. College flyhalf Udo Goedeke, in an interview with KZN10’s Jono Cook in 2018, said Michaelhouse were favourites to win their showdown.

“I think they sensed victory and all their regulars were keen to play. Injury and illness meant quite a few had to pass late fitness tests.

“It was very close at halftime. We led 9-6. The second half was incredible. [SA Schools’ centre] Jeremy Thomson really turned it on for us. It turned into the Jeremy Thomson Show; he ripped their defence apart.

“The College team’s contribution was awesome. It was a massive second half for us. To be fair, I think the Michaelhouse injury and illness concerns pre-game were a contributing factor. They faded badly in that second half.”

The game ended 40-6 in College’s favour, which was testament to just how much the hepatitis had hit ‘House. The following week, the DHS game was a very close affair with the Durbanites edging it 12-10.

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Later in the season, Michaelhouse showed their true colours in a narrow defeat to Bishops at the Private Schools Rugby Festival at Hilton. Bishops were very much the Cape Town equivalent of College in those years and renowned for the flowing, attractive rugby they played under the legendary coach Basil Bey. To put it into perspective, the Bishops’ side was unbeaten in 1986, beating the likes of Paarl Gym, Paarl Boys High and Paul Roos (they didn’t play Grey College), as well as all the Cape’s southern suburbs schools. (SACS, Rondebosch, Wynberg etc.)

“We were unlucky to lose 13-18 to Bishops,” Bruce Herbert said. “We knocked on the ball over their line! As they say, could have, should have, would have.”

The Natal Witness carried a report on the Michaelhouse versus Bishops thriller.

At the same tournament, though, ‘House dominated Saint John’s 22-4 (remember tries were worth four points back then) and Saint Stithian’s 30-3.

They finished their season with narrow wins over Glenwood (18-15) and Hilton (19-17), but went down to Westville (18-29). “Westville had a really good game against us. We hammered them up front. However, they ran us off our feet with some really good speed and handling,” Bruce commented.

It was a remarkably closely contested season among Natal Schools: Michaelhouse beat Hilton twice, Hilton beat College on College Old Boys’ Day, College beat Michaelhouse, Glenwood beat College, College beat Glenwood, Michaelhouse beat Glenwood. The Kearsney vs Michaelhouse game was called off due to the hepatitis quarantine.

Natal Schools

That same year, Natal, coached by Dave Dell, and with six College boys, five from Michaelhouse, three from Westville, two from Hilton, one from Kearsney, one from Estcourt, one from Linpark and one from Glenwood enjoyed a strong showing at the Craven Week in Graaff-Reinet.

Michaelhouse’s Natal Schools’ representatives of 1986 with MHS masters: Bruce Herbert, Philip King, Rich Firth, Mr Gordon Paterson, John Pool, Murray Collins, and Mr Richard Aitchison.

The one player from Kearsney was Nkululeko “Skweegee” Skweyiya, the first ever black player to be selected for the Natal Craven Week team.

They opened their tournament against the always strong Northern Transvaal and after a tremendous tussle came away with a win, which was clinched through a penalty try after a late tackle on Jeremy Thomson. They followed that up with a narrow 4-6 loss to Eastern Province before beating Far North.

The Natal Schools’ team that competed in the 1986 Craven Week in Graaff-Reinet: 

Back row: Warren Wilson (Maritzburg College), Richard Firth (Michaelhouse), Richard Dolbey (Maritzburg College), John Pool (Michaelhouse), Sean Platford (Westville), Brenton Catterall (Maritzburg College), Sean Fry (Westville), Trevor Labuschagne (Glenwood).

Middle row: Murray Collins (Michaelhouse), Dallas Harris (Hilton College), Philip King (Michaelhouse), Udo Goedeke (Maritzburg College), Joe Fernandez (Linpark), Nkululeko Skweyiya (Kearsney), Leon van Rooyen (Escourt), Alastair Hawley (Westville).

Front row: Bruce Herbert, Dave Dell (coach), Anthony Gilson (Maritzburg College, captain), L. Kirkland (Manager), Carl Jankowitz, (Hilton College) Rod Blamey (chairman), Jeremy Thomson (Maritzburg College).

Jeremy Thomson and Leon van Rooyen (Estcourt) were selected for the South African Schools team. Bruce shared a story which Jeremy Thomson told him about the SA Schools’ team photo. Back then, of course, there were no digital cameras, so everything was done on film. Imagine the horror felt by the photographer when, after photographing the side for their official team shot, he went to develop the photos and discovered that he had failed to put any film in his camera!

Hilton/Michaelhouse derbies

Unsurprisingly, Bruce has particularly vivid memories of the Hilton vs Michaelhouse derbies in 1985 and 1986. “They were generally where the underdog often pulled off a remarkable win, like was the case in the first match at Michaelhouse in 1985,” he said. “The news coming from Hilton was that they were going to put 50 past us. Hilton had a good team and had had a successful season so far. As things turned out Victor Anderson scored all our points, scoring 13 points in the last eight minutes. I think we won 13-7.

“Etienne De Villiers who had been a teacher/coach at Michaelhouse for 16 years said that in all his time of watching Hilton/Michaelhouse matches this ’85 match was the best one that he had ever seen.”

Hilton wanted pay back and they got it in the rematch at Hilton, winning 12-6. “Both our Natal Schools Players, James Wilson (scrum half) and Victor Anderson (full back), got injured in the first 15 minutes and had to leave the field,” Bruce recalled. “The late tackle on Victor was so late that the video cameras had moved on and didn’t pick it up. James got a finger in his eye. I remember it being an ill-tempered match. I think the ref lost control to some extent. Quite a lot was said about the match for some time.”

In 1986, the first Hilton/Michaelhouse was played in front of television cameras and a massive crowd at Hilton. Bruce recalled: “As the Michaelhouse 1st XV got off the bus I was called to one side and interviewed on TV. My interview was never screened, only [Hilton captain] Dallas Harris’ interview was aired, much to the amusement of my mates and family. I don’t think I spoke clearly enough and/or maybe mumbled too much?

“Anyway, we did the business on the day, winning 9-7. Rowan Varner, the Hilton eighth-man (and SA Schools’ fast bowler) missed a penalty in the last seconds of the match, just skimming the left upright.

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The second match at Michaelhouse was a particularly memorable clash because of a stunning fightback from the home side. They were 0-14 down at the break (remembering that tries were worth four points at that time) and Hilton had crossed for three tries.

“I gave the team a serious bollocking at half time and to their credit we bounced back, winning 19-17. I think there were plenty Hilton parents and Hilton supporters that struggled to put the corks back into their champagne bottles as the final whistle sounded!” Bruce said. “Mike Jeffery scored two magnificent tries within minutes of each other.”

Sadly, Mike lost his life shortly afterwards in a car crash while travelling to Johannesburg.

RESULTS

Michaelhouse 36-3 Sandringham
Michaelhouse 16-4 Richards Bay
Michaelhouse 37-9 John Ross College
Michaelhouse vs Kearsney College – cancelled
Michaelhouse 29-15 Linpark
Michaelhouse 52-32 Old Crocks
Michaelhouse 22-9 Estcourt
Michaelhouse 18-30 Old Boys
Michaelhouse 40-0 Weston
Michaelhouse 6-40 Maritzburg College
Michaelhouse 10-12 DHS
Michaelhouse 15-0 Voortrekker
Michaelhouse 9-7 Hilton College
Michaelhouse 29-3 Alexandra
Michaelhouse 22-4 Saint John’s College
Michaelhouse 30-3 Saint Stithians College
Michaelhouse 13-18 Bishops
Michaelhouse 18-15 Glenwood
Michaelhouse 16-29 Westville Boys’ High
Michaelhouse 19-17 Hilton College

Played 19, won 14, lost 5
Points for: 437, points against: 250

Overseas Tour

At the end of November, Michaelhouse toured abroad for the first time. With final exams being written at the time, the side was afforded only seven Sundays of practice before their departure. It was a challenge, especially since the South African season had ended some months earlier.

Due to the sporting isolation of South Africa at the time, the team travelled in civvies.

The 1986 Michaelhouse 1st rugby team overseas touring party. Bruce Herbert is front and centre.

They played two matches, beating the Welsh side Pontarddulais 8-6 and then Sherbourne School of Dorset, one of England’s top school teams at that time, which included two England under-19 players in their ranks, 12-8.

But then the Michaelhouse team arrived back at their hotel to discover that the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) had overruled the Welsh Youth Rugby Union (WYRU) and declared in the press that the tour unacceptable.

The WYRU encouraged ‘House to continue with their tour but, Bruce remarked: “Effectively, we now became a team on the run.”

On 7 December, the match against Haverford West went ahead, but it was undone by the failure of the referee to arrive. A local coach took over the whistle and refereed in his Wellington boots! His blowing left a lot to be desired.

“No matter what we did, we were penalised out of the game and lost 6-8,” Bruce said. That match was followed by “a strange affair”, a 35 minute practice game against Monmouth, a local independent school, which ended with Michaelhouse 8-5 to the good.

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Next up was a visit to Sophia Gardens for an outing against a Cardiff Invitation XV on 14 December. A strong showing from Michaelhouse produced a good 22-8 victory, which was followed by a splendid function arranged by the hosts.

The next day, though, matters took a turn for the worse. BBC TV arrived at their hotel and asked to speak with the team. They had been advised not to talk to the media because no matter what they said their words would be turned against them. That evening they were on the 18:00 news.

“We became aware of a little red car tailing us when we were travelling in our two minibuses,” Bruce remembered. “Once or twice we were able to give the driver the slip. On one occasion we forced him onto an off ramp that we weren’t taking. As it sped past in its attempt to find an on-ramp, the driver received a wave and a cheer from all of us on the bus. We did not in any way feel threatened as this surveillance was proving to be a nuisance only.”

Questionable refereeing blighted Michaelhouse’s sixth match against a Monmouth Invitation XV, which saw ‘House beaten 12-4; the man who arranged the game also refereed it and had his son playing in the Invitation side.

Eight of the side then headed to Seefeld in Austria for two weeks of skiing, while the rest of the touring party flew back to South Africa from Heathrow.

Bruce Herbert concluded: “In summary, and I quote from Gordon Paterson’s Book, there is Genius in Passion, ‘While we had achieved a number of excellent results, we had not performed consistently to the full potential of the team during the first part of the season. To my mind the hepatitis had been a major factor that caused an early season glitch in our progress. Again, this is typical of life itself and the true test is the capacity to come back when you have been knocked down. I believe that they were revealing the skill, fitness, tenacity and sportsmanship that we wished to see as the example set by the first fifteen.'”

 

Having recently mentioned Jem Nel in a story on the brilliant 1987 Natal Schools’ cricket team on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/KZN10com/), KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan decided to also take a look at the Kearsney College 1st XV, captained by Jem, which that same year produced a season for the ages.

In recent times, Kearsney College has produced some exciting and very successful teams. They have also produced standout players; off the top of my head, internationals’ Brad Barritt, Matt Stevens, and the Du Preez brothers, Robert, Jean-Luc and Daniel, come to mind.

But a team that holds a special place in the heart of many in the Kearsney community is the 1st XV of 1987, a side renowned for an attractive and creative 15-man approach to the game.

They played 22 matches, won 18 of them, drew two others and lost to only one other school side, Maritzburg College, which had SA Schools’ flyhalf Udo Goedeke pulling the strings behind a powerhouse pack.

Their only other defeat was by just two points to an Old Crocks team featuring many former Natal players, 26-28. Sadly the Old Crocks no longer exist. Back in the day, they took on many of the top Natal schools and those matches were invariably superb skillful spectacles.

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A year earlier, before the great season of 1987, much was expected of the Kearsney 1st XV of 1986, but the side failed to live up to its potential. In 1987, expectations had been tempered by the slightly disappointing results of the previous year. Jem Nel, then in his third year in the 1st team, said in a recent chat: “I don’t think we were expected to do as well as we did. There was a bit of hype around ’86. When we started in ’87, there was no hype. There were a few guys coming back.”

While Kearsney started out their season with a bang, it ended with a huge loss when Natal Schools’ flanker Mitchell Reed broke an ankle in the last minute of a 34-3 thrashing of Michaelhouse. “I think he was the best schoolboy player I ever played with,” Jem reckoned.

Like Reed, he also earned Natal Schools’ colours. Unfortunately that came only after the Craven Week.

He recalled: “Mike Falkson, my good mate from Westville, got chosen ahead of me. But there was an injury, so I got called up at the last minute.” Mitch Reed and Jem Nel were the only two from Kearsney to make the Natal Schools’ team that year, which is testament to the superb teamwork of the side.

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Jem fondly remembers that season-opening win over Michaelhouse: “We hammered them. In my whole school career, that gave me the most satisfaction. That was the best rugby game we ever played. It was our first game of the season at Kearsney. It was brilliant to play, surrounded by the huge trees. It was fantastic.”

And there was always a little extra in it for Jem whenever Kearsney took on Michaelhouse: “You might remember, I didn’t get into Michaelhouse. I was going to go from Clifton [Nottingham Road] to Michaelhouse and I failed the entrance exam,” he laughed.

“I played sport against Michaelhouse for five years in cricket and rugby and I never lost to them, which was quite satisfying.”

Having mentioned Clifton, there was a remarkable occurrence in 1987, which Jem pointed out, and it’s something that one wonders whether or not it has happened before or since. He explained: “In 1987, the captain of Hilton was Rory Dyer and the captain of Michaelhouse was Bruce Herbert. I was captain of Kearsney. All three of us were from Clifton.” (Bruce has since pointed out that he was, in fact, captain of Michaelhouse in 1986. I attended Clifton at the same time as those guys and was there from 1978 to 1983. When I started there were 120 boys in the school and when I finished there were 150, so an incredible achievement from a very small school, nonetheless).

The author of this story, Brad Morgan (front left), next to Jem Nel (second from left), with 1987 Hilton College captain Rory Dyer to the right of teacher John Farren. Craig Hanbury-King, who played in the Kearsney 1st XV of 1987, is featured second from left in the middle row. Bruce Herbert, the 1986 Michaelhouse captain, is third from the left in the third row.

The two draws – 13-13 against a Westville team that included SA Schools’ player Errol Stewart and 6-6 against Hilton – were very different games, Jem shared.

“We played Westville at Westville on Bowden’s. I think we were a better team than them, but they gave us a hard time. I think it was a lucky draw for us. We scored a try and I think there were about 13 bodies under the ball!

“The other draw was against Hilton, where we played poorly. All they did all day was kick the ball on our fullback and wing. They kicked up-and-unders all day and it was a terrible game. That wasn’t a great draw, but I think the Westville draw was a great draw, because I don’t think we deserved it,” he said candidly.

Back then, Kearsney had only about 530 pupils, but they defeated all the big government schools, apart from Maritzburg College and Westville. There were some tight games among them. They won 15-7 against DHS and 9-8 against Glenwood.

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A tour to Johannesburg included two big wins – 34-0 against Highlands North and 56-3 against Parktown, but King David (Linksfield) pushed Kearsney all the way, with the boys from Botha’s Hill pulling out a narrow 3-0 victory.

The 1987 team was coached by Fred Cocks, who served the school with distinction for 39 years. “Freddie was probably about seven years into the [1st XV] job by the time he got to ’87,” Jem said.

“He and his brother went to Westville Boys’ High. He was a brilliant coach. He was a short man, about five-foot, six, and he had this big voice. He was a fantastic motivator and he knew a lot about the game.”

“I remember clearly he called a Kearsney Old Boy, Wally Watt, who was a Natal flanker, to come and help us with one or two scrumming sessions. He was a fantastic man and he is still around.”

There was only one match in which Kearsney were clearly beaten up front and that was in the big showdown with Maritzburg College. “It was played at Kearsney and there must have been 15 000 to 20 000 people there that day, because they were the only two teams that were unbeaten in the season, and it was quite late in the season,” Jem recalled.

“The score was 20-10. I think we turned at 10-10 at halftime, and then we got pummelled by their forwards in the second half. Their forward pack just destroyed us. I think we did well to be in the game at halftime. They killed us up front.” Of course, back in those days, there was no limit on how far one team was allowed to push another at scrum time in schoolboy rugby, so it was a far bigger disadvantage than it would be nowadays.

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“The ’87 side was a fantastic team. I say without a shadow of a doubt, we had the best loose trio. We had Mitchell Reed, who we lost after the first game,” Jem continued. “Then we had Chris van Noordwyk [who went on to play SA Schools cricket in 1989). He filled in there. And we had a farmer from the north coast called Craig Hanbury-King. He was brilliant. He was small and an excellent fetcher.

“Our Head Boy Graeme Thompson was at lock. He was a big guy and we had another water-polo player at lock, Steve Garreau. We had a decent pack up until the time we met College and we were annihilated.”

The ’87 team also included Nkululeko Skweyiya, better known as “Squeegee”, who had burst onto the scene in 1986. That year, playing on the wing, he scored 22 tries and represented Natal Schools.

“He came from the Eastern Cape and he was a stalwart. He had a side-step and speed that nobody in Natal had,” Jem said. “I think in ’87, he sort of got worked out. We moved him closer to the ball, so he ended up playing most of the time at centre. To our advantage, everyone was focused on him and we had other good players.” The team benefitted, but Squeegee didn’t have as good a year as in ’86 and missed out on Natal Schools’ selection.

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Mitch Reed, Jem Nel and Nkuleleko Skweyiya were awarded their honours, while Greg James, Pierre du Toit, Kenneth Everett, Stephen Garreau, Craig Hanbury-King, Stuart Hulley, John Leach, Craig Symons Graeme Thompson and Ross Wood received their colours.

Fred Cocks’ 1st team report in the Kearsney magazine noted of Jem Nel: “The success of the side can largely be attributed to his exceptional captaincy. His ability to motivate his fellow players was indeed of the highest order of leadership. His skilful and creative play saw him narrowly miss selection for the Natal Schools Craven Week team, but deservedly gained him a cap in Pretoria.

“In addition, he was one of three players who scored 11 tries*, the most by an individual. Congratulations on a great season.”

*(The others were scrum-half Pierre du Toit and Craig Symons. Mitch Reed dotted down seven times in only seven matches.)

Reed was clearly an extraordinary talent, as described by Fred Cocks in his report: “One of the best rugby players seen at Kearsney for many years. His strength, skill and mental attitude to the game is exceptional.”

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Rugby is one of the great team games, especially when it comes to team spirit and off the field relationships, and to this day Jem still keeps in touch with eight or nine of the 1st XV of 1987: “We’ve got a WhatsApp group, so we’re in contact regularly, especially over lockdown now,” he reckoned.

He lives close to Kearsney and his son, Cameron, completed grade 12 at the school in 2019. Even though the ties are not as close as they once were when Cam was in school, Jem still maintains close contact with Kearsney.

“I watch a lot of sport,” he concluded. “When there’s cricket or rugby on, I love it. If I have nothing on, I go and watch. It’s close and close to my heart. We’ve had good times at Kearsney. I think the emotion of winning is gone, but it’s good to go and watch schoolboy sport.”

RESULTS

Easter Tour of East Griqualand, Natal Midlands

Kearsney 40-0 Port Shepstone
Kearsney 33-0 Ixopo
Kearsney 50-6 Escourt

July Tour to Johannesburg

Kearsney 34-0 Highlands North
Kearsney 56-3 Parktown
Kearsney 3-0 King David (Linksfield)

Natal Fixtures

Kearsney 34-3 Michaelhouse
Kearsney 15-7 DHS
Kearsney 24-3 Pinetown
Kearsney 6-6 Hilton
Kearsney 27-6 Beachwood
Kearsney 26-28 Old Crocks
Kearsney 9-8 Glenwood
Kearsney 10-20 Maritzburg College
Kearsney 31-9 Port Natal
Kearsney 13-13 Westville
Kearsney 25-9 Kingswood
Kearsney 40-0 Saint Charles
Kearsney 20-7 Alexandra
Kearsney 31-18 Old Boys

Played 22, won 18, lost two, drew two
Points for: 554, points against: 155

Kearsney, Northwood share spoils in cracking season-opener

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2019: Just four points separated Kearsney and DHS

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2019: Kearsney Festival day three

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2019: Kearsney Festival day two

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2019: Kearsney Festival day one

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Luke James has gone and is going places in gymnastics. He’s one of three Westville Boys’ High learners who were recently awarded their Merit ties, for receiving South African colours in sport. He’s won in national and international competition and he hopes to make it to the Olympic Games, maybe this year in Tokyo or in 2024 in Paris.

Qualifying for this year’s Games has had a spanner thrown in the works with the complications caused by the coronavirus. The African Championships, which also serve as Olympic qualifiers, were supposed to have been held in Eldoraigne from 1 to 5 April.

It’s a temporary setback for Luke, who recently broke into the senior ranks with the national team as the only team member from KwaZulu-Natal.

“Trials are still going to happen, but they’re postponed,” he said in a recent chat with KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan at Westville Boys’ High. “In a worst case scenario, no spectators will be allowed and they’ll have separate days for the different apparatus to keep it under 100 people in attendance. An Olympic trial has to happen regardless of whether or not the African Championships happen.

“I was looking forward to competing in Joburg because of the home crowd. We would have had big support in a nice, big stadium. I hope it still happens.”

The Tokyo Olympics are a dream, he revealed, but they’re only a potential part of a longer-term plan: “Since this is my first year in the senior national team, my chances to go to the Olympics aren’t too high, although there is a chance. But I have definitely got my eye set on the 2024 Olympics. Also, on the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, and then the World Championships and World Cups.”

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Full school uniform, standing back flip, no problem! (Photo: Brad Morgan, KZN10.com)

Luke’s gymnastics’ journey began a decade ago when, at the age of seven, he joined the Pinetown Gymnastics Club. He was a very active child and his parents saw the club as an ideal outlet for him to expend some of his seemingly boundless energy.

“I was a bouncy kid, playing a lot, and the Gymnastics Club was pretty close to home. We had some friends who were going, so I joined in and I loved it. I had a trampoline as a kid, so I was always jumping on it,” Luke recalled.

He participated in competitions from the start, but his first international competition, the Junior Commonwealth Games in Namibia in 2016, truly underlined his potential. He was in grade eight at the time and claimed a bronze medal on the floor.

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“That’s when I realised I should pursue the sport. It was exciting, something I wasn’t expecting,” Luke said. “It was crazy. It felt like I was on top of the world.

“It was great because we were also second in the team event. The reaction was really good, people were so happy. That’s when my name started coming up more in the gymnastics’ community.”

In 2018, Luke won a bronze medal on the floor at the African Championships and helped South Africa to second place in the team competition.

Luke James on the podium after finishing in third place on the floor in the African Junior Championships, held in Swakopmund, Namibia, in 2018. (Photo: South African Gymnastics Federation, http://www.sagf.co.za/)

In September 2019, he captured the South African Junior floor and vault gold medals in the National Championships. He was then selected to represent the country at the Olympic Hopes event in Prague, the Czech Republic. There, Luke performed superbly, making the final of both events and coming away with a gold medal in the vault.

“That was a big deal for me,” he admitted.

Gymnastics has presented Luke with the opportunity to travel, something that he loves doing. Japan, home to the reigning Olympic men’s team champions, and to his particular hero, Kōhei Uchimura, the winner of three gold and four silvers across two Olympics, has a deal with South Africa that takes the country’s athletes to the Land of the Rising Sun.

“We go out there every year and they pay for us to go and train with them,” Luke revealed. “I have done that three times now, usually for about 10 days. I went at the beginning of this year, and also in 2016 and 2017.

“I met the whole squad. We learnt a bit of Japanese and they know some English too. That’s also motivation, getting to travel the world for free, getting to see different places and meet new people.”

Being able to see how the top gymnasts in the world train has been an eye-opening experience, he added: “They are so advanced in what they do, and they have such a big support team around them. They have scientists working to figure out different things. It’s a crazy new world. We can learn from them and bring that knowledge back here, which is the whole point.”

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The demands of competing at an elite level of gymnastics are high and they’re especially challenging for a 17-year-old in matric, Luke said, as he detailed what a typical week looks like for him: “I finish school at 14:20 and go straight to the gym. I start at 15:00 and finish at 19:00. Four hours a day, Monday to Friday, and then on a Saturday it’s 09:00 to 13:00. Those are serious numbers. There’s a lot of sacrifice.

“I do homework when I can, whenever I can find a gap. The teachers are understanding. Usually when I get home, I will eat, do a bit of homework and go to sleep.

“During exams, I tone down the numbers in the gym. The teachers are quite demanding about what they expect in the class room.

“Sunday is my off day, so that is usually time for school work.” Weekends are also the time he gets to spend with his father on his other hobby, dirt bike riding.

Luke won gold on the vault at the Olympic Hopes event in Prague at the end of 2019. (Photo: South African Gymnastics Federation, https://www.sagf.co.za/)

Another challenge, and it is especially important for gymnasts, is diet. Thankfully for Luke, who confessed he has a sweet took, he has professional help at hand.

“Luckily I am on the EADP programme at Prime, which is a High Performance Institute in Durban,” he explained. “I have a dietician on my side who makes meal plans. They keep my body running all the time. I am very lucky to have them, to be honest.”

Being a smaller person is certainly something that helps in gymnastics, but that, too, can change.
“I am growing quite a lot,” Luke admitted, “so it is a challenge. As you grow taller, your geometry changes, but I am adapting to it.”

His plans for his gymnastics and his post-Westville Boys’ High days entail a move to the northern hemisphere to train in the UK with their Olympic coach, Paul Hall.

“I will compete for South Africa, but train in the UK,” Luke explained. “I am going to study through correspondence, doing film.”

Visual effects and editing have always been one of his interests, he said. Interestingly, he reckons they also helped him to persuade Hall to train him. “I sent an email to him to try and get a spot on his team. I made these videos of my training and it was kind of like the smoke and mirror effect to make everything look good.”

The thing with gymnastics’ competition, though, is there are no short cuts. There are no smoke and mirrors that will pass the scrutiny of the judges. It’s all about hard work, talent, and commitment and Luke James has demonstrated that he has those. Now he wants to explore just how far they can take him.

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Looking back over the past weekend’s 1st XV rugby results, there were some interesting scores: Kearsney’s 29-10 win over Clifton was expected, while Northwood drew their second game in succession, finishing 14-14 against Maritzburg College. Hilton’s 14-10 defeat of Glenwood, while a very big result for the Midlands’ boys, was not totally unexpected. What really stood out, though, was Westville’s 52-7 dismantling of DHS.

DHS has produced some very good rugby and some very good teams in the recent past, so to see them beaten by 45 points was surprising and quite shocking. KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan caught up with Westville’s coaches, Jeremy McLaren and Njabulo “Jubs” Zulu at the school on Tuesday, to find out more about the Westville 1st XV of 2020.

Saturday’s game was a late start to the season for the Griffins. They had been scheduled to kick things off the previous Saturday against Hilton College, but that game was called off due to concerns over the coronavirus, stemming from a positive result on the test of a Hilton local. Instead, Westville held some internal trials. Then, on Saturday, it was time for their first outing against DHS. Down 0-7 early on, the home side rallied to run up 52 unanswered points.

Rugby 2019: Westville vs Maritzburg College report

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Rugby 2019: Westville vs Maritzburg College, how the Westville coaches saw it

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Westville 1st XV coaches Njabulo “Jubs” Zulu and Jeremy McLaren.

“We were quite amazed by the fitness levels in our first game,” coach McLaren admitted. But that level of performance and the impressive victory, he revealed, were a number of years in the making.

“It’s a journey that we started two years back, when Jubs and I started here. A few things were not in place and we will never forget that our match against DHS here was 60-10 against us. We had about 19 injuries! We went through a process where we had to get things back in line.

“Last year, we had control of that game as well, but we let it slip. This year, we knew we had to get it right and it would all fall into place. But it is a special group.”

There has been talk that this year’s Westville 1st XV is a top unit but, McLaren added, “There is also so much work that has had to go into it. There was a lack of a lot of knowledge and certain skill levels [when we started with them].

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One big decision that the coaching team made has proved to be a masterstroke. They moved Mambo Mkhize from eighthman to centre and in 2019 he turned out for KZN Schools in the midfield.

Jubs explained that he had heard criticism from others that Mkhize was not assertive enough in his ball carrying. But those people, who didn’t know Mkhize as well as Zulu does, were not giving recognition to his other skills, like his soft hands and cover defence.

“He doesn’t want to assert himself, he wants to put other people into space,” Zulu explained.

Westville star Mambo Mkhize made the switch from eighthman to centre with devastating results for opposing teams. (Photo: Martin Ashworth)

When he and McLaren discussed moving Mkhize to centre, they took on advice from someone who had previously done something along those lines with great success. “We called Mzwakhe Nkosi, who is the KES coach. He did a similar thing with a player, Yanga Hlalu, who played SA Schools (2017).

“He moved him from flank to centre. I asked him what the things were that made him certain that Yanga would work as a centre and he said he’s got the skill set and the vision. So why not do it? We did it.”

“The critics that count now see Mambo asserting himself. We’re happy with his development,” Zulu said. There is even talk that Mkhize is one of the front-runners for selection for the SA Schools team.

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Successful sides require not only the leadership of their coaches, but leadership from within and that hasn’t been difficult to come by in this year’s line-up.

“We’ve got quite a lot of seniors in the group, especially in the backs,” Zulu said. “We are fortunate to have a lot of guys who were in grade 11 last year, so they would have learnt a lot. They drive a lot of what we do and they’re really excited to be in this position. They are really confident guys.”

The team environment (and it is encouraged) is hardly what one associates with a top rugby side. Zulu explained: “We’ve got quite a unique team. We are not the traditional team. If you saw our warm-up, there’s music and laughter, whereas a lot of teams that I have worked with are very serious and focus on needing to be psyched up.

“We’re completely the opposite. The guys are talking, there’s a vibe and laughter.

“I think we’re confident, but we’re being true to ourselves. A lot of the characters that we have in our team are very jovial, fun-loving guys.”

 

He recalled how when Westville played Michaelhouse in 2019 there was a very serious vibe about the side and that had the coaches worried ahead of the start of the match. It showed on the field as Michaelhouse outplayed Westville.

“We saw it coming because the energy was off that week. We know the kind of team and characters that we have, so we need to embrace it.”

The McLaren/Zulu coaching team also promotes a game that features flair. “Ever since Jubs and I connected as coaching partners, it was always about taking the risks,” McLaren admitted.

“We came up with a slogan of being wild at heart, because that is how we’ve been created. We want to take chances.

“I will never forget, last year we played Kearsney on our Old Boys’ Day and Carlo Del Fava, the ex-Italian international, was helping with our forwards. Our boys were inside our goal area and Jubs and I said ‘let’s go’ and Carlo looked at us and said ‘guys, you’re crazy’. To cut a long story short, we went and scored in the corner on the other side.

“For us, it’s a basic thing that you play what you see. We’ve been in trouble, with people that know the game questioning why we don’t kick. But that’s not our philosophy. We want them to have fun and we keep saying to them that the only mistake that they can make is the one that they don’t fix. Even international players make mistakes.”

Fitness is key for such an approach to work, but that, too, is not done simply with a traditional focus on running.

“[Fitness] has always got to do with a game that they play,” McLaren stated. “When Jubs does defence, it’s quite a lot of running, like a shuttle, forward and back. Our conditioning programme is not just big weights. It is all multi-functional stuff to enable us to play that type of game.

“The biggest thing is we try to make the boys think for themselves. We give them options to play and they choose.

“We definitely play a running brand of rugby. If you close us down, we’ll use a kicking game. If you don’t close us down, we will run at you.”

Having a promising season nipped in the bud, McLaren admits, has been a real downer. “We’re depressed, but you can’t do anything about it.

“This is one of the better teams, if not the best team, that Westville would have produced. I am not saying that a future team won’t be at this level, but this is a special group.”

He then ran off the very challenging schedule that Westville was supposed to have played: “We would have played Framesby now, which is a good side. Queen’s College is different. We’re going to try and rescheduled Affies. At the Kearsney Easter Festival, we had EG Jansen, HTS Drostdy and HTS Middelburg.” That’s a list that reveals a fear of no one.

Joy and celebration for Westville in their 52-7 win over DHS. (Photo: https://www.facebook.com/westvilleboyshighschool/)

“We had already done our homework and we worked out that within that space of time, those physical games, who would go where and Jubs has a good idea of who would be our back-up flyhalf, because that was a big problem for us, if we lost our 10. But now our other one is just as good.

Ruefully, he concluded: “It feels like you’re in this movie and you want it to end now.”

Having served up a tasty and entertaining teaser with their superb display against DHS, here’s hoping we get to see the Westville 1st XV of 2020 have more opportunities to show off their skills.

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The Glenwood and Hilton College 1st hockey teams engaged in an entertaining clash in very hot conditions on the Three Schools’ Trust Turf in Durban on Saturday, reports KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan.

(Due to a lack of numbers to go with the players’ names from one side and numbers that did not align with the players from the other on the team sheets, I am unable to identify the players by name, which is unfortunate.)

The sides started out rather cautiously, with both employing a half-court press. Hilton, though, sent their attackers a little higher and wider up the field, which allowed them to stretch the Glenwood defenders out enough to create slightly more space. This also allowed them to enjoy the majority of the possession in the first half.

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Hockey 2019: Hilton vs Westville match report

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Midfield was a battleground, with both sides doing a good job of closing down the receivers in that area of the field. Both coaches would surely have liked to see a quicker transition of the ball when it reached the middle of the park, but Hilton did manage to muster some opportunities while keeping Glenwood pinned in their half.

In the early going, matters were very tight in the midfield, with both sides putting the other’s ball-carriers under heavy pressure. (All photos: Brad Morgan, KZN10.com)

It took a while, but Hilton, on the balance of play, took a deserved lead, thanks to a swift counter after what until that point was a rare Glenwood attack. They exited from their 16 quickly and let the ball go to the right wing, who, given plenty of open field in which to attack, ran hard at the scrambling Glenwood defence.

Cleverly, as he cut in near the circle, instead of trying to dribble the covering defender, he simply flipped the ball past him, pinned his ears back and chased it. Another Glenwood defender was flying across towards the near-side post, but the Hilton man got there first, diving to knock a square ball across to the striker, who managed to get stick to ball a fraction of a second before the Glenwood ‘keeper, who had laid out to try to reach it.

The ball flew high and sweetly into the back of the net and Hilton were in the lead.

Hilton College score the opening goal as their striker knocks the ball past a despairing dive from the Glenwood goalkeeper. 

While it was mostly about Hilton in the opening stanza, Glenwood showed flashes up front on the counter-attack, causing a problem or two for the Hilton defence, which was, for the most part, solid.

The match opened up after the break. Interestingly, Hilton had changed their defensive approach and were pressuring Glenwood higher up the field, which meant the game was no longer as compact as it had been and thus there was more space to work in.

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It was similar, though, in the fact that Hilton were enjoying the majority of the ball possession.

But Glenwood then made good use of the more open play. They launched a quick counter down the left wing after turning over possession and were duly rewarded when they found a foot in the Hilton circle.

The home team’s industry at last paid off when they scored off of a drag flick that had some serious heat behind it, making the score 1-1.

Glenwood showed no shortage of skill in the midfield, but a well-organised Hilton team, for the most part, kept them at bay.

They barely had time to celebrate that goal, however, as Hilton hit back quickly. They attacked down the right flank, this time carrying the ball along the baseline, which drew the goalkeeper to cover his post. When the ball was slipped back, the goalie was beaten and the Hilton striker had a tap-in for the second goal of the game.

Goal number two for Hilton was a simple tap-in after a sharp attack down the Glenwood baseline opened up the chance for the striker to grab a brace.

The third goal, which truly broke the contest open, came from a penalty corner awarded to Hilton.

At previous penalty corners, they had come close to adding to their tally off of a couple of variations, but all it took in the end was a straight shot. Rob Haynes let rip and the Glenwood goalie was unable to get his gloves together in time, just to his right, to stop the ball from crossing the line.

Glenwood threw themselves onto the attack as time wound down, asking questions of the Hilton backline, but the boys from the Midlands had the answers they needed and came away with a hard-fought 3-1 win.

Following a victory in the Kearsney Stayers’ Tournament at the end of 2019 and, more recently, a win in the Saint John’s Basketball Tournament, the most prestigious event in the sport in South Africa, Michaelhouse basketball is on all-time high. The team is widely regarded as the best in the country, so KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan recently visited Balgowan to find out more about the side.

Chatting to the 1st team coach, Nkanyiso Ngcobo, who began his stint in charge of the team in late 2015, it became clear that the basketball team’s success was because of the buy-in and support of the entire school into and for the sport.

The first question, was, unusually, what is going right? That’s when, unusually again, rugby made its way into a story about basketball success!

“I think it is probably the working relationship that we have with the Sports Department as a whole, the strength and conditioning side of it, in terms of the fitness of the boys, as well as the relationship, probably most importantly, that we have with the rugby club,” he said.

“We support each other. We realise that basketball and rugby go hand-in-hand, so the more support that is given to basketball for basketball to flourish, there is also a knock-on effect for rugby and it does well.”

In some schools, the competition between sporting codes and coaches can be quite toxic, so it’s a very important point made by Ngcobo.

Reflecting on his charges recent annexing of the Saint John’s Basketball Tournament title, he said: “It is the title you want to win. It’s the first time that we have won it. In fact, we also won the Stayers’ Tournament for the first time at the end of the last year.”

Michaelhouse edge Maritzburg College in basketball thriller

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Point guard Banele Sithole drives up court in the final of the Saint John’s Basketball Tournament. (Photo: https://www.stjohnscollege.co.za/basketball/)

But this was no team of one-year wonders. It had been built up and honed over time: “It has actually been five years in the works. We have been trying to build our club from the ground up. We have structures in place for coaches and the development of coaches, and the support that we have from not only the club management, in terms of the master in charge, but also from other staff members, has been fantastic.”

Something else that has also helped Michaelhouse is the fact that it is a boarding school. Ngcobo explained: “The boys have really found a passion in basketball. It’s also part of their social life. It isn’t only about sport. You will find them playing basketball in their free time.

“For us, it was just about tapping into that love of basketball and making sure that the foundation and skills were there.”

Turning to how Michaelhouse approaches the game, he added: “Right now our style of basketball is structured. We try and play within the systems. We try to apply a lot of basketball IQ to everything we do. Even when we practice, we look at situational practices. In terms of skills, in terms of running, in terms of fast breaks, guys inherently have that. But it is about awareness and recognising what the game is giving you.

“We allow players to express themselves. We’re not limiting guys and turning them into robots. But at the same time, all the guys play within a structure.”

It’s at that point in the conversation that we’re joined by the back court duo of Jason Makhele, the shooting guard, and Banele Sithole, the point guard and co-vice-captain. Captain JC Oelofse and fellow vice-captain Kwanele Khumalo are unavailable because they’re on a basketball camp in the United States!

To be a winning team, to be the best, it takes more than talent, it takes a special connection between the players and a relentless drive to succeed.

Jason said that although he became a member of the side later than some others, it is their togetherness that has made them a formidable force.

“I think this is one of the only teams that no matter what grade you are in, we all come together as a team. I came into this group in grade 11, and it is my first time playing with them. Most of them have been playing together for four years, but I still feel part of the team.

“It’s not just a first team, it’s like a family.” (Photo: https://www.stjohnscollege.co.za/basketball/)

“We’ve worked out handshakes and nicknames, so it is a very special thing to come into a first team and then feel like it’s not just a first team, it’s like a family.”

“Our pre-game warm-ups and rituals are pretty exciting, because everyone has their specific role, which we do every time.”

“The atmosphere at our games at Michaelhouse is incredible because we have the whole school supporting us.”

That’s when Coach Ngcobo chipped in, revealing a downside to the tremendous support the team has: “They enjoy the atmosphere, I don’t particularly. After every game, I lose my voice because I have to shout so loudly so they can hear me on the court.”

“The drums are right behind me, the band is right behind me, the boys are screaming behind me, and these guys just can’t hear a word I am saying.

“It’s a nice problem to have because it does a lot for the team spirit. It brings a lot of energy to the game, but I am constantly trying to out-shout the supporters.”

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The other thing about being a team – and it’s more important in basketball than in many other sports – is having a bench that is able to contribute. It is not just about the starting five.

“We have had several conversations as a team in which we have tried to identify each person’s role, what they think it is and what I think it is,” coach Ngcobo said. “One thing that we always stress is when you are coming on make sure that we keep the momentum going. If the team is slacking, make sure you pick the energy up.

“What I value about this team is that everyone is always ready to step on the court and do what they can. If they don’t step on the court, they are always ready to do what they can from the bench. That’s very important in basketball, having what we call the sixth man.”

All season long, especially after winning the Stayers’ Tournament at Kearsney in the fourth term of 2019, the ultimate goal for the Michaelhouse team had been to win the Saint John’s Tournament title.

“After Kearsney, we realised this wasn’t just a pipe dream. We could go the whole way,” Banele said.

Point guard Banele Sithole with the Saint John’s Tournament Trophy, coach Nkanyiso Ngcobo, and shooting guard Jason Makhele with the Stayers’ Tournament Trophy. (Photo: Brad Morgan, KZN10.com)

But it started with a bit of a damp squib for the side when Enjabulweni School failed to arrive on time for the opening game. That meant, after the forfeit points, the clash with Cape Town’s Wynberg Boys’ High would be the first time the ‘House boys stepped on court in Johannesburg.

Were they nervous? “I think the nerves come from me, really” Ngcobo admitted. “These guys just go out there and play. I’m the one behind the scenes, stressing and trying to put together a strategy, and scouting. Even if I can’t go to a game, I will ask someone to check out the side for me, see what style they’re playing, what size they have. We knew nothing about Wynberg, but I did get some information from other coaches.”

He needn’t have worried too much. Michaelhouse dominated and ran away to a convincing 39-11 victory.

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Next up was Saint Alban’s College, a school with a proven basketball pedigree. Michaelhouse won 26-20, but it was probably a more convincing victory than the score might suggest.

“Sometimes a score doesn’t necessarily illustrate the level of comfort, and I think Saint Alban’s was actually a comfortable victory for us. They didn’t have much size and they had one or two shooters. Because of that we were able to neutralise them with our defence,” Ncgobo said.

That brings us to the Michaelhouse defence, upon which the team’s game is built. ‘House is blessed with a huge building block in centre Simi Femi-Kayode. At 2.05 metres tall (a tiny fraction under six-foot-nine), he is an immense presence around the basket.

Smiling, Ngcobo said: “That’s a big advantage. He’s pretty much the biggest basketball player in the country. Defensively, he is an absolute marvel. He takes care of our paint.

“Basically, to beat us, you have to get us in foul trouble or you have to shoot well.” With limited options, that severely cuts down teams’ chances of beating Michaelhouse.

They shall not pass! Michaelhouse centre Simi Femi-Kayode is a big problem, literally and figuratively, for other teams around the boards. (Photo: https://www.stjohnscollege.co.za/basketball/)

Saint John’s College were next on the schedule for Michaelhouse and the hosts were primed to take on the boys from Balgowan.

Jason commented: “We played Saint John’s earlier in the season [going back to the end of 2019] and it was an easy win. Going to them, it was wow!

“I didn’t expect them to come out like that. I knew they would have the home crowd behind them, but I didn’t expect them to play so hard. It was surprising.”

It was a big surprise for Michaelhouse and when the final whistle went they had fallen 26-29.

That meant the side’s final pool game, against Clifton, would determine who finished second in the group. ‘House played with a heavy rotation and some experimentation, but they soon established a comfortable lead. Clifton, though, were far from done, with their KZN under-19 star, Jacques Mahanga, leading a furious fightback. Sensing the danger, coach Ngcobo sent out his starting five once more and they secured a hard-fought 37-35 win.

In the last 16, Michaelhouse were drawn against Waterford Kamhlaba. While a final score of 34-21 was comfortable, the Swazi side presented a tough challenge. “They were a lot fitter than most of the South African teams,” Jason reckoned. “Though they lacked size, they made up for it in fitness. They made us work hard.”

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That victory meant Michaelhouse’s quarter-final opponents were Saint Charles, a team they knew well and a team they respected. “That was probably our game of the tournament. When we play Saint Charles, we are always concerned. Geographically, they are our neighbours, so they are our rivals,” Ngcobo said.

“It was a tough draw for both schools, but we seem to always get each other. We played them in the semi-finals at Kearsney as well, and we play each other twice, once in the fourth term and once in the first term. It’s always a close game.

“The coach there, Darren Holcomb, was my coach when I was in school. So there are similarities in our basketball style. They share a similar philosophy.”

On the court, Michaelhouse roared into a 12-0 lead against their Pietermariztburg rivals and it looked as if they would record a routine win, but Saint Charles had other ideas and clawed their way back in to the contest. When it ended, House had edged it 28-27.

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The semi-final showdown with Saint David’s Marist Inanda proved to be a less nerve-wracking experience. Michaelhouse’s defence shut down the Johannesburg side’s offence, allowing only 17 points, enabling JC Oelofse and his team to record a six-point victory.

“We generally were defensive-minded [throughout the tournament], despite the fact that we do have some individual scorers who can be breath-taking. We do try to win our game with our defence,” coach Ngcobo commented.

Through to the final, Michaelhouse found themselves up against Saint John’s College once more. Strangely, their loss to the Johannesburgers in the pool game proved to be, if there is such a thing, a good loss.

Coach Ngcobo explained: ” One of the key reasons why they beat us in the first game was that in the fourth term last year they came down to Michaelhouse and I believe they studied us very well. This was after we won the Kearsney Stayers’ Tournament. We were already a target. Their coach did a lot of research and he planned brilliantly for us.

“The downfall of that is that they had already played us once in the tournament. We were now in a position to know what they were going to do. Once we figured out their system, we neutralised it. We also frustrated them because I don’t think they had a Plan B. Our defence was the key.”

Michaelhouse point guard and co-vice-captain Banele Sithole attempts a steal in the final against Saint John’s. (Photo: https://www.stjohnscollege.co.za/basketball/)

The title-decider, though, didn’t start well for Michaelhouse, with Saint John’s surging into an early lead.

“We didn’t start off as well as we had hoped to, but there were some contributing factors,” Banele said. “We didn’t really get to do our warm-up and we started off poorly. But then we started catching up and we built up momentum.”

Saint John’s presented a very physical, aggressive and energetic challenge, but Michaelhouse was up for the game.

They soaked up the early onslaught and slowly upped the pressure. The tide turned and the lead changed. The game finished 48-40 in Michaelhouse’s favour.

The quest to be the best ended in triumph: Michaelhouse, the 2020 Saint John’s Basketball Tournament champions. (Photo: https://www.facebook.com/michaelhouse.org/)

For Banele, it was almost a case of déjà vu: “It was like, this is where we belong. For me, it was like a flashback to the Stayers’ Tournament at Kearsney. We lost to Kearsney in the group stages, then played them in the final and beat them. At Saint John’s, we played them in the group stages, lost, and then beat them in the final.”

Jason, with excitement in his voice, said: “For me, the realisation that we were actually number one in the country made me feel as if this was what I was meant to do. We had accomplished our goal. We didn’t come to the tournament for second or third place.

“We knew we were the best and we had to show the whole of South Africa that we were the best.

“I told myself afterwards that it is not going to be the last time. It has to be repeated.”

It’s a muggy Maritzburg afternoon. Driving past the City Oval veered my vehicle off-centre into a fond memory.

Natal captain Mike Procter racing in from the Park Drive End, Transvaal captain Dave Dyer facing.

 

Hilton College Old Boy Lungi Ngidi acknowledges the ovation on his 6-fer day. (A Wikus de Wet/AFP via Getty Images photo)

 

The athletic Proc – in his inimitable style – delivered a peach of an in-swinger that pitched on off and cut away a touch – inviting the tentative opening batsman first-ball-of-a-classic-Currie-Cup-match prod – for second slip Henry Fotheringham to snap up the edge inches from groundsman Ken Orchard’s pristine turf.

In his customary dulcet tones that must have (did, ask my mom) set many a fair maiden’s heart a-flutter, radio commentator Neil Adcock described the action in beautiful detail I am told (I was watching agog from near the old bandstand) and my dad, washing the car in the back garden (aka The Wanderers) a few kilometres away, drenched the dog and scrambled for his car keys.

 

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Michaelhouse (Dyer) caught Michaelhouse (Fothers) bowled Hilton College (Proc) 0.

What a revelation that match was. This standard 5 (grade 7) Merchiston Prep School boy sat entranced, gazing intently at every single ball in that mesmerising match. The one and only time I bunked school; was riddled with guilt at that, I might tell you.

Luckily Digby Rhodes bought the story that I took ill. Owed mom plenty for that.

 

Protea Pace: Hilton College Old Boy Lungi Ngidi is embraced by Glenwood Old Boy Andile Phehlukwayo after another Aussie bites the dust in Lungisani’s Six-Fifty-Eight Match in Bloem on Mar 4. (A Wikus de Wet/AFP via Getty Images photo)

 

Yes. Hilton College has produced a crop of outstanding quicks over the years.

Just now we will have 2019 opening bowlers Michael Booth and John Turner turning out for Hampshire second XI. Best wishes guys.

And then there is Lungi.

Lungisani True-man Ngidi.

 

It is imperative for coaches to know what works for you. Get in the driving seat with the tried and tested. Contact Trish right now at www.trishsutton.co.za or go to info@trishsutton.co.za

 

A best of 6 for 58 v Oz on Mar 4 that took the Highbury Prep School boy to the fastest 50 ODI wickets for SA (26 matches).

Best wishes for a great 24th on the 29th Lungi.

A True Man of Orando et Laborando.

2020 Under-15 Independent Schools Cricket Festival day three report

http://kzn10.com/6212-2/

2020 Under-15 Independent Schools Cricket Festival day two report

http://kzn10.com/hilton-and-clifton-sneak-narrow-wins-on-day-two-of-u-15-iscf/

2020 Under-15 Independent Schools Cricket Festival day one report

http://kzn10.com/three-wins-three-draws-on-opening-day-of-u-15-iscf/

Hilton’s Gareth Schreuder makes good in England

http://kzn10.com/hiltons-gareth-schreuder-makes-good-in-england/

Facing the full force at pace is an uncomfortable experience. A sticky wicket makes it even messier. Take action before it’s too late by calling affable DHS Old Boy John Smithers who always aims to please. www.midlandssepticservices.co.za

There are a number of players recently graduated from the KZN10.com schools in the SA Rugby Academy squad of 45 who are taking part in the Stellenbosch-based programme from this week to mid-May.

Feature image: Celimpilo Gumede continuing to fly School’s flag high.

 

Septic tank & sludge pit drainage? Why let the conditions drain you? DHS Old Boy John Smithers has got your back. email johnsmithers@vodamail.com or go to www.midlandssepticservices.co.za

 

The 45 include 3 recent members of the KZN10 who played for South Africa at the U20 World Championships, namely loose forwards Celimpilo Gumede (DHS) and Sibusiso Sangweni (Kearsney) and scrumhalf Jayden Hendrikse (Glenwood).

Other members of the KZN10 included in the 45-player SA Rugby Academy squad include front-ranker Sphekahle Dube (Maritzburg College) and last year’s outstanding Glenwood flyhalf Jordan Hendrikse – the younger brother of Jayden – centre Rynhardt Jonker (Glenwood).

 

Attention to detail separates the best from the rest. Talk to the experts. http://www.hilliarandgray.co.za/contact/

 

Regarding the other players, I am not sure which were at any of the KZN10 schools.

If you know, please let us know in the comments section on Facebook.

The squad will be under the direction of Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux.

 

SA RUGBY ACADEMY SQUAD

Great defensive systems get great results. http://titantech.co.za/ for the best advice.

Multi-talented all-rounder Troy Botha is the kind of learner that Westville Boys’ High School strives to produce. He’s a good academic student, a strong contributor in a number of sports, having earned provincial colours for cricket and most recently South African under-18 colours for softball, and he also sets a good example as a school prefect.

KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan sat down with Troy at the school this week to discuss his achievements, going back to the start of his sporting days, and, of course, asked him about the 2020 Under-18 Softball World Cup, which was played in New Zealand from 22 February to 1 March.

Proudly wearing the green and gold national colours of South Africa, softball star Troy Botha.

He’s a left-hander in everything he does which, Troy believes, gives him an advantage. It also has limited some of his options in softball, but he plays either first base or outfield, while batting fifth or sixth in the order.

The foundation for his success in the sport was laid in primary school, but it didn’t begin with softball. Rather, it started with baseball, which he played at Atholl Heights, and it was only in the last two years of his primary schooling that he started to play softball. It didn’t take long for him to make his mark.

He first earned his KwaZulu-Natal colours in grade six, at the age of 12, and went on to represent KZN at under-13 level for two years. Then he had to decide on a high school.

Luke James is aiming for gymnastic’s biggest stages

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Check out the Cell C personal and business contracts at https://www.cellc.co.za/cellc/contracts

The move to Westville Boys’ High for his secondary education was a simple decision. Not only was his brother, Kyle, at the school, but he was also approached by the school’s Marketing Manager who had seen Troy in action in a rugby match against Westville. From there matters moved quickly.

Recalling the rapid pace at which things happened, he said: “Mr Du Plessis liked the way I played and the attitude that I had. The match was on a Wednesday night, he called me on the Thursday and booked an interview for the following Monday. The intent that he showed and how keen he was for me to come to Westville and have a look around the school really did help.” Oh, and Westville also played softball.

Judging by the enthusiasm with which Troy now talks about the school, it was the right decision. Westville was a perfect fit.

At the school, he was introduced to English teacher and 1st team softball coach, Warren Hitchings. “He’s been really good for me,” said Troy. “He’s helped me with my sport and my softball especially. He’s been with me through quite a lot.”

In grade eight, Troy was selected for the KZN under-15 team, but grade 9 presented him with a difficult choice after he was named in both the KZN softball and cricket sides. Explaining how he came to his decision, Troy said: “It was my first year making the cricket team, so I chose the cricket over the softball.

At the end of 2019, the KwaZulu-Natal under-17 team, under coach and Westville teacher Warren Hitchings (third from right) won silver at the National Summer Games. The team included six Westville boys: Troy Botha, Craig Reid, Kian Garnham, Joel Wadsworth, Ethan Shirley and Taine Scott. (Photo: https://www.facebook.com/westvilleboyshighschool/)

“Cricket started pretty much since I could walk,” he recalled. “My first word was ‘ball’. That kind of said I was going to play a lot of sport. ”

It was at the end of 2018 that it became clear that he might be destined for bigger things in softball. After the National Summer Games in Kempton Park, he was chosen for an All Star Team. That was followed by a national training camp and after that he was named in a side to go to Nigeria for a World Cup qualifier against the West African nation. Two other countries, Botswana and Mali, had pulled out, so it was a two-horse race for a place at the Softball World Cup.

Nigeria was an eye-opener for Troy, not necessarily on the sporting front, but in terms of how people live their lives in other parts of the world.

When it comes to planning your next school sports tour look no further than former Hilton College first XI captain Craig Goodenough who’s been there, seen the movie and bought the T-shirt factory.

“The experience in Nigeria was something else. Things are a lot tougher there. I wasn’t expecting that, things like the way they drive and the rules of the road, there aren’t many,” Troy related.

“We had an armed bodyguard with an AK-47 throughout our whole time there! You don’t want to go anywhere else besides your hotel and the playing fields. I had no idea that this was going to happen. It was a bit of a shock, but we were well looked after.”

On the field, things went well. South Africa beat Nigeria and booked themselves a place at the World Cup.

Troy Botha, rounding the bases for KZN in interprovincial competition. (Photos: supplied)

Predictably, given South Africa’s lack of international competition and relatively small base of players, there were some challenging games in New Zealand. There was one big loss to Australia, other games in which they were convincingly beaten, a couple which could have gone either way, and two which the South African side won, defeating Denmark 12-2 and the USA 11-7.

“That was quite an accomplishment,” Troy said about the win over the Americans.

“We lost close games to Singapore (8-9) and Mexico (5-7), where we could have pulled off the win, but things, at the end of the day, just didn’t fall our way.

Being a World Cup, though, South Africa did get to face the best teams in the world, including runners-up Australia and bronze medallists, the Czech Republic.

Viewed objectively, Troy said good memories were made: “We were chuffed with our performances. A lot of guys showed up well. It wasn’t a one-man show, it was a group effort.”

When the match is tight and every run counts, you can count of Clox Scoreboards of KZN. http://clox.co.za/

While he has national colours in softball, Troy is looking to cricket to possibly help him onto a different big sporting stage.

Although a talented side, in the first term the form of the Westville 1st cricket team was somewhat inconsistent. Troy, an all-rounder, described it as tough. “We were meant to be quite a strong side; nobody seemed to be in form at the same time. If one guy fired, then the rest of the team seemed to let that player carry them.

“We did get quite a few good wins. We came close against Clifton, chasing quite a big total. They really did well. We fought hard and gave it our all.

“All the [KZN10] schools here are very good opposition. You don’t get games where you know you are going to win. It’s always 50/50.”

On a personal level, though, Troy had a solid season. “I was taking the wickets that I needed to,” he said.

“I want to try and go overseas, either the UK or Ireland, on a club cricket contract. Possibly, if I get the opportunity, I would then like to play on a bigger stage.

Troy, showing off his all-round ability for the Westville 1st cricket team. (Photos: supplied)

“I was recently approached by the Futura Sports Agency and I will be going for an interview with them. I have been keeping in contact with them and we’re going to have a meeting to try to get me into their Prodigy to Pro Program. They specialise in scouting overseas at academies to get opportunities for people like me to go and play there. That would be a big help.”

Interestingly, and it reflects well on the type of person Troy is, when asked what immediately comes to mind for the sporting highlights of his life so far, they’re all team-related Westville memories, and they’re not even in softball or cricket.

“It is about the team,” he said. “At under-16 level, we played rugby against Maritzburg College here, on Bowden’s, and Maritzburg College were unbeaten all season. They had beaten Glenwood, who, I think, were ranked first in the country at that time.

“We ended up beating them by something like 10 points, which was really special. Also, because it was the last game of the season.”

Troy on kicking duty during the rugby season. (Photo: supplied)

Troy is currently in the 2nd XV for the rugby season, playing at inside centre.

Then, revealing another string to his bow, he identified the football season of 2019 as another highlight. Troy was selected as left-back in the Westville 1st team, training under coaches Ryan Liberty and Brad Wood.

Being left-handed (and left-footed) is an advantage, Troy believes. (Photos: supplied)

It wasn’t a great season in terms of the overall results, he admitted, but there were some wonderful matches played. There was a fantastic come-from-behind win over Kearsney when Westville, down 0-1, struck twice in the last five minutes to win the game.

Then, there was a clash with Maritzburg College on Goldstone’s. It was the first time that College played a football match on their hallowed ground, the scene of so many cricket and rugby successes for the school from the KZN capital. Westville, though, spoilt the party. “It was quite an accomplishment to beat them on Goldstone’s,” Troy grinned.

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With such a busy sporting life, with much of it played at a very high level, balance is a challenge, but Troy performs solidly in the classroom. Given Westville’s outstanding academic tradition, it is expected of the boys, but, in his case, Troy said he owes his teachers a great deal.

“It is challenging academically and the teachers do challenge us, but the pressure is really good, and I appreciate the teachers for doing that. They really do help us a lot and they don’t sit back and wait for you to do your own thing. They put the pressure on you to make sure you perform to the best of your ability.”

And that pretty much sums up Troy Botha: performing to the best of his ability in a wide variety of sports and other aspects of school life and loving his time at Westville Boys’ High School.

As Dolphins franchise winners of the CSA Schools T20 Challenge competition, after beating Hilton in the KZN Coastal/Inland final, Kearsney travelled to Tuks in Pretoria to represent the Dolphins Franchise at the 2020 CSA National Franchise Finals against the best of the Cobras, Lions, Knights, Warriors and Titans and CSA Focus Schools.

KZN10.com was privileged to be there courtesy of the best in the business Hilliar & Gray Optometrists. If anyone is qualified to render expert eyecare advice it is Wendy, SF and Owen.  www.hilliarandgray.co.za

 

Dads & Lads, Super Sixes stem from clear, comfortable vision. www.hilliarandgray.co.za

 

In this TeamPhotoSA image: Kearsney College in Pretoria standing from left Aryan Sewsanker, Matthew McMurray, Louis Nel, Nhlakanipho Ngubane, Rubin Rheeder, Asande Nyawose, Dean Gibbs, Dylan Hulett, Dingalethu Gwarube; front Andre van Zyl (manager), Joshua Stocks, Jared Uys (v/c), Jordan Gregory (coach), Cade Carmichael (capt), Jean-Luc Talbot, Peter Kirsten (manager).

The Kearsney team acquitted themselves extremely well against the best from the other provinces, playing 5 matches, winning 3 and losing 2, to finish 4th overall in the competition.

A highlight of the tournament was Kearsney’s impressive victory over eventual champions Waterkloof on the final day of the competition.

*****

Cade Carmichael was Kearsney’s leading run scorer, amassing 173 runs during the competition, while left-arm seamer Matthew McMurray was the leading wicket taker with 9 wickets in the tournament.

Clifton end Kearsney’s 1st XI’s 10-match winning streak

http://kzn10.com/clifton-1st-xi-end-kearsney-1st-xis-10-match-winning-streak/

Kearsney vs Glenwood cricket thriller

http://kzn10.com/epic-kearsney-clifton-water-polo-final-kearsney-glenwood-cricket-thriller/

Cade Carmichael was in punishing form in Pretoria.

 

Cade averaged 43.5 with a strike rate of 154 for the T20s this weekend.

 

KEARSNEY RESULTS

Day 1:

Graeme College (Coastal Focus Franchise): 111/7 (McMurray 2/19; Gibbs 2/20)

Kearsney: 112/3 (Nel 30; Talbot 29 n.o.)

Kearsney won by 7 wickets

Matt McMurray won the Man of the Match Award

 

Grey High (Warriors Franchise): 137/8 (Gibbs 4/19; Nyawose 2/11)

Kearsney: 102 all out

Kearsney lost by 35 runs

 

Day 2:

Kearsney: 100 all out (Carmichael 47)

SACS (Cobras Franchise): 106/6 (Stocks 2/18; McMurray 2/23)

Kearsney lost by 4 wickets

 

Queens High School (Inland Focus Franchise): 127/7 (Nyawose 2/27)

Kearsney 131/3 (Carmichael 75 n.o.)

Kearsney won by 7 wickets

Cade Carmichael won the Man of the Match Award

 

Day 3:

Kearsney 150/8 (Carmichael 37)

Waterkloof (Titans Franchise): 112/9 (McMurray 3/15)

Kearsney won by 38 runs

Matt McMurray won the Man of the Match Award

 

Final placings:

1              Hoërskool Waterkloof (Titans Franchise)

2              SACS (Cobras Franchise)

3              St Stithians (Lions Franchise)

4              Kearsney College (Dolphins Franchise)

5              Grey High School (Warriors Franchise)

6              St Andrews (Bloemfontein) (Knights Franchise)

7              Queens High School (Inland Focus Franchise)

8              Graeme College (Coastals Focus Franchise)