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.'”

 

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.

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“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.”

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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!

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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.”

Michaelhouse paddlers produced a stunning set of results in the recent Dusi Canoe Marathon. In a K2 (doubles) year, they had five of the six podium finishers in the under-18 race and were also the victors in the under-16 event. It was fair reward for a close-knot group of boys whose love for the sport and competition between one another has brought out the best in them, as KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan found out when he visited Balgowan last week.

Victory in the Dusi went the way of Ross Leslie and Chase Leisegang, followed by Sam Butcher and Matthew Millward, with Jack Edmonds in third. He had teamed up with Kwandokuhle Mzolo for the iconic three day race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. Jack Shooter and Reuben Baldry claimed the under-16 honours.

Beyond those results, the excellence of the performances of the Michaelhouse boys was underlined by their overall positions in the field: Leslie/Leisegang 19th, Butcher/Millward 21st, Edmonds/Mzolo 23rd and Shooter/Baldry 82nd. Special mention, too, must go to Michaelhouse Head of the Life Sciences Department and master-in-charge of canoeing, Paul Snyman, who teamed up with Huntley Earle and came home in 102nd place.

Michaelhouse’s journey to be SA basketball’s best

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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 overall sixth place finishers, it is worth noting, were the Houston brothers, Alan and Andrew, both Michaelhouse old boys. The boat in 24th place was of interest, too. That crew was made up of Brandon van der Walt, a former junior world marathon champion, and Shane Millward. Shane is Matthew’s father, so son beat father.

Mary Millward, Matthew’s mother, is the long-time secretary of the Natal Canoe Club, the hosts of the Dusi Canoe Marathon. She said some playful ribbing has gone on between the pair since, but Shane was more than happy that Matthew beat him.

Michaelhouse’s paddling success, as with most successes in life, did not happen overnight. A fantastic tradition of excellence has been building up in recent years, with the school producing outstanding talents, like the Houstons, Craig Heenan and Emanuel Zaloumis, all top performers in the Dusi (and other river races and marathons), and Jean van der Westhuyzen, who at just 16 years of age captured the K2 junior title at the 2014 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Oklahoma City with Maritzburg College old boy, Louis Hattingh.

At the 2018 National Sprint Championships, Jean van der Westhuyzen was crowned the Men’s Victor Ludorum. He has since emigrated Down Under and is on the Australian national team. (Photo: Anthony Grote, Gameplanmedia)

More recently, a victory in the under-16 age group of the K2 race at the 2018 Dusi Canoe Marathon by Ross Leslie and Sam Butcher served notice that they would be hot contenders in 2020. Ross comes from a good pedigree. His dad, James, was for many years one of the top Dusi paddlers.

In a chat with Paul Snyman, Ross, Sam and Chase, Sam said he was inspired by the example set by Craig Heenan and Jean van der Westhuyzen: “I remember watching them train and seeing them get results. It prompted me to want to start paddling and to try to achieve like them.”

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It was Sam that really challenged him to become a better paddler, said Ross: “We always used to race each other and eventually we started training so hard we dropped all of our other sports and focussed completely on canoeing.

“The thing that has got Michaelhouse Canoe Club so big is that there is a big bunch of us that are really close friends. We try and train together, so that results in us pushing one another a lot harder. That’s the reason why we are dominating so much,” he added.

The Michaelhouse boys are fortunate to have a  dam on the school grounds to train on, but they also make regular trips down to Pietermaritzburg to participate in the Dusi Dice on Thursday evenings at Natal Canoe Club.The weekly event brings together paddlers of all abilities and ages for what is, in essence, a competitive training session on Camps Drift. It’s also a time to learn from others and be a part of a community that is, arguably, more inclusive than any other sport’s community in South Africa.

A recent photo, taken from the Michaelhouse Facebook page, showing the Canoe Club boys training on the school’s dam. (https://www.facebook.com/michaelhouse.org/)

That inclusivity is also evident in the Michaelhouse Canoe Club and, in this instance, it’s about bringing together boys of different ages from different year groups. Master-in-charge of canoeing Paul Snyman explained: “Chase, for example, was in grade 10 last year, but he was way better than many of the senior paddlers, and that kind of levels the playing fields, so you don’t have the hierarchy that you tend to have in all-boys’ schools. It flattens out a bit, so you can have a grade 10 boy having a friend in A Block (grade 12) or grade 11.”

“When you’re a grade 8 or 9, you tend to be a bit lost, but when you get to the dam and a matric boy or a grade 11 is your buddy, it’s a lot easier to fit in at the school, which is nice,” Sam commented.

Last year, winter training was introduced. In Balgowan, that would be a daunting and, one imagines, rather unpleasant thing, given the cold winters. Thankfully, almost all of the paddling takes place elsewhere, Paul Snyman explained: “It involves quite a lot of travelling, but I think that has been important in their development to be put in a group of like-minded paddlers from Pietermaritzburg and its surrounds, including adults, who push these guys. I think it has had a positive effect.”

Proud paddlers: Sam Butcher, vice-captain, Michaelhouse Canoe Club; Chase Leisegang; and Ross Leslie, captain, Michaelhouse Canoe Club. (Photo: Brad Morgan, KZN10.com)

So, to the 2020 Dusi Canoe Marathon…

Based on their results in events leading up to the race, the Michaelhouse boys figured they would be dicing it out for the honours. “In all the pre-races, we were always on the podium, but the order changed,” said Ross. “We knew it was going to be between our three boats, we just didn’t know what the finishing positions would be.”

Camp’s Drift, as the paddlers head for the Ernie Pearce Weir, shortly after the start on day one of the Dusi Canoe Marathon. This group included Sam Butcher and Matthew Millward. (Photo: supplied)

The Dusi, more than any other race, places a premium on both running (portaging in paddling parlance) and paddling, and that was something that favoured Ross Leslie and Chase Leisegang. Ross credited their coach, Andrew Booyens, for ensuring their running was a strength. It also helped that Booyens coached now 10-time Dusi winner, Andy Birkett, from whom he was able to glean valuable information.

Despite their solid preparation and strength in running, Chase admitted that the opening day, especially the Campbell’s Farm portages, made it the hardest of the three days for him because he and his partner pushed so hard. Nonetheless, he and Ross were rewarded for their labours and were the first under-18 finishers on the day in 3:01:53.65.

The Campbell’s Farm portage, early on day one, played a decisive role in winning the overall under-18 title for Chase Leisegang (front) and Ross Leslie (back). (Photo: supplied)

Jack Edmonds and Kwandokuhle Mzolo followed in 3:08:50.27, with Sam Butcher and Matthew Millward in third. It was a tough day for the Butcher/Millward combination, especially for Sam. He was dealing with the effects of a severely broken ankle that he had suffered some months previously. On a day with plenty of portaging, he struggled. “My running was poor, more walking than running,” he admitted.

On day two, Ross and Chase were able to stretch their lead after a strong finish on Inanda Dam saw them cross the line in 3:11:23.90. It was far from smooth sailing, however, as Ross related: “On day two it rained and it had a big effect. On one of the portages, Ngomeni’s, the initial 10 metres was a mudslide. It was very hard getting up there.”

“The portage was quite wet and we couldn’t run too fast,” Sam weighed in, but his partner, Matthew, had an even tougher time. ““He vomited from five kilometres above the dam to about three-quarters of the way to the end of the day. For about 12 kilometres out, he was vomiting. He tried to sip his juice, he brought it up. Eventually that just went away and we were strong for the last bit.”

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It was only later that they realised the likely cause of Matthew’s illness was bilharzia, which he had previously contracted. “He went through stages when he was fine and then it was bad. He was a bit loopy, which bilharzia does to you,” reckoned Sam.

Despite their challenges, the Butcher/Millward boat crossed the line in 3:13:42.28, which was enough to put them ahead of Edmonds/Mzolo, who finished in 3:19:41.08.

With the fearsome Burma Road portage ruled out as an option on day three, everybody would have to stay on the water and paddle around that section of the river. Thankfully for the boys, steady rain helped elevate the water level, making for a very enjoyable time.

“It was great to paddle around this year. I actually paddled it last year (when he finished 42nd overall and fourth in the under-18 K1 race), so I knew where to go. The water levels were very good,” Ross smiled.

When the finish at Blue Lagoon loomed, it came with some butterflies in the stomach, Chase acknowledged: “I was nervous. I felt like they were catching us quite quickly and I tried to paddle my hardest to the end.”

He and Ross had enough in the bag, however, to claim a sweet victory, even though Sam and Matthew did record the third day’s best under-18 performance. Chase and Ross posted a time of 2:28:06.82, which saw them complete the race in 8:41:24.37. A 2:24:27.48 saw Sam and Matthew end it in 8:48:44.15.

Behind them, Jack Edmonds and Kwandokuhle Mzolo finished in 2:32:23.90, narrowly eclipsing the nine-hour mark for the race.

The under-16 winners, Jack Shooter and Reuben Baldry, completed the Dusi with a total time of 10:41:39.80 to secure both of the boys’ age group titles for Michaelhouse.

The under-16 age group winners of the 2020 Dusi Canoe Marathon: Jack Shooter and Reuben Baldry. (Photo: supplied)

The year is young and there is plenty more to come from the Michaelhouse paddlers. Sam is focussing on the sprints and will contest national trials in Shongweni from 1-5 April. If he earns selection, he will race for South Africa at Brandenburg in Germany in July.

Last year, he was part of a 15-person South African squad that travelled to Slovakia to contest an Olympic Hopes event, with the format mirroring that used in the Olympics. “It was great to learn how it works and how big it is over there,” he said.

For many of the other boys, their focus will turn to marathon racing, mixed in, from time to time, with some surf-skiing. Then, look out for Michaelhouse to excel again in another of the country’s most popular river races, the Fish River Canoe Marathon, which takes place from 26-30 September.

Last year, the Michaelhouse team of Sam Butcher, Ross Leslie, Matthew Millward, and Jack Edmonds, all of whom remain at the school, captured the Schools’ Team Trophy, which is exactly what they did in this year’s Dusi. But that should have been obvious, shouldn’t it?

The history of sport at Clifton College is remarkable, especially when one considers that the school is only 18 years of age. Most of its sport is played at an elite level, like cricket, waterpolo, tennis and hockey. But basketball? With their performances at the prestigious Saint John’s Basketball Festival this past weekend, Clifton’s basketball players proved they can, no doubt, compete at an elite level, writes KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan.

The team, led by their inspirational captain Jacques Mahanga, put together a string of eye-catching performances in the toughest pool of the event. They opened with a 32-29 victory over Saint Alban’s College, an established power in the game, showing character to score a late equaliser to force overtime before earning a sweet victory in the extra period.

Clifton’s pool, the toughest of the lot, included the hosts, Saint John’s College. (Photo: Saint John’s basketball, https://www.stjohnscollege.co.za/basketball/)

They downed a much-improved Enjabulweni School 25-13 in their second outing and followed that up with a 28-23 win over Cape Town’s Wynberg Boys High, a team that hadn’t encountered before.

What made Clifton’s pool the toughest of all, though, was their next two opponents, Saint John’s College and Michaelhouse, the sides who ended up battling it out in the final for the title.

In a very physical contest, they went down 24-36 to Saint John’s before coming out on the wrong side of a very tightly-contested game against the eventual champions, Michaelhouse, by a slim 35-37 margin.

That final outing against a side that won the Stayers Tournament at Kearsney College and now the Saint John’s title, was a great advertisement for the game, said Master in Charge of Basketball at Clifton, Peter Farquharson.

Clifton defeated Wynberg Boys High, an unfamiliar foe, at the Saint John’s Basketball Tournament. (Photo: Saint John’s Basketball https://www.stjohnscollege.co.za/basketball/)

“What I really liked about that game was it was a game played in a beautiful spirit. The boys all know each other, they’ve played against each other, they’re friends with each other and on the court it was a great game of basketball.”

“The concept of mutual respect in a game like basketball is definitely there. The Clifton and Michaelhouse boys have also played in teams together, so those relationships are established. While it was competitive, it was played in the right spirit.”

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As for the result, Clifton’s captain Jacques Mahanga wasn’t surprised that he and his team-mates had pushed a team that is arguably the best in the country all the way.

“We left our hearts on the court. We fought very hard. We weren’t shocked. We were all in the right head space. We all wanted to win, we wanted to beat Michaelhouse. We’ve had enough of Michaelhouse,” he laughed. “We saw an opportunity to beat them, but we were a little unlucky to go down by two.”

Clifton even had two opportunities to win the clash with buzzer beaters, but those shots didn’t fall. Nonetheless, the game showed Clifton belongs among the elite, and their other performances in the pool games backed that up.

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With only five league fixtures taking place outside of tournaments during the first term, the Saint John’s Tournament was an opportunity to grow for the Durban school and, said their skipper, he believes they did.

“We certainly grew from the first game to the last. Funnily enough, in our first game against Saint Alban’s, we wouldn’t have won the game if one of our juniors did not score the last basket to send the game into overtime. The juniors helped us win. It was an opportunity for the seniors to praise the juniors for their role in the team.”

He added: “We didn’t have to tell other teams how good we have become. Our performances spoke for us. We performed better than we had against other KZN schools earlier in the season. Kearsney, for example, beat us in the season. They have always finished higher than us, but they didn’t make it past the group stages.”

Photographed outside Founder’s House at Clifton College, first team basketball captain Jacques Mahanga and Master in Charge of Basketball Peter Farquharson (Photo: Brad Morgan, KZN10.com)

Mahanga, who has KZN under-19 colours in the sport, is the heart and soul of the Clifton basketball team, Peter Farquharson said: “He’s very humble. In any game, he is, by far, our top points’ scorer. But he has certainly worked hard on playing a team structure and adding to the strengths of our team. Teams change from year to year, and we have had to adapt things at times, but he has definitely been a strong team player.

“Jacques works hard, he trains hard, and he is disciplined. He has been a good leader. He’s worked closely with some of the juniors, which is really good to see.”

Mahanga’s leadership is plain to see in the manner in which he carries himself. He is confident, but respectful, open, honest, and a smile comes easily to his face.

He plays either point guard or shooting guard and his NBA heroes reflect the qualities he admires and strives to emulate: Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors, the best shooter in the game; the recently-deceased Kobe Bryant, known for his fighter’s mentality; and Le Bron James, the do-everything Los Angeles Lakers superstar who, like Jacques, rose from humble beginnings, which the Clifton skipper likens to his own story.

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He attended Addington Primary School, not a traditional feeder school for Clifton, but Jacques was the recipient of the Gail Teunissen Legacy Scholarship, given annually to a boy from Addington, who is the best all-round learner.

“I was lucky to get that,” he said. “I was competing with three other candidates and they were all very good.”

When he arrived at Clifton in grade eight, he had a slight edge over many of the other boys in that he had started playing basketball at Addington. It wasn’t so much about the sport as it was about friendship, he explained at Founders House on the Clifton campus on Tuesday.

“What really pushed me to play basketball was the fact that I saw all my friends playing basketball. We all played soccer and then they left to play basketball and I was the only one left playing soccer, so I decided to move to basketball too.”

Disarmingly candid, he described himself as being “very cocky” when he moved to Clifton. He wanted to play first team basketball in grade eight and by the fourth term he had achieved that goal.

This past season, Jacques was the senior player in the team, along with only four other matric boys, and that meant he played the role of mentor to some of the younger boys, in a reversal of the roles from when he first represented the Clifton first team.

Clifton’s 28-23 victory against Wynberg Boys High gave them three wins on the trot in the Saint John’s Basketball Tournament pool stage. (Photo: Saint John’s Basketball https://www.stjohnscollege.co.za/basketball/)

When basketball was introduced at the school there was only one team per age group and games were played in the school hall. As its popularity began to grow two external courts were added. Recently three brand new courts were put up at the Riverside Sports Club, where so much of the school’s sport is played, bringing to five the number of courts it boasts and reflecting the growing popularity of the sport. That growth is happening in other schools, too, said Peter Farquharson.

Farquharson, who has been in charge of basketball at the school “for six or seven years”, said it has been an interesting journey thus far to grow the standard of play at Clifton.

He explained: “There are two things that have held Clifton basketball back. One is the size of the pool that we draw players from. The second thing is overcoming the perception that basketball is for those people who can’t play cricket, swim, or play waterpolo. I think we’re getting past that now.”

Clifton’s success in the Saint John’s Tournament was far from an overnight achievement, he added: “This year has been the culmination of a number of years of work. We’ve had nice stable structures in place in terms of coaching. It’s difficult to find coaches, because there are very few teachers who are coaches. You have to look externally for coaches. We’ve had a relatively stable structure and there are a couple of other things.

The team that performed so well in the Saint John’s Basketball Tournament before their departure for Johannesburg (Photo: Peter Farquharson)

“We’ve gone from one team per age group to four. From attending one tournament per year, we now attend five altogether. The under-14s go to Saint Andrew’s College, the under-16s were at Michaelhouse and Saint Stithian’s, the open team was at Saint John’s, and at the end of the year we’ll send the Stayers to Kearsney.”

The willingness to travel to play top teams in almost any sport anywhere in the country has been one of the prime drivers of sporting success at Clifton, helping the school to ascend at a rapid rate unlike anything seen from other schools of a comparable age.

Something else that has been of benefit to basketball at the school was the formation of Cobweb, an old boys/school boys club, which has entered a team in the Ethekweni Basketball League for the past two years. “A couple of the boys, like Jacques, play in that league. That means they’re getting exposed to the sport throughout the year. They’re playing at a tough level against men’s teams,” Farquharson said.

Mahanga admitted, though, that not all his goals had been achieved: “Last year, in the prefect’s application form, they asked everyone their goals for 2020 and my goal was to help make Clifton a top 10 team in South Africa. The only way to do that is by winning games.

“Unfortunately, this season we lost a lot of league games. In the Kearsney tournament, we came 10th, and in the Saint John’s tournament our goal was to make it to the quarter-finals. We were unfortunate to lose by three points against Michael Mount. They won the Saint John’s tournament two years ago.”

The point, though, is if you don’t attain your goal, you can still enjoy success.

“We played hard. We had the toughest pool. The two games we lost were to the finalists. We still made it out of the pool and we were unlucky not to make it into the quarters. I am sure that every coach out there is aware that Clifton basketball is rising,” Mahanga reckoned.

Like so many things at Clifton, where the idea of family is preached and lived, success comes from a holistic approach to all things. Peter Farquharson concluded: “There is an incredibly committed staff. The parental support is behind every endeavour at the school. Whether it’s the Chamber Choir or basketball, parental support is crucial, and it is there.”

Michaelhouse, Kearsney and Saint Charles remain steady powers at the top of KwaZulu-Natal schools’ basketball. Not long ago, DHS was the best in the country. Hilton College is strong, Maritzburg College is strong, Northwood is on the up, and Clifton now appears to have taken a seat at that table. The trick will be to sustain that success, but given their past record in other sports, why would one bet against them?

Day four of the Independent Schools Cricket Festival began under cloudy skies, with drizzle threatening to turn into something heavier and spoil the final day of the event. However, with a bit of venue juggling, seven T20 matches were played and at the conclusion of the day, Hilton College, Bishops and Saint Andrew’s College were left with unblemished records writes KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan.

“One always wants to achieve the best for all teams that commit to the festival in terms of game time,” Festival Director Wayne Scott commented after the last match. “We got through 19 of our 24 games for the weekend, which was fantastic.

Festival Director Wayne Scott (foreground, blue top) discusses the game as Clifton battle Saint Andrew’s College of Grahamstown.

“From a logistics perspective, to try and coordinate a festival around Durban, when you need six grounds and you don’t have fields of your own, creates its own challenges, so hats off to all my staff and all the logistics people involved.”

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HILTON COLLEGE VS MICHAELHOUSE

A big traditional rivalry was scheduled for Durban North College, but a waterlogged field led to Hilton and Michaelhouse moving to College Rovers. The break and new venue proved to be no problem for Hilton who powered their way to a lopsided nine-wicket win in double-quick time.

Brett Cutting shone with the ball for Hilton, capturing 3 for 8 in his four overs, as Michaelhouse, batting first, crashed to a lowly 64 all out.

In reply, the black and white rushed to victory in just 11 overs, led by Matt Diemont. He enjoyed a consistent festival with the bat and ended it on a high with an unbeaten 39.

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BISHOPS VS SAINT DAVID’S MARIST INANDA

Bishops had the most reliable top order over the course of the four days and they again came to the fore in a comfortable eight-wicket win over Saint David’s Marist Inanda on the Kingsmead Nursery ground.

Saint David’s batting aspirations were pegged back by losing wickets at regular intervals. Instead they managed an average 116 for 7 in their 20 overs.

James Fifield stood firm with 30 not out for the Gauteng school, while Storm Matthews led the Cape Town school’s attack with a good-looking return of 4 for 17 from his four overs.

Bishops then needed only 16 overs to pass the victory target of 118, getting there for the loss of just two batsmen, with Abdullah Adams contributing 37.

SAINT ANDREW’S COLLEGE VS SAINT JOHN’S COLLEGE

Saint Andrew’s College played two matches, the first against Saint John’s and the second against Clifton, which brought the Festival to a close. Like Bishops, they showed strong depth in their batting.

Playing on the Riverside Football Field first up meant short boundaries square of the wicket and the Grahamstown side took full advantage of that to put up a challenging 181 for 6, with Matt Poole’s 82 proving to be the highest score in any game on the last day. Christopher Ford was the most successful of the Saint John’s bowlers, claiming three wickets, but he was also expensive, going for 49 runs.

Saint Andrew’s College batted aggressively to post an intimidating 181 for 6. (All photos: Brad Morgan, KZN10.com)

The Johannesburgers were not up to the pressure of matching a required run rate of just over nine to the over and fell well short, finishing on 130 for 8, with Harry Grose striking 33. That left Saint Andrew’s the convincing victors by 51 runs.

CLIFTON VS SAINT JOHN’S COLLEGE

Later, on the Riverside Oval, they took on Clifton. The hosts had a very good festival, impressing in the field and with the ball especially, but they didn’t put enough runs on the board to stop the hard-hitting College boys.

Clifton’s Shrey Singh appeals successfully for LBW against Saint Andrew’s College.

Wade Vietch played a good innings to tally 50, but a total of 135 for 4 wasn’t enough to really pressure the Eastern Cape side. Clifton did well to get deep into their batting line-up but, with a couple of overs to spare, Saint Andrew’s College secured a three-wicket win.

CLIFTON VS SAINT STITHIAN’S COLLEGE

Clifton had begun the day with a well-deserved six-wicket victory over Saint Stithian’s. It was built off of a strong bowling performance, which limited Saints to only 105 for 7, with Josh Northend knocking over 3 for 13.

There was an enticing duel between bat and ball when Clifton visited the crease against Saint Stithian’s.

Opening batsman Ben McElligott then played a match-winning innings of 48 not out from 58 deliveries to see Clifton to a six-wicket win.

Assessing the host’s performances, Clifton Director of Cricket Wayne Scott said: “We were playing the best teams from around the country, which is awesome. We always want to play people from different provinces.

“The interesting thing was we had six teams from coastal regions, if we include Bishops and Saint Andrew’s Grahamstown, plus the four schools from KZN. Then we had six schools from inland – from Joburg, Pretoria and Bloemfontein.

“The primary objective for us is to have games against new schools, which we achieved.”

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SAINT CHARLES COLLEGE VS SAINT ALBAN’S COLLEGE

Saint Charles, after some strong performances, came unstuck against Saint Alban’s on the Durban North College top field. Due to a muddy pitch, bowling was done entirely from the north end, so kudos to the coaches and players for making sure a game took place.

Saint Charles were out in the middle first. Despite short square boundaries, which made for inviting targets for the batsmen, they lost wickets regularly. It led to them posting 130 for 7, which was not as healthy a total as it might have seemed because of the small field.

Short square boundaries invited the Saint Charles’ batsmen to play shots…

Triston Venter struck 41 and Kwanele Nqayi made 30, but the Maritzburg side had trouble with the bowling of Cameron Walker and Luca Kirstein. Walker snapped up 3 for 16 in four overs, while Kirstein captured 3 for 10 in three.

…which backfired at times.

It was tight, but Saint Alban’s got home with eight balls to spare, reaching 135 for 6 in the penultimate over. Their victory owed much to Boago Gaoraelwe whose 67 was crucial to the positive result for the Pretoria boys.

SAINT ANDREW’S SCHOOL VS SAINT BENEDICT’S

A young Saint Andrew’s School side had battled throughout the festival with their batting and against Saint Benedict’s it was again their undoing. Batting first, the Bloemfontein team scraped together only 71 for 9 in their 20 overs. Even though conditions were a little tricky, that was never going to be enough to challenge Saint Benedict’s.

JC Young of Saint Andrew’s goes on the drive against Saint Benedict’s.

Tristan Eley made sure Bennies cruised to the win with an unbeaten 39, which gave them a comfortable eight-wicket margin of victory.

Summing up the four days of the event, Festival Director Wayne Scott said: “From my side, we had a wonderful week of cricket. Lots of new friendships were formed and lots of new bonds were forged, in terms of players playing against each other and coaches getting to know each other.

“It’s all about playing the game in the right spirit, and I think most games were played that way.

“Everyone wants to win but, for me, the awesome thing about the week was that lots of teams got to play against sides that they don’t normally play against.

SCORE SUMMARIES

Michaelhouse 64 all out (B. Cutting 3 for 8)
Hilton College 65 for 1 off 11 overs (M. Diemont 39*)

Hilton won by 9 wickets

Saint Andrew’s College 181 for 6 (M. Poole 82, C. Ford 3 for 49)
Saint John’s College 130 for 8 (H. Grose 33)

Saint Andrew’s College won by 51 runs

Clifton 135 for 4 (W. Vietch 50)
Saint Andrew’s College 137 for 7

Saint Andrew’s College won by 3 wickets

Saint David’s Marist Inanda 116 for 7 (J. Fifield 30*, S. Matthews 4 for 17)
Bishops 117 for 2 off 16 overs (A. Adams 37)

Bishops won by 8 wickets

Saint Stithian’s College 105 for 7 (J. Northend 3 for 13)
Clifton 108 for 4 (B. McElligott 48*)

Clifton won by 6 wickets

Saint Charles College 130 for 7 (T. Venter 41, K. Nqayi 30, Luca Kirstein 3 for 10, C. Walker 3 for 16)
Saint Alban’s College 135 for 6 (B. Gaoraelwe 67)

Saint Alban’s College won by 4 wickets

Saint Andrew’s School 71 for 9
Saint Benedict’s 72 for 2 (T. Eley 39*)

Saint Benedict’s won by 8 wickets

Hilton College and Clifton eked out narrow victories, while Saint Charles powered their way to an emphatic win, on day two of the Independent Schools Under-15 Cricket Festival in Durban on Thursday. The conditions were overcast and windy – no bails were used – and threatened to rain out the games, but ultimately they brought only one contest to a premature end, writes KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan.

HILTON COLLEGE VS SAINT JOHN’S COLLEGE 

At the Riverside Sports Club, Hilton College put up 189 for 9 in their 50 overs against Saint John’s College. On a turning wicket and with a heavy outfield, it was a decent total and Hilton were confident it would be enough. They were right, but only just.

The issue for Hilton was the fact that five of the top six batsmen in their order made their way into double figures, but none really pushed on to produce a telling contribution.

Ross Boast’s 31 was their best effort, closely followed by Matt Diemont, who made 30.

Oliver Xego sent three batsmen packing at a cost of 31 runs, while Thomas Archer captured 3 for 41 and Liam Billet took 2 for 39. Props, too, to Krishay Patel, who sent down 10 overs and finished with an economical 1 for 20.

Saint John’s had every opportunity to chase down the victory target of 190, but they were undone by their running between the wickets and Hilton’s fielding, with four players departing due to run outs.

Crucially, they included the top scorer in the match, Harry Grose, who made 50 from 75 deliveries, with five fours.

The run out of Harry Grose was a crucial moment in Hilton’s hard-fought win over Saint John’s (All photos: Brad Morgan, KZN10.com)

The two Lukes, Watt and Francis, both made it into the twenties, but were unable to provide the extra impetus, so badly undermined by run outs, that the Saint John’s innings needed. In the end they came up eight runs shy of the Hilton total, finishing on 181 for 9.

CLIFTON VS SAINT DAVID’S MARIST INANDA

Runs were hard to come by at Durban North College where the host school, Clifton, and Saint David’s Marist Inanda went hammer and tongs in a tense, but fairly contested match.

Having won the toss, Clifton chose to bat, but like so many matches on the day – was it the overcast conditions? – saw their batsmen make some starts but none push on to produce a decisive innings.

James Matthis, their top scorer on day one against Saint Alban’s with 71, was once more the leading run-getter, but this time his contribution was 29, taking him to 100 runs for the Festival thus far.

The big disappointment for Clifton would be that Matthis, together with Ben McElligott, put on 46 for the first wicket. Once McElligott departed for 22, Clifton lost the remainder of their wickets for just 99 runs.

Brandon Archer did most of the damage for Saint David’s, snapping up 4 for 31 from his 10 overs. He was well supported by Sohan Desai, who bowled six overs and picked up 3 for 16.

Clifton edged out Saint David’s Marist Inanda after an intense contest in which the ball had the better of the bat.

Caleb McLaren was the glue in the Johannesburg side’s response, making 63 not out, but the support he required was missing and Saint David’s came up 10 runs shy, losing their last wicket with the total on 135.

Clifton owed a lot to spinner Shrey Singh for their victory. His five-for at a cost of 42 runs proved just too much for Saint David’s to overcome.

SAINT CHARLES COLLEGE VS SAINT ANDREW’S SCHOOL

At Collegians, Saint Charles enjoyed a convincing 104-run victory over Saint Andrew’s School. It was far from a vintage batting performance from the Pietermaritzburg side, but they had enough contributions, aided by 26 extras, to muster 217 in 38.4 overs.

Joao de Franca nudged out Matt Urquhart for the top score, making 44 with six fours, while Urquhart sent the ball across the boundary nine times in his innings of 43, which came in double-quick time from just 28 deliveries.

Ross Ritchie produced a telling knock, making 37, while Panashe Taruvinga hit 24.

Jordan van den Berg led the Saint Andrew’s bowlers with a return of 3 for 39, but was a little expensive, going at 6.5 runs per over. Ishaq Khan snapped up 2 for 12 in four, while Schalk Liebenberg was arguably the pick of the Bloemfontein school’s bowlers, capturing 2 for 31 in his 10 overs.

Saint Andrew’s then did themselves no favours when they visited the crease with both openers being run out. Just two players reached double figures as the batting side crumbled under heavy pressure from the Saint Charles’ bowlers and fielders.

Jordan Bentley was the star of the show, knocking over 3 for 13 in 10 overs, while the rest of the wickets were shared around.

The top scorer for Saint Andrew’s School against Saint Charles was middle order batsman Matthew Simon.

Matthew Simon hit 34 at close to a run a ball for Saint Andrew’s and Schalk Liebenberg occupied the crease for a long time for his 25 from 96 deliveries, but with no other meaningful support they were well beaten by Saint Charles.

MICHAELHOUSE VS SAINT BENEDICT’S

Michaelhouse faced Saint Benedict’s at Lahee Park in Pinetown, but they, unfortunately, on a day when rain threatened throughout, were the only teams to have their game rained out. There was a lot of cricket played, nonetheless.

The Balgowan boys mustered 158 in their 50 overs, thanks mostly to Michael Thornton and Nathan Hoatson. Thornton top scored with 52, while Hoatson shone with a knock of 47 runs.

Simele Maye stood out with the ball, with an economical and incisive return of 4 for 21.

The Saint Benedict’s innings then lasted 16 overs before the rain brought it to a close on 58 for 1.

BISHOPS VS SAINT ALBAN’S COLLEGE

In a high-scoring game, which bucked the trend, Bishops recorded a 39-run victory over Saint Alban’s at College Rovers, aided by an astonishing five run outs.

Batting first, after being put in, Bishops posted 289 for 8, which was highlighted by a second wicket stand of 157 between opening batsman Kashief Josephand number three Nic Allison.

Joseph was the first to depart, just nine runs shy of a century, having taken only 115 balls for his 91, with 10 fours and two sixes.

As so often happens when a big stand is broken, the second of the partners sooned joined the other back on the side of the field, with Allison falling just four runs later for 64, with five fours and one maximum.

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Abdullah Adams weighed in with a rapid 36 and the middle order all reached double figures without pushing on to anything significant. Still, 289 was a decent total.

Sam Berry picked up three wickets for Saint Alban’s at a cost of 56 runs, while Luca Kirstein claimed 2 for 40 and Eldré Spies a tidy 2 for 36 from his 10 overs.

The Pretoria school’s response lasted 47.2 overs. There was some good batting, but those five run outs were too much to overcome.

Charl Barnard, the hero of their draw against Clifton on day one, was the top scorer once again, making 64 from 96 balls, with five fours, at the top of the order before being caught by Cole Crawford off of the bowling of Jack Crafford.

Stuart van der Merwe made 45 as he and Barnard put on 82 for the second wicket, while lower down the order, Druan Visagie, in at eight, took the attack to the bowlers, cracking an unbeaten 41 from just 35 balls, with five fours and a six. Unfortunately for him and for Saint Alban’s, he ran out of partners as they finished on 250 all out, 40 runs fewer than they required to win.

SAINT STITHIAN’S VS SAINT ANDREW’S COLLEGE

Saint Stithian’s, after a rough outing against Hilton on day one, performed better in their second match against Saint Andrew’s College, but were again on the wrong side of the result, going down by five wickets to the team from Grahamstown.

Richard Seletswane struck 50 for Saint Stithian’s, but good bowling from Hlonela Ntshingwa, who captured 3 for 16, and Stuart Carr, who took 3 for 35, made sure the batting side was unable to get any real momentum going. Still, they managed to make their way to 143 all out.

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Saint Andrew’s College, without any one batsman going off, reeled in the Saint Stithian’s total in just 32.2 overs, led by an unbeaten 32 from Oliver Snart, for the loss of five wickets.

SCORE SUMMARIES

Hilton College 189 for 9 (R. Boast 31, M. Diemont 30, T. Archer 3 for 41, O. Xego 3 for 31)
Saint John’s College 181 for 9 (H. Grose 50)

Hilton won by eight runs

Clifton 145 all out (J. Matthis 30)
Saint David’s Marist Inanda 135 all out (C. McLaren 63*, S. Singh 5 for 42)

Clifton won by 10 runs

Saint Charles College 217 all out (De Franca 44, Urquhart 43, Ritchie 37, Van den Berg 3 for 39)
Saint Andrew’s School 113 all out (M. Simon 34, J. Bentley 3 for 13)

Saint Charles won by 104 runs

Michaelhouse 158 all out (M. Thornton 52, N. Hoatson 47, Simele 4 for 21)
Saint Benedict’s 58 for 1 off 16 overs

Game abandoned due to rain

Bishops 289 for 8 (K. Joseph 91, C. Crawford 65)
Saint Alban’s College 250 all out

Bishops won by 39 all out

Saint Stithian’s College 143 all out (R. Seletswane 50, H. Ntshingwa 3 for 16, S. Carr 3 for 35)
Saint Andrew’s College 145 for 5 (O. Snart 32*)

Saint Andrew’s won by 5 wickets

For the teams that travelled from the central areas of South Africa, the opening day of the Independent Schools Under-15 Cricket Festival must have been a bit of a smack in the face; it was very hot and very humid in Durban and the outfields were playing slowly, meaning any time spent in the middle, be it with bat or ball, would be taxing.

KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan took in some intense competition, which resulted in wins for Hilton College, Michaelhouse, and Bishops, and strong draws for Clifton, Saint Charles and Saint Andrew’s College.

The format for the day was time cricket, with 50-overs matches set to follow on Thursday and Friday, and T20s on Saturday.

(Score summaries below)

CLIFTON vs SAINT ALBAN’S

At Riverside, the host school, Clifton, squared up to Saint Alban’s College of Pretoria. In the early going, it was the visitors who enjoyed the better of the contest, led by the Kirstein twins, seamer Luca and off-spinner Liam, who captured the first four wickets to fall as Clifton lurched to 42 for 4.

Connor McKenzie and James Matthis then lent the innings some substance by moving the total along to 71 before McKenzie was bowled by Liam Kirstein for 20. Ben van der Merwe (7) didn’t last too long, but that brought Kyle Thomas to the crease and he, together with James Matthis, then set about taking control of the battle between bat and ball.

The duo combined for a very well played partnership of 104 to put Clifton in the driving seat.

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Thomas brought stability and watchfulness to the crease, refusing to play any risky shots, while Matthis took on the dominant role, impressing with his willingness to take on any full ball by driving straight and true over the top. In the end, his offensive mindset cost him his wicket, stumped off the bowling of Boago Gaoraelwe for a fine 71 from 107 deliveries, with 10 fours, but not before he had played a pivotal knock.

Clifton added a further 15 runs before declaring on 200 for 8 from 64.2 overs, with the left-hander, Kyle Thomas, unbeaten on 48, which had come from 88 balls and included five fours.

Liam Kirstein led the Saint Alban’s attack, snaring 5 for 64 in 19 overs with his spin, while his brother, Luca, picked up 2 for 28 in 7.2.

Charl Barnard’s bat stood between Clifton and a convincing victory. (All photos, Brad Morgan, KZN10.com)

In reply, the Pretoria school had opener Charl Barnard (above) to thank for not being run over by the Clifton attack. He played a nuggetty knock, which last all 54 overs of the Saint Alban’s reply, to finish on an undefeated 60 from 158 balls, with eight fours.

All around him, the Saint Alban’s batsmen struggled. Luke Sass managed 14, but his was the only other score to make it beyond single figures as the Clifton spinners tied up the opposition batsmen in knots.

Clifton’s Keaton Murray clean bowled Luca Kirstein for a single.

Barnard’s battling knock was rewarded, however, when Saint Alban’s gutted it out to reached 97 for 8 by stumps. Opening bowler Keaton Murray captured 2 for 8 for Clifton from nine overs, five of which were maidens, while his new ball partner, Mitchell Tillard, claimed 1 for 7 in seven.

It was the twin spin offensive from Huzaifah Badat and Shrey Singh, though, that caused all kinds of trouble for Saint Albans. Badat snared 3 for 25 in 15 overs, while Singh finished with 2 for 16 from his 12.

In the end, however, Barnard stood between Clifton and victory.

SAINT CHARLES VS SAINT DAVID’S MARIST INANDA

Saint Charles College faced Saint David’s Marist Inanda on the Kingsmead Nursery Ground and enjoyed themselves at the crease. Spending 65 overs out in the middle, they tallied a useful 271 for 8.

Matthew Urquhart top scored with 70 and there was plenty of meaningful support for his innings from Panashe Taruvinga, who made 42, Stefan Veldsman, with 40, and Joao de Franca with 30.

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Saint David’s found the going a lot tougher in their turn at bat. In just 10 fewer overs than Saint Charles required to get their 271, the Johannesburgers scratched their way to 78 for 7, which was enough for them to hold out for a draw.

De Franca showed off his all-round ability as he added a bowling return of 3 for 13 off of 15 overs to go with his 30 with the bat, while Jordan Bentley knocked over 3 for 19 in 12.

MICHAELHOUSE VS SAINT ANDREW’S SCHOOL

Michaelhouse and Saint Andrew’s School met at College Rovers in a contest dominated by the ball. Batting first, a young Saints’ team lost a couple of early wickets, but were then settled by a stubborn innings of 34 by Jordan van den Berg. He stuck around for 98 balls and sent three deliveries to the boundary before falling victim to Nathan Hoatson for 34.

Letlo Likhi put together a dour 28 not out from 149 balls, with two fours, but not much else was offered by the Bloem boys, who were dismissed for 113 in 63 overs.

Nathan Hoatson was the pick of the Michaelhouse bowlers, returning the superb figures of 20 overs, 11 maidens, 3 for 15.

Graham Wynne snapped up 2 for 9 in four and Aiden Jinnah claimed 2 for 36 as the ‘House attack set their batsman a very gettable target.

Michaelhouse were forced to sweat for their runs and for victory by Saint Andrew’s School.

At 43 for 1 in reply, the Balgowan-based side was cruising along, but they then saw three wickets fall for just eight runs. Another flurry of wickets, which saw them reduced from 65 for 4 to 80 for 7 had Michaelhouse concerned. But, for the loss of just one more wicket, they edged across the finishing line to secure a narrow win by two wickets.

At the top of the order, Kyle Walker had played a crucial knock, making 32 from 60 balls, with four fours, while Murray Baker struck 23 at a run a ball, with four boundaries. Dakalo Leketa starred for Saint Andrew’s, picking up 3 for 24 in 15 overs.

HILTON COLLEGE VS SAINT STITHIAN’S

At Crusaders, Hilton College powered their way to a convincing victory over Saint Stithian’s.

Batting first, Saints mustered 136 all out, with Masande Luthuli leading the way with an innings of 38 runs.

Nick Chantier was the pick of the Hilton bowlers, sending three batsmen packing to return figures of 3 for 25.

It simply wasn’t enough runs and Hilton were ruthless in their pursuit of the win.

Wian Liebenberg did most of the damage, weighing in with 70, while Matt Diemont hit 40 to see the boys from the Midlands to an emphatic nine-wicket victory.

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BISHOPS VS SAINT JOHN’S COLLEGE

Also at Crusaders, Bishops and Saint John’s met. The Johannesburg side has been a bit up and down this season, due mostly to inconsistent batting, scoring some good wins and suffering some disappointing losses, but a total of 196 all out looked like a reasonable score. It turns out if wasn’t nearly enough to stave off the Capetonians’ charge.

Storm Matthews shone for Bishops, striking an unbeaten 83, , which was the highest individual score achieved by any batsman on the day, and Abdullah Adams lent strong support with 68, to see the Cape Town school to an impressive five-wicket win.

SAINT ANDREW’S COLLEGE VS SAINT BENEDICT’S

At Collegians, Saint Andrew’s College were the only team to top 300, putting together 301 for 6 against Saint Benedict’s. Their innings didn’t have one very big score, but there was plenty of consistency from the batsmen.

Sibusiso Mxube top scored with 62 for the Grahamstown boys, Matthew Poole struck 60 not out, Matthew Beamish contributed 50, Bertram White 50, and Sinjhun Cawse an undefeated 34.

In reply, Saint Benedict’s put up 161 for 5 as the game petered out into a tame draw. Quaid Pillay returned the top score of 41 and Declan le Roux came close to matching him, making 35.

SCORE SUMMARIES

Clifton 200 for 8 (J. Matthis 71, B. van der Merwe 48, Liam Kirstein 5 for 64, Luca Kirstein 2 for 28)
Saint Alban’s 97 for 8 (C. Barnard 60*, H. Badat 3 for 25, K. Murray 2 for 8, S. Singh 2 for 16)
Match drawn

Saint Charles College 271 for 8 (M. Urquhart 70, P. Taruvinga 42, S. Veldsman 40*, J. de Franca 30)
Saint David’s Marist Inanda 78 for 7 (J. de Franca 3 for 13, J. Bentley 3 for 19)
Match drawn

Saint Stithian’s 136 all out (M. Luthuli 38, N. Chantier 3 for 25)
Hilton College 145 for 1 (W. Liebenberg 70, M. Diemont 40)
Hilton won by 9 wickets

Saint Andrew’s School 113 all out (J. van den Berg 34, L. Likhi 28*, N. Hoatson 3 for 15, G. Wynne 2 for 9)
Michaelhouse 114 for 8 (K. Walker 32, M. Baker 23, D. Leketa 3 for 24)
Michaelhouse won by 2 wickets

Saint John’s 196 all out
Bishops 201 for 5 (S. Matthews 83*, A. Adams 68)
Bishops won by 5 wickets

Saint Andrew’s College 301 for 6 (S. Mxube 62, M. Poole 60*, M. Beamish 50, B. White 50, S. Cawse 34*)
Saint Benedict’s 161 for 5 (Q. Pillay 41, D. le Roux 35)
Match drawn