DHS recorded a 17-3 win against Port Natal in the final game of the round-robin stage to book a place in the A-team final against the Glenwood Invitational XV on Friday, 21 February. It proved to be one of those uncompromising battles on the field between two well-matched team. DHS however used their opportunities well to scored three tries before the break and a scoreless second half.
Overall ‘School’ produced a good performance that was noted a number of encouraging positives in their play. Firstly they were clinical in the redzone and turned possession into points via three well-taken tries. Their catching and passing skills both got ticks. Their setpieces stood firm. Their defence was well organised. They brought an element of physicality to the game which Port Natal struggled to match. DHS impressed with upperbody strength. They also played with the kind of variation that resulted in go-forward and reflected a growing confidence in their ability as a team.
For Port Natal who has a useful first team this year, this sudden-death game was one of those days they’d rather forget in a hurry. Not for lack of effort because a number of their boys really put their bodies on the line to get the desired result but as hard as they tried not much worked out the way they would have liked it to. One of their passionate supporters said it best on the night with the cliche “they are their own worst enemies!” A lot of unforced errors meant they could not get into any sort of rhythm apart from in the opening stages when they used a few pops off the sides of rucks to get ball runners onto good lines along the fringes. This got them over the advantage line but throughout the match, they just could not put together enough phases of play to suck in defenders and breach a well drilled DHS defence. As predicted, Porties tended to find the scrum-time going a little to their disliking. This was not their downfall though. The big let-down was really their lineout work. A lot more was expected from them in this facet of play.
In the 9th minute Port Natal did ever so well to turnover a ball inside their own 22m area but just when it looked liked they had rescued the situation, the ball spilled out the back of the ruck unexpectedly. DHS regained control of it and seconds later it was broad-shouldered centre Blessing Buthelezi that powered his way over for the opening try. Flyhalf Gareth Simpson missed the conversion.
Port Natal almost struck back immediately with a try of their own. Hooker Wayne Wesson made an excellent break to get his team into the redzone before big tighthead Coenie van Rensburg used his bullk to get the home team even closer to scoring. Held up in the maul before the tryline was the referee’s call and DHS averted the danger. Port Natal continued to enjoy territorial advantage for the next few minutes. Missing a penalty was the second closest they came to scoring during this passage.
DHS’s second try came in the 21st minute and was started by winning a penalty at one of the handful of messy scrums during the match. From this penalty the Horseflies set up an attacking lineout and their well-structured rolling maul which has already been standout feature in a few DHS games took care of the rest. So many bodies collapse on top of the ball, it was difficult to see who got the try but big prop Abongile Xashombe used his weight to make a telling contribution and could have been the scorer. Again the kick was missed, leaving the score at 10-0.
Carlo Gresse, the Porties flyhalf landed a 30m shot at goal from in line with the posts after a DHS penalty was reversed. This registering of the only Porties points for the game closed the gap to 10-3.
The final try came about as a result of Port Natal losing a lineout on their own throw-in. DHS responded swiftly to the turnover. Once again Blessing Buthelezi was the go-forward catalyst, drawing extra attention from Porties defenders after closing the advantage-line. From where the centre was brought to ground, quickball, speed of transfers and great hands did the rest. Left wing Sandile Khumalo scored in the corner. Mabutana Peter slotted the conversion from the corner it make it 17-3, the lead that DHS held until the final whistle.
As mentioned the second half was a hard fought affair. The highlight of it was the set backline moves that DHS executed – running decoys with other players joining the line from depth and at different angles showed some high levels of technical skill. To their credit, the Port Natal second line of defence was up to the task of stopping each advance. It made for some exciting to watch rugby from both teams.
For Port Natal after such a spirited performance against the Glenwood Invitational XV and given their good track record in this Night Series competition over the years, they must feel disappointed with the result. They were a strong enough team to get to this year’s final. As a co-ed high school with less than 200 boys, Porties have one of the highest rugby participation percentages in the whole of South Africa and their commitment to the wonderful game always deserves praise. as does their hospitality as hosts.
For DHS, a great result against good opposition. One cannot help but believe that this Geldenhuys Broers Bedryf Night Series has been another step in the right direction for the DHS rugby programme. Part of preseason lessons being learned have come from playing against and even watching the Glenwood Invitational XV. This has helped DHS gain first-hand experience of the speed and intensity required to succeed in Tier-1 this year. One more preseason test awaits in the form of a final against the Glenwood Invitational XV next Friday.
In the earlier game, George Campbell recorded a 19-5 win against Durban Development. Campbell played good rugby but only in patches and must focus on turning those bits of quality into 70 minutes of sustained energy when the regular season kicks off. They have a Night Series 5th / 6th playoff against Durban Development again next week.
The Glenwood Invitational XV ran riot against Pinetown, winning 64-3. Although the GI’s have a super ball runner amongst the forwards in the form of Jaco Coetzee, clearly any team that does not employ a type of banana style defence nor shows urgency and commitment in the tackles will struggle to contain Glenwood’s backs. The GI’s points were scored by wing Sam Matiwane, flank McMillan Muller (from a tap penalty again!), no.8 Jaco Coetzee x 2, fullback Morne Joubert , wing Tobejane, flyhalf Curtis Jonas, Sam Matiwane again and replacement centre Chris Bredell x 2 at the end. Of the 10 tries, fullback Morne Joubert converted 7. As part of the ongoing experiment Sparks Ngcobo played outside centre and Donovan Du Randt came on as a scrumhalf. Hooker Percy Mngadi who had struggled with his lineout throws against Port Natal, showed huge improvement in just a week. The GI’s topped the log with 5 wins out of 5. Pinetown will have to pick themselves up now and try to hone in on what made them winners against George Campbell in an earlier round. They meet Port Natal in the 3rd / 4th playoff next week.