WITH a largely untried team and a new coach in Jonty van der Meulen, hosts Graeme College know they will have their work cut out when they take on Marlow in the annual Pam Golding Properties Graeme Rugby Day in Grahamstown on March 12.
On a day which will see the cream of Eastern Cape’s rugby schools begin their serious preparations for the new season, Graeme will play the penultimate game of the day, with Kingswood up against Queen’s in the feature match at 4.10pm.
The third top Grahamstown side in the line-up pits St Andrew’s against tough Humansdorp outfit Nico Malan, which will be played at 1.50, ahead of the Graeme-Marlow clash.
Van der Meulen is the son of former Graeme first XV coach Nico, who was in charge of the school side for 16 years. Now the next generation steps into the breach, but Jonty already has some experience with the team, having been the backline coach last year.
Yet he acknowledges they are in a re-building phase, with only three players back from last year. It will be a case of starting with a virtually new team and Van der Meulen will spend the next few weeks sifting through the available talent.
“We are having trials on Tuesday, but because we are a relatively small school, we have six players in the first cricket team, who are not able to take part in contact sessions yet,” Van der Meulen said. “But we are also playing Hudson Park on Sunday so that will help us in our preparations, even though it is largely a pre-season practice match.”
Van der Meulen said they did not know much about Marlow, but were looking forward to playing a school they do not often come up against.
Like Graeme, the Cradock agricultural school do not have the numbers of their bigger rivals, yet they often punch above their weight, a point not lost on the Graeme coach.
“We are looking forward to playing them because it will be different opposition, and we know it won’t be easy because they are full of passion,” Van der Meulen said. “In fact, it will be a good derby day for us because our age-group teams are all playing against Marlow.”
Kingswood will be eager to make a big impression in the final game of the day against a side with whom they had a terrific battle in Queenstown last year. Although losing to Queen’s 43-35, Kingswood ruled the roost in Grahamstown with wins over Graeme and St Andrew’s.
They have had a top-notch side in recent years and if they can continue that recent momentum, it should be a thrilling climax to the day.
With their emphasis on running rugby, St Andrew’s should provide another entertaining spectacle when they take on Nico Malan. This is a repeat of last year’s match which St Andrew’s won 33-20 so there will be plenty of motivation for both teams to prove a point this time.
The first team fixtures are:
8am: Dale v Pearson, 9.10: Union v Hudson Park, 10.20: Grey High v Stirling, 11.30: Muir v Cambridge, 12.40: Selborne v Framesby, 1.50: St Andrew’s v Nico Malan, 3pm: Graeme v Marlow, 4.10: Kingswood v Queen’s