ALTHOUGH some critics feel Stirling may struggle, Grey High rugby coach Tim Fraser says they will not be making the mistake of taking their opponents lightly when they clash in the Pam Golding Properties Graeme Rugby Day in Grahamstown on March 12.
Perennially one of the Eastern Cape’s top rugby schools, Grey face Stirling in the 10.20 encounter and both teams will be fired up to lay down a marker at this early stage of the season.
Due to the Easter weekend at the end of March, the Graeme Rugby Day is being played a week earlier than usual and Fraser said they regarded the tournament as a vital part of their planning for the season.
“The Graeme Rugby Day is very important to us and gives us a chance to look at our combinations ahead of the later matches,” Fraser said. “It is ideal preparation for the St Stithians Festival over Easter and we certainly will not be taking Stirling lightly.
“Even if they are a bit of an unknown quantity, we know they will be up for the challenge and keen to take our scalp, and we will need to prepare properly for that. The day will be good match-day preparation for us.”
Fraser said their preparations had gone well, with the squad having undergone fitness training and gym work, while also focusing on their skills development and decision-making.
“We will be looking at very much the same recipe of last year and we have had runs against an Argentine side and also Muir.”
Grey have five backline players from last year which should give that department and exciting look, while SA Schools loose forward Khwezi Mafu will be a key figure in a largely untried pack.
“Our main challenge this year will be to try to keep our injuries to a minimum so we can build consistency and momentum,” Fraser said. “We don’t have a massive pack and we will concentrate on being a mobile unit and playing to the best of our ability. As always, we want to make sure we compete with the top sides.”
Other Nelson Mandela Bay schools keen to make an early impression are Pearson and Muir, who will be tested by Border opponents Dale and Cambridge.
Pearson have become a force in PE schools rugby and they will relish the chance to tilt with an established rugby school such as Dale. They will know what to expect, though, after being well beaten by another top Border school, Queen’s, in last year’s Graeme Rugby Day. Later last year, Queen’s defeated Dale before losing their return encounter and there is seldom a Dale side that can be taken lightly.
Muir received notice of how competitive the Border teams can be when they went down to Hudson Park 26-0 in the Graeme Rugby Day last year and will face a big challenge to come away with a win against Cambridge.