Although there may be a degree of pressure after last year’s successful season, the St Andrew’s College outfit are ready to embrace the challenge as they look ahead to the Pam Golding Properties Graeme Rugby Day in Grahamstown on March 24.
The class of 2017 had one of the school’s best seasons in recent years, being unbeaten against Eastern Cape opposition and losing only to Cape Town rivals Bishops (29-21) in 17 matches.
Although there are a fairly large proportion of new faces in this year’s squad, St Andrew’s director of rugby Andy Royle said it contained as many as 13 players who had previously turned out for the first team.
“Continuity, therefore, is good and with the structures that the school has in place, those coming up from below know what the expectations are,” he said. “That makes the transition from one team to the next far easier to facilitate.”
He added that their focus was always on to try to improve on the previous year’s performances and there was a quiet feeling of confidence in the current squad.
“While the starting XV is mostly made up of Grade 12 boys, there is a very strong group of Grade 11 players coming through who will no doubt put pressure on those above them.”
Royle said there would always be some pressure after a season like 2017, but the fact that several players were in the mix last year should stand them in good stead, knowing they could compete at the top level.
While any success depends on a dedicated team effort, he said there were a number of players to watch.
“Centre Charlie Fleming was one of the success stories from last year, while captain and flank Alexander Menage also had an influential role in the squad last year. He should play a big role this year, both on and off the field.
“Flyhalf Murray Wilson was injured for much of last year but is certainly someone to watch out for.”
Looking ahead to the Graeme Rugby Day, Royle said it was always an exciting event, bringing together the traditional Eastern Cape schools for a series of good contests.
“It is an opportunity to have a look at the sides that we will be playing domestically as the season progresses and also an opportunity to expose a number of players to playing at this level,” he said.
“It used to always be the season opener for the teams but over the years that seems to have changed. It is now no longer the introduction to the season it was, with most of the teams having played one or even two games before they get there.”
St Andrew’s will be up against East London side Hudson Park in the 13.50 match and Royle acknowledged they were preparing for a serious challenge.
“Hudson Park are a proud sporting school and they play the game hard,” he said. “They are often very useful on the counter attack, always testing the defence of any side.
“They are normally physical up front and it is certainly a good fixture for us early on in the season, given that they are prepared to send other teams down to play at St Andrew’s on the day.”
Caption: St Andrew’s player Graham de Vos, with James Quarmby in support, goes on a run during their clash with Grey High in 2017. St Andrew’s will tackle Hudson Park in the Pam Golding Properties Graeme Rugby Day in Grahamstown on March 24. Picture: Supplied