Epic derbies in Eastern Province schools rugby never fail to arouse passionate support from those involved and they do not get much bigger than the Port Elizabeth township showdown between Ithembelihle and Ndzondelelo.
This FNB Classic Clash sees two of PE’s most enthusiastic rugby schools go toe to toe for the bragging rights and will take place at the Zwide Stadium on Thursday (May 21), scheduled to start at 15.30.
There is no better example of the tight duels these teams annually provide than in their most recent clashes, with Ndzondelelo winning 14-13 in 2013 and Ithembe reversing that result with an identical scoreline last year.
This means Ithembe have won eight of the last nine contests but they know that the past will count for nothing when the teams run out at Zwide Stadium on Thursday.
Ithembe coach Theo Pieterse, pleased with his team’s good fightback last weekend when they edged Humansdorp 19-17, is preparing for another tough contest.
“We’re looking forward to the clash and it should be another close, hard-fought affair,” Pieterse said. “My side’s improving with every outing and should be close to their best for this encounter.
“We did well in a trip to Cape Town, going down 7-19 to Jan van Riebeeck and 15-22 to Piketberg, but beating Camps Bay 22-5 and WP Sports School 10-5. Many lessons were learned and the boys are really excited and ready for this clash. Last week against Humansdorp was a huge step up.”
Ndzondelelo’s Gerald Antonie said they were also expecting a close battle.
“We have lost a lot of players from last year, so have a fairly new team,” Antonie said, “but we have confidence in our development structures, with teams in the U14 and U15 age-groups and the second team.
“We have been training hard this week and are looking forward to a good encounter.”
For schools rugby supporters, there will be plenty more to look forward to on Saturday, with much focus on Grey High’s reunion weekend.
Grey and Queen’s have produced a fascinating schools rugby rivalry over the years and their recent trend of tight contests should remain unchanged when they clash in PE on Saturday (May 23).
Adding spice to the occasion is the Grey reunion so there will be a little more pressure in a match where both teams will be thirsting to prove their credentials.
Current form suggests it should be a close affair as each side have lost two games to date, while a look at their recent contests indicates how tight these derbies have become. Since 2010, Queen’s have won three times and Grey twice, with the biggest winning margin being Grey’s 20-13 win in 2013.
There are a number of other exciting duels on the cards this weekend, with Pearson keen to prove a point when they host Kingswood on Saturday. Despite a few losses, the Kingswoodians have shown excellent style this season and they could be a handful for the home side.
Pearson, however, have developed into a competitive outfit and a win over the Grahamstown side will give them a good indication of their progress.
In Uitenhage another derby will take place at Brandwag, with the home side starting as favourites when they take on town rivals Muir.
The Muir team have had a good run lately, winning four games in a row before playing to an 18-18 draw against Nico Malan. Those sorts of results will have done their confidence a lot of good, but Brandwag underlined their ability with a 31-8 win over Daniel Pienaar recently and they will be arguably Muir’s toughest challenge of the season.
Victoria Park are on a major winning streak and will be aiming to extend that when they host Alexander Road. With their spirits up, the home side will be strong favourites to win again, but should guard against any complacency against the men from Alex.
Saturday’s fixtures, subject to change, are: (11.30am start unless stated, home teams first): Victoria Park v Alexander Road (12.30), Brandwag v Muir (12.30), Cillie v Despatch (12.50), Daniel Pienaar v Ithembelihle, Gill v DF Malherbe, Boland Agricultural v Framesby (12.00), Grey High v Queen’s (15.30), John Walton v Gamble Street, Newton Tech v Graeme (11.00), Humansdorp v Woodridge, Pearson v Kingswood (12.45), Nico Malan v Otto du Plessis (12.50), Templeton v Aeroville, Westering v Union, Selborne v St Andrew’s (14.40)
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