Some early skirmishes have taken place, but the Eastern Cape schools programme is set to explode into action when the annual Pam Golding Properties Graeme Rugby Day takes place in Grahamstown on Saturday (March 16).
The Graeme organisers have again lined up a feast of entertaining matches for this popular tournament, with the top schools from the region all getting another chance to fine-tune their squads for the forthcoming season.
In addition, rugby enthusiasts can look forward to a taste of Western Cape rugby as SACS are attending it for the first time. The Cape Town school will take on leading Grahamstown outfit St Andrew’s in the 13.50 game on the Somerset field.
SACS coach Nick Maurer said they were delighted to receive the invitation to a festival of rugby they had heard much about.
“We know we face a big challenge against St Andrew’s, but we are looking to put in a committed performance which will hopefully bond us as a team going forward,” he said.
“We want to expose as many of our players to the intensity and pressure of first team rugby which will stand them in good stead for the rest of the season.”
Should he be in attendance, as is likely, it will be something of a homecoming for SACS headmaster Brendan Grant, who spent several years as deputy headmaster at Graeme. His knowledge of Eastern Cape rugby should help to prepare the Cape Town side for the examination ahead.
A youthful Graeme team, who received a sobering lesson against Framesby last week, will have a chance to show what they have learnt when they face Dale in the day’s feature match at 16.10.
Coach Jonty van der Meulen has only two players back from last year’s squad, so the team is on a massive learning curve.
Despite including several players in the squad from the talented U16 group of 2018, it will take a while for them to adapt to the higher pace and skill levels of first team rugby.
They will be thoroughly examined by a school which seldom field a poor side and are fresh off a 56-24 trouncing of Stirling in the Border Rugby Day last weekend.
As usual, there are a number of cross-border fixtures on the programme, pitting EP schools against their Border counterparts.
Queen’s College may face a tough encounter with Framesby, while East London’s Hudson Park will be equally well tested by Grey High.
Another fascinating game will be the 12.40 clash where the small, but always competitive, Marlow Agricultural pit their skills against East London powerhouse Selborne.
The main curtain-raiser (15.00) should be a real humdinger when a promising Kingswood side attempt to lay down an early-season marker against Port Elizabeth rivals Pearson.
The Somerset field fixtures are:
8.00 Mary Waters v PJ Olivier
9.10 Port Alfred High v Muir
10.20 Queen’s v Framesby
11.30 Grey High v Hudson Park
12.40 Marlow Agricultural v Selborne
13.50 St Andrew’s v SACS
15.00 Kingswood v Pearson
16.10 Graeme College v Dale College