SLA sides gear up for knockout stages

After an eventful fortnight, the SLA heads towards the playoff stages on Saturday, a week after the scheduled date.

The rugby world was shocked by the sudden death of the 1995 Springbok Rugby World Cup wing and director of rugby at the University of the Western Cape, Chester Williams, last Friday.

The dynamo was probably the first iconic player of modern Springbok rugby, his performances in the “green and gold” still live in the memories of South Africans around the World.

Williams has been at UWC and together with Lionel Langenhoven and Bolla Conradie, turned the students into a formidable Super League A (SLA) team.

This year they have delivered their best performance to date, ending sixth on the table. That could easily have been a fifth-place finish had the club not forfeited their match against SK Walmers, scheduled for last night, out of respect for their coach.

The play-off stages of the SLA survived a very real and valid threat of derailment through a strike by the WP Referees Association. The whistlemen stopped play to protest the treatment they have been subjected to at venues across the peninsula, which has deteriorated exponentially over the past few seasons.

These men and women dedicate their time and money in preparing to manage matches and deserve better treatment for their dedication and role in the completion of around 180 matches which take place every week.

Thankfully matches could resume and last Saturday saw the completion of the fixture between Durbanville-Bellville and Maties at Durbanville on Saturday.

The clash was of particular interest to the top six finishers of the SLA as it influenced the draw for the quarter-finals and indeed, will play a role in deciding which team progresses to Gold Cup 2020.

Stellenbosch University, with the highest number of registered players, could only field a First XV out at Durbanville due to the end of term vacation.

Nevertheless, the students hung on to beat the home team 42-33 in an enthralling encounter which saw the hosts gain the league points to first among the non-university teams. This Saturday presents two exciting contests as “Durbies” host UWC and False Bay welcome Union-Milnerton at Constantia. Both encounters promise to be exciting, hard-fought matches.

UWC will be tough opponents on the day. A quality outfit which plays a fast and exciting brand of rugby, they will most certainly take to the pitch determined to bring the result home for Chester Williams.

Adding to the contest is the rivalry of what is regarded by the clubs as a derby, and spectators are assured a high-quality contest. The winners of this round of matches progress to the semi-finals against Maties and UCT at City Park the following Saturday. The final of the Super League takes place at Newlands on Heritage Day, Tuesday September 24. UCT, who topped the SLA for much of the season were bumped out of first position through the Maties victory on Saturday and their depth will be seriously tested in their semi-final as they have the bulk of their players in Japan as the Ikeys defend their the World University International Rugby Tournament title.

The Bay had the better of Uni-Mil in their league match at Milnerton at the end of July, but this is knockout-rugby and all that is needed to progress to the next round is one point more than the opposition when time is called.

Jon Harris is a member of False Bay RFC