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Season Preview: Eastern Region

* Eastern Region schools are made up of the various Natal schools

DHS

Durban High School have been a tragic case of lost momentum. They in the past have had talented players and coaches but the latter have often moved on just as things looked like they were going to click.

The demise in the overall standard of DHS rugby can be partly attributed to the rise of Glenwood as a national force. Young talent in the Durban and surrounds area will far more likely choose the green machine over DHS as they know they can showcase their talents on the national stage and the necessary structures are in place for them to develop their game and hopefully one day go pro.

This is not to say that all hope is lost, glancing over at Maritzburg as well as Westville shows that with the right support no program is beyond repair. However due to the sheer quality of their Eastern region opposition it will be an uphill battle for the Durban boys this year.

Players to watch:

Sims Ngcobo will be back at centre and will provide much needed experience to the team, another player who looks exciting is scrummie Nqobani Dlamini.

Young Gun:

Kwanele Manakuza is a speedy back who will stand out this year for DHS.

NGR Prediction:

A tough year indeed, we just hope that the school can play with the same passion and ferocity as previous years but it will not be easy for the boys.

KEARSNEY

It’s hard to imagine that just a few years back Kearsney were Eastern region unofficial champions, granted they had the Du Preez twins smashing all before them but two men do not a team make. Since then they have failed to reach the same heights but that is not to say they do not produce some exciting teams and this years crop will play with passion and intensity no doubt, but they face an uphill battle in what will be a very competitive calendar.

They will be buoyed however by the return of a number of stayers from last years 1st XV including an impressive loose-trio.

Players to watch:

Keep your eyes firmly fixated on centre Connor de Bruyn, a very intelligent player who has all the qualities to go to the top.

NGR Prediction:

Likely to fall short of the Top 30 but maybe a push toward the Top 40, their conference is just too tough this year for them to climb up the rankings further in our humble opinion.

GLENWOOD

There has not been a more dominant school in the Eastern region for the last decade than the Green Machine. Such has been there dominance they have clearly usurped Maritzburg College as the premier Eastern school – a feat which would have been unthinkable at the dawn of the 21st century.

But perhaps this could be the year that they are finally usurped? Schools such as Maritzburg and Westville will be pushing their old rivals hard this year, little doubt these schools smell an opportunity to dethrone the Glenwood boys.

Players to watch:

In Sikho Nanto they have a player who should walked into the Sharks Craven Week team and will be pushing hard for an SA Schools place. Henk Gouws is another outstanding prospect who will add much needed beef and power to the pack, an area Glenwood were lacking in 2019.

But a truly special player to watch is their scrum-half Nico Steyn. Despite playing behind a fairly weak pack last year Steyn always showed courage, vision and an ability to somehow get his team on the front foot. This is a truly special prospect and it will be scary what he can achieve with a dominant pack in front of him.

Young Gun:

Noko Mdletshe is a player we like! He has the heart of a lion and will use 2020 as an opportunity to showcase his talents.

NGR Prediction:

They will push extremely hard for a Top 10 finish to maintain their high standards but we expect them to finish within the Top 15. Anything above that would be seen as a great achievement.

HILTON

Hiltons teams of the last few years have set high standards for the KZN school. Few can argue that Hilton have been the premier private school team in the Eastern region of the country and would likely place 2nd behind Glenwood as the best team in the region.

With improved recruitment at other schools one gets the feeling that they are starting to slowly catch up which should make 2020 a far more competitive year in the region that in previous years.

Next year’s class looks exceptionally strong but you would feel that this years crop will probably be slightly weaker than in previous years. See this as a rebuilding phase with a push toward the Top 20, a Top 15 ranking would be a fantastic achievement – that being said, look out for the class of 2021, I think they will be a Hilton team to remember.

Players to watch:

Keep your eyes on Latica Nela who is an extremely potent centre as well as Manelisi Ngubane a powerful prop.

Young Gun:

Jannies Potgieter will be pushing hard for SA Schools colours in 2021 and should showcase his talents nicely this season.

NGR Prediction:

Top 25

MARITZBURG

The fall from grace of Maritzburg College has been a shock to the system to say the very least. A school who regularly pushed Grey College to their very limits has appeared to have lost its luster.

Skonk must be rolling in his grave, in his days Maritzburg would go on to completely dominate the Eastern region with ease, their list of Eastern titles tells the tale.

However there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel when one looks at the lower age groups. It appears that Maritzburg have begun to turn a corner and a massive rebuilding effort looks to have taken place. Old Boys will be hoping that this age group success can finally translate itself into dominance at the 1st XV level.

This years group were extremely talented at Under 16 level having been ranked 6th in the country and they are ably supported by the under 16 class of 2019 who are equally talented showing in them achieving the same ranking. If there is a year where Maritzburg will break the shackles of the last decade, one feels that this has to be that year.

Players to watch:

Athi Matsheke will be leading an unchanged front 3 who will lay a great foundation for their talented backs, there is no doubt. Another player we are excited to see is Siya Ningiza, a talented loose-forward who will be looking to make his mark in 2020.

Finally we are extremely interested to see how Kent Goedeke delivers this year. An extremely talented fly-half, Kent is in fact the son of Maritzburg legend Udo who was part of the Maritzburg golden generation when they were a team feared throughout the country. Let’s see if the apple does not fall far from the tree.

Young Gun:

We are keeping our eyes closely fixated on loose-forward Wela Takata who we feel has a bright future in the game.

NGR Prediction:

The simply have to push as hard as they possibly can for a Top 10 finish, Maritzburg rugby needs this to build a solid foundation for the future.

MICHAELHOUSE

Michaelhouse have been spending the past few years living in the shadow of their bitter rivals Hilton. Don’t bet on a corner being turned on that rivalry just yet, one feels that Hilton will still be stronger this year; that being said they do have an exciting group of Grade 11’s coming through.

We foresee Michaelhouse using this year to blood a number of the youngsters in anticipation of an assault on the Top 15 place in the rankings.

Player to watch:

This is more of a team than about individuals but we do expect to see some exciting things from wing Mark Grant who looks a talented player.

Young Gun:

Keep your eyes on hard running centre Ayabonga Zakwe who should excite this year.

NGR Prediction:

Pushing hard for Top 20 but expect them to end up as a Top 30 school realistically.

WESTVILLE

Westville had some amazing teams at the early part of the 21st century but seemed to have faded into obscurity over time.

It appears like other schools in the Eastern region they are in the process of making a comeback with their junior level teams performing very admirably. Is there a silent coup in place to topple Glenwood?

There are a number of players from last years team that will return and should add some experience. They are ably supported by a strong group of Grade 11’s who finished just outside of the Top 10 as Under 16’s.

Players to watch:

Powerful prop Pumi Xego will look to lead the line from the front in 2020 and will take few prisoners. The backline looks to have potential and while not the biggest they possess an enormous amount of pace, keep a look out for Mnqobi Mkhize and Mbasa Nkoni the centre and wing who will be real crowd pleasers this year.

Young Gun:

We are excited to see young hooker Bryce Calvert who is highly rated, it will be interesting to see what he can achieve come 2020.

NGR Prediction:

They will be hoping for a Top 15 placing but realistically we expect them to hover around the Top 20 region this year.

CHAMPIONSHIP PREDICTION

This year will be far more competitive than previous years, Maritzburg are looking a solid outfit and do not discount Hilton or Westville either.

But the NGR team feel that it will become an all too familiar tale, we expect Glenwood to be top of the pile in the Eastern region this year.

Previous Eastern Region unofficial champions:

YEAR CHAMPIONS
2019 Glenwood
2018 Glenwood
2017 DHS
2016 Glenwood
2015 Michaelhouse
2014 Glenwood
2013 Kearsney
2012 Kearsney
2011 Glenwood
2010 Glenwood
2009 Glenwood
2008 Glenwood
2007 Glenwood
2006 Glenwood
2005 Maritzburg
2004 Westville
2003 Maritzburg
2002 Maritzburg
2001 Maritzburg
2000 Maritzburg
1999 DHS
1998 Michaelhouse
1997 Maritzburg
1996 Michaelhouse
1995 Maritzburg
1994 Maritzburg
1993 Voortrekker
1992 Maritzburg
1991 DHS
1990 Maritzburg
1989 Maritzburg
1988 Maritzburg
1987 Maritzburg
1986 Hilton
1985 Maritzburg
1984 Maritzburg
1983 Maritzburg
1982 Maritzburg
1981 Maritzburg
1980 Michaelhouse
1979 Northwood
1978 Maritzburg
1977 Voortrekker
1976 Voortrekker
1975 Glenwood
1974 Maritzburg

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