Check out our unofficial list of East & Central Schools champions by clicking here.
With the announcement that school rugby is official back it is time to take a look at what to expect from the season ahead.
Numerous coaches and schools were reached out to and we thank those who assisted us in verifying said information, for the rest we did our best but as is the nature of school rugby in 2021 we find ourselves in a position where many of the players mentioned may have changed schools or even positions.
We did our best and as we gain the trust of the schools we are confident our information will become more accurate, if you are able to assist us in double checking the information we would naturally greatly appreciate it.
Eastern & Central Schools are made up of schools that are located in the Sharks, Cheetahs, Griffons and Griquas catchment areas.
Each year we will declare our unofficial regional winners, please click here to view our information.
DURBAN HIGH SCHOOL
To view our DHS profile page, please click here
There are fewer schools in the country that have a history as rich as DHS. The school has produced many high quality teams over the years and historically were one of the regions dominant schools before Skonk Nicholson (himself a DHS old boy) helped Maritzburg build a rugby program that dominated the East Coast for decades.
DHS are still producing quality players, Phepsi Buthelezi, Gumede and Nohamba to name but a few are all players who have the world at their feet but consistency has eluded the program. Last years team as we reported previously would have had a tough season and with a 50 point lessons from Westville it was clear that tough times were ahead.
DHS are working hard behind the scenes to improve their program, there has been some effective recruitment done and the junior structures are looking much improved. Could we be seeing a mini revival that can be sustained for the long term? Time will tell.
Adriaan Coetzee looks an interesting prospect, equally comfortable at flank or hooker we will see where he ends up. Sakhe Ndabami is an elusive scrumie, some say it will be a breakout year for him and many are thinking he could wow crowds with his enterprising style of play.
It remains to be seen where Njabulo Myeni will end up playing, we like him as a wing but the speedster is comfortable anywhere in the backline such is his talent. A ferocious runner with ball in hand and a lethal finisher he will be key to DHS keeping the score line ticking over.
A rookie we like the look of is young loose forward Owen Morgenrood, almost certainly would have been a selection at Grant Khomo last year expect him to be part of the first team squad.
One feels it will be a tough season for the Durban boys, this is not because their rugby program lacks quality it is because the entire Kwazul-Natal rugby landscape has changed dramatically and it is no longer enough to have a good rugby program one needs a great rugby program.
We expect them to battle bravely against the regional powerhouses and certainly expect an upset or two in the works. Whatever happens expect the boys to play entertaining and passion filled rugby, a DHS boy never plays with less than 100% as we saw in their defeat to Westville last year where despite the scoreboard the boys battled until the final whistle, what more could one ask for?
To view our Diamantveld profile page, please click here
A perennial powerhouse in the Griquas region Diamantveld will look to solidify their status as regional powerhouses and perhaps take a further step up on the national scene. An extremely underrated program that is one of many that end up losing their talent to more established schools this years group looks to be the strongest in a few years with many of their players having provincial experience at junior level
Losing a player such as Divan Moller would be damaging to any program and while he will be missed one has the feeling that Dewald Duminy and Tiaan Pretorius will step up their game and take the lead as loose forwards. Bjorn Warie and Quintin Kruger are two players to watch closely in the tight 5, both are highly physical specimens that will look to lay a solid foundation for the backs which look exciting. CJ Marx looks to be a very special player and is someone we feel can make a huge impact and will have a lot of people talking. Keep an eye as well on Theron van der Merwe and Jeanovane Jansen who have plenty of gas in the tank.
Regionally we think they are likely to end up performing as well as always, the step up on a national level will be tough as we saw in their fixture against Affies last year.
We feel a Top 30 finish would be a success and would help them gather momentum and develop into the Top 15 program we know the school can become in the future.
To say that Duineveld have a rugby program that is on the rise is an understatement. Griquas champs in 2018 and 2019 the school has despite losing key players to other schools over the years remained a firm fixture in the Northern Cape rugby landscape and contribute significantly to the regions Craven Week and Grant Khomo teams.
With no rugby played in 2020 and in a region where the school game is especially well supported expect the boys to make up for any rugby missed last year with some tough and uncompromising rugby.
They breed them big in this area and in the front row Hannes van Blerk and Franco du Plessis will be ready to take on all comers. Powerfully built and hard workers they should be certainties for Craven Week.
Another player to look out for in the forwards is tough lock Ruben Verdoes, he is highly rated by local pundits and will be a leader within the forwards department. Also keep an eye out for centre pairing Loubser Nel and Igmon Tereblance, while the forward pack will be tough as nails don’t discount the creativity that these two possess in the backline.
A rookie we will certainly be watching is Wian Coetzer, almost 2m tall the youngster will have a lot to prove with many feeling he has a huge future in the game.
It will be between them and rivals Diamantveld for who will wear the Griquas crown this year, expect a tough battle to ensue with neither team giving an inch. In a national context it will be tough but we feel they should be pushing hard for a Top 30 ranking come the end of the season.
To view our Glenwood profile page, please click here
When was the last time Glenwood had a truly weak side? Only a few years back the 2018 team went unbeaten including salvaging a draw against a fancied Grey College team and one of those players Jaden Hendrikse has stood head and shoulders above his peers.
This years team will be no different in terms of quality, it abounds and in key positions as well. A number of last years group including Henk Gouws and Nico Steyn left huge boots to be filled in terms of not only quality but leadership but there are those in this years Glenwood group that no doubt could fill that gap.
In the backs the speedy Munashe Dukuswa will be a vital cog in the green machine this year, his work rate, finishing and most important his pace are exceptional. If he can be provided space there is untold damage waiting opposition teams.
Quality ball will be no problem as Glenwood possess one of the most exciting backlines not only in the region but in the country. The halfback combination likely will be Christian Els and Layron Wilborrow whose game complements one another, neither craves the limelight as sometimes is the weakness in some of these position.
The centre combination is impress to say the least, Riego Heath and Ryan Manuel are both Elite Development players which means they are on the SARU radar. Like all players in this age group they have room to develop but keep a close eye on their styles of play, the two complement each other extremely well and will be formidable this year.
In the forward department we like the look of tough Gerrit Ockerse, a no nonsense player who will lead from the front and of course mammoth prop Phatu Ganyane who is waiting to be unleashed.
In terms of the rookies keep your eye out on AJ Myeni, Sandile Nzuza and Ronaldo le Fleur who are expected to shake things up. And a special mention must go to young scrummie Dallyn Beukes, he plays the game with a high level of enthusiasm and works extremely hard. We would love to see him get some game time!
This year will be a tough one, KZN rugby is only getting stronger as their close loss to Hilton showed last year. But the quality is there, particularly among the backline. The forwards will be up against it, but in Ockerse and Ganyane the quality is there and should they inspire the troops there is no reason why Glenwood can’t upset a few more established teams.
Expect them to battle it out with Hilton and Westville for KZN domination, in terms of nationals they will push hard for a Top 10 finish. Best case scenario will see them finish in the top 8 worst case inside the top 15, anything outside of the top 15 would be tragic for a team with this much talent.
Goudveld are one of many central region schools who play the game for all the right reasons. This is a school that does not rely on deep pockets and a bursary system to prop up their program but rather an extremely enthusiastic group of supporters, teachers and players.
The school punches above their weight and with coach Frans Crous at the helm one can only feel that the program will steadily improve and produce some exciting, hard as nails Vrystaat rugby that everyone can appreciate
Corne Uys is an absolute tank at tighthead prop, 114kg and 189cm he is very fit and well conditioned for his size. Raring to go just keep an eye out for him in the scrum. Next to him in the scrum Nathan Janse van Rensburg looks promising, he is a natural lineout thrower and steady in the scrum. You may have seen him play as a loose forward if you have been following the team for a while but one feels that he will have a solid future as a hooker.
Kian Kirsten and Franco Nel will likely be the premier lock pairing in the northern free state region this year. What makes them so interesting is how they complement one another. Kirsten is an enforcer who plays with ferocity, he loves to mix it up physically and is an absolute workhorse. He is not afraid to get in the face of his opposition. Franco on the other hands is a bit lighter but his height allows him to absolutely boss the lineouts. His engine is solid not letting up for the entire game, expect him to have friend and foe alike talking this season.
A rookie we like the look of is Ruan du Preez who has moved from prop to hooker. Likely he will be an apprentice to Janse van Rensburg at first but could rotate very well keeping a key player fit and fighting for the season.
Goudveld is not your typical results obsessed school, schools such as this are to be treasured as they do not get the exposure of the larger schools but the part they play in school rugby cannot be underestimated. Goudveld is far more interested in player development rather than team results, this has what has seen the program produce players who are held in high esteem both locally and abroad.
We expect them to challenge in the Northern Free State and perhaps take strides to break the hegemony enjoyed by Welkom Gim over the last few years. Several players will push hard for Craven Week selection and thanks to DigiTV we can now enjoy their games live this season.
To view our Grey College profile page, please click here
As always quality abounds and the class of 2021 will be no different with quality throughout the pitch. Numerous Grant Khomo players will be available with “Greystaat” providing virtually all the Cheetahs talent at the competition.
Unbeaten since 2017 with that shock loss against Selborne College the Grey College boys will be hoping to continue this run and with the quality they have both in the forwards and backs there is little doubt they have the ability to do this.
With Grey it is always a problem to list only a few players as the team dynamic is strong within their rugby culture. Starting with the forwards we anticipate a strong tight 5 with Jean Else providing the steel up front supported by the likes of Johan Louw and Kristof du Randt.
The loose forwards will be nothing short of epic, perhaps the best in the country one could argue. In Ferdi Vergottini they have a tough as nails player willing to go at it with the best that is out there and one who fights for every inch. On the open side Neels Volschenk will be there, no doubt he will lead the team this year and he will be one of the best loose forwards we have seen in a decade at the school and that is saying a lot. A man that leads from the front and who shuns the limelight expect him to be a name on everybody’s lips by the end of the year. And last but certainly not least there is big Merwe Olivier who is itching to get stuck in to the season ahead having missed 2020 like many others. Merwe is a player who possesses amazing qualities and in our opinion can become the next Duane Vermueluen. If these three click expect some real trouble for their opponents.
The flyhalf position is owned by Jean Smith, a player that truly impressed in his few games for the College. Cool, calm and collected he simply belongs on the field of play and will be making a huge push toward SA Schools selection, his father will be proud of having produced two exceptional sons with him and Franco wearing the Grey jersey with distinction. Finally there is Gert Steyn, a centre who should walk into the SA Schools squad this year and who will no doubt provide his outside backs Diego Lottering and Regan Izaks amongst them with quality ball, tries galore await.
We just have to talk about Caleb Abrahams amongst the rookies, he is truly a generational scrumhalf who plays a free flowing game. His athleticism is exceptional and under the tutelage of famed strength coach Inus Keyser he has growing in size and strength as well which should send shivers down the spine of opposition 9’s across the country, the fact that he is a Grade 11 who we feel could be in line for SA Schools selection says it all.
Ulrwich Wahl is another prospect to keep your eyes out for, the kid oozes talent and can play virtually anywhere in the backline but we anticipate a centre partnership with Gert Steyn that will wow friend and foe alike.
In the forwards department we like the look of JF van Heerden at lock and Juanre Breitenbach at hooker, they will at a minimum be within the squad and could very well be starters. Both physical specimens who play firm but fair rugby and who no doubt all the top scouts in the country will be watching closely.
Don’t sleep on Alfondso Issacs either, traditionally a centre whispers are that he could find himself on the wing this year. A player in a similar mould to Wycleff Vlitoor I have been told.
Wessel du Plessis leaving his post as 1st team coach no doubt will present its challenges, but the appointment of Jannie Geldenhuys was a shrewd one no doubt. Having had success as an under 16 coach he no doubt knows the players on a more intimate level than an outsider would have.
It will be an extremely tough season with Grey not holding back in terms of their fixtures, always willing to challenge the best that is out there. There will be tough competition from their traditional rivals but perhaps the game of the season will come against a Paarl Boys outfit that on paper looks the team to beat, one would be a fool however to bet against the boys from Bloem.
We say this team could easily finish the season unbeaten or as our unofficial national champions, but as mentioned the Booishaai derby will tell us everything we need to know. We predict a 1st or 2nd place finish this season.
To view our Hilton College profile page, please click here
What a chance in fortune for the Hilton College rugby program! There is real quality there and they are fast becoming a force to be reckoned with not only regionally but on a national level as well.
Unbeaten in 2018 although granted they never faced stiff opposition, a respectable 2019 and then a huge upset win over Glenwood at the start of 2020 one feels that the program is developing at a rate of knots and if recent junior performances are anything to go by, expect this to continue.
While there is some class in the backs its all about the forwards in our opinion, and to say that about an English speaking private school shows you how special this years group are.
Liam Zocchi-Dommann is going to be a player who everybody will be speaking about this year, a monster in the front just wait and see him deliver, it is going to be exciting to see him go. Then we have to mention Jannes Potgieter who is comfortable as a lock or as a loose forward, we named him as one of our top 15 prospects to watch in 2021 and for good reason, him and partner in crime Nick Hatton will be strong contenders for SA Schools selection.
In the backline we like the look of Taurin Craze at centre as well as Josh Mansour at flyhalf, both are extremely gifted athletes and will look to make use of the quality ball provided by their forwards.
In terms of rookies keep an eye on Tom Dyer the loose forward as well as gifted young centre Qhawe Soji.
We expect them to challenge for regional dominance and no doubt they will back themselves to perform. It will all depend upon their key players remaining fit, a school of this size will always have depth issues the larger government schools will not have to worry about.
They have to finish in the top 10, for a team this gifted this should be the aim.
To view our Kearsney College profile page, please click here
We were extremely excited to see Kearsney in action in 2020, we felt they were sleeping giants and in Connor de Bruyn, Derick Marshall and Mass Fierro they had three players who were going to get in the face of opponents and cause a major stir in the school rugby scene.
While many would say that on paper this years Kearsney team are not as strong we suggest teams don’t get lulled into a false sense of security, there is still plenty of quality in this side and an upset or two could certainly be on the cards. A tough year awaits the boys from Botha’s Hill however, as this year the KZN region is looking particularly strong but since when does a Kearsney boy stand back for anyone?
We are excited to see scrummie Luke du Toit in action, he has a fantastic attitude and passion for the game and will no doubt be one of the key players in this years team. Trent Coetzee while more than capable of playing as a fullback in our opinion would make an ideal halfback partner for du Toit.
The centre pairing is likely to be made up of Singele Mkhize and Michael Engwena, two hard running and exciting players who no doubt will entertain local crowds for the season.
In terms of rookies keep a close eye on Thomas Carmody and Ayabonga Mgaza, Carmody is a solid loose forward who would of walked into the Grant Khomo squad last year along with speedster Mgaza. Should he be provided space out wide expect him to score tries for fun.
It is certainly going to be a tough season, one feels the KZN region this year will have enough quality to seriously challenge at Craven Week level and therefore it will be one of the toughest leagues in the country for the 2021 season.
Locally they wont have it their own way but on a national level we expect them to perform well showcasing the relative strength of the Eastern Region. A top 35 finish would be acceptable with a push toward the Top 30 not outside the realm of possibility.
To view our Maritzburg College profile page, please click here
Just when it looked like one of the greatest rugby programs in the history of the country was but a distant memory something changed, it is hard as an outsider to pinpoint when and where and why it changed but changed it did.
A slow and steady rise has seen the program seemingly come out of nowhere but when one studies the results as junior level over the past few years its clear that Maritzburg College is a program on the rise. It is too early to say whether this would continue indefinitely but one thing is for certain, this years team is going to entertain.
We predict this year’s team being a combination of old hands in the forwards and the backline being made up of exciting young players.
Roydon Swift and Corbin Thunder in the front row will be lethal, expect no quarter given and many an opponent will be given a torrid time. Daniel Botha at lock will be a key player, one of the hidden gems who had there been a 2020 season would have stood out expect for him to more than make up for it in 2021. Then there is Wela Takata at loose forward who is dynamite and many are talking up as a prospective SA Schools quality player.
In the backline we like the look of Sipho Mtshali at centre, he will be a leader in the backline who we feel will consist mainly of younger talent. In terms of the rookies all eyes have to be on Lili Bester and Spah Ngcobo who are frightening talents!
As with all the Eastern schools a tough season awaits locally but we expect Maritzburg to really step up to the plate this year and perform well.
They should comfortably be a Top 20 team this year and if they ball bounces right then why not a push for the Top 15?
To view our Michaelhouse profile page, please click here
One of the most prestigious schools in the country, Michaelhouse has a proud rugby history and often punches above their weight but in recent times few would disagree that they have somewhat fallen behind midlands rivals Hilton in the battle for private school supremacy in the region.
Will 2021 be any different? On paper it does not appear likely but in terms of individual players there are as always some real bolters to keep an eye on.
Alex Vermuelen at flyhalf looks solid, he should get the backline moving nicely and seems like a player who has a mature head on his shoulders and we expect some enterprising play from him this season.
In the forwards department we really like the look of Connor Sesink-Clee, he appears to have similar qualities to his brother Jordan (class of 2015) and that can only bode well for his future. Finally keep an eye up on prop forward Nqobile Manyara, he likes the physical side of things as most props do and will be pushing hard for a place in the Craven Week reckoning.
As we have mentioned time and again the KZN league is looking brutal at the moment, Michaelhouse will play some entertaining rugby and as always it will be in the right spirit but one feels that they will need to stay clear of injuries or risk having their lack of depth due to school size being exposed.
To view our Northwood profile page, please click here
Only a few years ago Northwood were not considered anything close to a rugby school, that however has changed in recent times with the school yet another example of the KZN regions growing stature in school rugby.
One feels last year’s team would have gone on to achieve great things and looking at the lower age group results one can see that there has been a steady increase in the overall quality of team that is being produced by the school.
They to us at least remain somewhat of an unknown quantity in 2021, that is however likely what makes them so dangerous.
The first name that springs to mind is hulking prop Tatenda Chayayi, with Vernon Matongo leaving a huge hole in the front row if there is one man who will take the physical battle forward you would bet the house on Chayayi.
In the backs there are some classy players, at flyhalf Emanuel Bhiya looks set to break the mould of what one traditionally expects from a Number 10 in South Africa and stamp his own style of play on the field.
Another classy back is fullback Unathi Mayekiso, his searing pace and spatial awareness will cause all sorts of problems for opposition teams this season.
At centre another player we see causing teams problems is Uvile Vinjwa, he is highly rated by those in the know and some feel him and Mayekiso could be bolters this coming season.
In terms of the rookies keep a close eye on Busisani Vilani the prop, Gareth Viljoen at scrumhalf and Khanya Mfundisi at fullback
Northwood’s program seems to be improving every year, no longer are they seen as an easier fixture on the KZN circuit and thus one feels that they will certainly look to spring a surprise or two in what will be a tough season.
Nationally one would think a Top 30 ranking would be a goal worth pursuing but they shouldn’t be too disappointed if they find themselves ranked a bit lower, this is a rugby program that is being built up and the fruits of the labour of those behind the scenes will only be tasted in a few years time.
To view our Welkom Gim profile page, please click here
In a region dominated by perennial powerhouse Grey College most schools would bow down and focus on developing other sports programs, Welkom Gim however have decided to take up the fight regionally and are developing an outstanding rugby program that we feel in the next few years could see them become not only a regional powerhouse but a national player.
Last years match against Grey College despite the scoreline showed a school that was perhaps on the cusp of achieving something great, we think that 2020 would have seen them surprise friend and foe alike and we are convinced that 2021 will be a breakout year for Gim.
Daniel van Heerden looks extremely promising. Although he played as a hooker at Grant Khomo we are hearing he will be utilized as a blindside flank this year which will be very interesting. Wian Muller at lock looks extremely promising, he put in some outstanding performances last year and is highly rated in the region.
If rumours are to be believed then Calla Pienaar will likely partner Muller at lock which will be a devastating partnership and if Dylan Pretorius comes back at hooker you have the foundations for a forward pack which can match any team in the country.
Conlinn Treurnicht at scrumhalf is extremely underrated, keep a close eye on him as he should walk into the Griffons Craven Week team.
The backline looks to be extremely impressive and one could perhaps even say that this may just be a dark horse backline. Danie Crauwcamp as a utility player has the skills to dazzle his opposition, he will be a vital squad member this year. With Bennie Human, Testimony Dodo and Donovan Don all in Grade 12 and Mzwakhe Khumalo as well as Melvin Mogwera waiting on the wings expect Welkom Gim to be a team all talk about this year.
One feels that it is almost a certainty that Welkom Gim would be crowned Griffons champions this year, such is the quality in their team.
On paper the team is extremely promising, quality abounds in all areas as well as experience we just hope that all this talent can unite under the Gim banner and execute their strategy as a team rather than individuals.
If they are able to play as a team they could shock many and even sneak into a Top 10 ranking, this is certainly achieveable but realistically they should expect to be Top 15. Anything outside the Top 25 will not be acceptable for the school.
To view our Westville profile page, please click here
What a change in fortunes for the Westville rugby program. In the mid 2000’s they were playing at a national level with some truly memorable teams, then things began to fade until the program became relatively obscure but last years team gave us but a taste of things to come.
One feels this years crop could be even better than last years, although players such as Mambo Mkhize are basically irreplaceable there are some truly outstanding prospects waiting to be unleashed not only on a local level but national as well.
Where do we begin? Quality permeates throughout this team and it truly is an exciting time to be a Westville fan.
In Bryce Calvert they have a player who is not only a leader, is not only likely to be the best in his position in the country but is a player that any team in the country would give anything to have.
To have Calvert in the front row taking names will be a sight to behold, but when we found out Phumi Xego would be returning we knew that something special was on the horizon for the school. Expect the two of them to form one of the most devastating front rows in the country.
Tiaan Kriek at flyhalf is someone we have been watching closely, a very under rated left footer who will certainly be in the Craven Week reckoning come the end of the season. We expect Ethan Hooker to play outside him, between the two expect opposition defenses to be kept on their toes.
Akuna Nkuna also looks extremely talented, a Grant Khomo alumni he will be another that will be pushing for higher honours this season.
Finally we have to talk about Larry Nkonki, it is a tragedy that Larry was robbed of a 2020 season as we predicted last year he would of made the SA Schools team. This will be Larry’s “last dance” and best believe that he will be one of the outstanding players of the season, he truly is an exceptional talent and character and we believe he will go on to achieve huge things in the game.
There is a feeling that this years team is well balanced, a solid tight 5, mobile loose forwards and a speedy backline mean that there is hardly a weak area for opposition teams to exploit.
They have to aim for a Top 10 finish, with this much talent you would expect them to achieve this. A push for the Top 5 would be extremely difficult but why not? Aim high or go home!