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2021 Season Preview: Northern Region Schools

Check out our unofficial list of Northern Schools champions by clicking here.

Part 1: East & Central Region Preview

AFFIES

OVERVIEW:

Affies will have been devastated with missing out on the 2020 season, not only was it the schools centenary year and not only were they the hosts for the World Schools Festival but they had a team packed with talent.

We like the look of this years Affies team, they have a talented group of matrics and some of the finest rookie talents in the country. After it looked like they were on the cusp of becoming a premier program in the middle of the last decade the wheels seemed to have come off from an Affies perspective with the school not able to maintain their usually high standards and suffering some losses most would never have imagined.

A huge recruitment drive by regional rivals seemed to have left the Pretoria giants behind but last years team and surely this year’s team will prove that the Affies rugby program is back with a bang!

PLAYERS:

When talking about Affies we of course need to talk about Quewinn Nortje who will be a key player for them this year. He is among the Top 5 prospects in the country and we are told all the top teams are hunting him down, whoever wins that race is getting a rare talent.

In the rest of the backline Riaan Gerber looks a solid player, normally a flyhalf we hear rumours that he may be considered in another position. Layton Horn at scrumhalf will be vital to the cause, he is one of the top 3 scrumhalves in the country on our opinion and oozes potential. Keep an eye on Keanu Peters as well, he has pace to burn!

Among the forwards Nick Moeketsi has a high work rate and we hope he gets the chance he deserves, him and SJ Pienaar and rookie Zack Maritz are all players to keep a close eye on. Among the loose forwards Damian Oosthuizen is a monster who will collect more than a few bones this year and with Tiaan Muller and Dillon Smith there as well they wont be stepping back for anyone.

Among the rookies we really like the look of Risima Sambo and Ewan van Heerden but the player all eyes will be on is Stehan Heymans. Those in the know cannot stop talking about this player and for very good reason, his star is on the rise and almost certainly he will be talked about by all those who follow junior rugby.

SEASON PREDICTION

Affies will have a strong outfit this year, there are some under the radar players in this year’s group which will make them especially dangerous. They will almost certainly be in the Top 10 and should fight hard for a Top 5 national ranking.

BEN VORSTER

OVERVIEW

Vossies have a fantastic rugby program that often goes under appreciated, there have been some gems produced over the last few years and more often than not the program finds itself at the mercy of larger schools who some feel offer opportunity for more exposure.

No doubt the premier program in the Limpopo area one hopes they can retain their talent and challenge the traditional powerhouses in the Northern region.

PLAYERS

A player we are hearing a lot about is Bradley Mokwena, those in the region are expecting a lot from Bradley and say he personifies the grit and passion of Vossies rugby and 2021 will be his year.

Shaun Matthysen is another being talked about, him and Ramaloko were part of the Grant Khomo group and our contact in the region says a lot of eyes will be on them.

SEASON PREDICTION

We confess that for us Vossies are an unknown quantity, attempts to reach out to the director of sports and coaching staff were unsuccessful.

We like the fact that in 2020 they were willing to challenge all the top and more established schools and we hope that the program can continue to grow, a powerhouse in Limpopo motivating the next generation can only be a good thing for South African rugby.

EG JANSEN

OVERVIEW

EG Jansen must have one of the most underappreciated programs in the country, consistently producing monster forwards and pacy backs the quality of athlete that the program unleashes is often overlooked in favor of the more famed rugby nurseries.

What we like about EG Jansen is they play rugby on their own terms, it may not always be pretty but you know that the opponent will leave the field with more than a few bruises and likely those on the field wont forget an encounter with a Jansie boy anytime soon.

PLAYERS

Rumours are that Jason Edwards will be returning, if this is the case it brings the program up significantly as in our eyes he is one of the most under-rated backline players in the country and deserves way more credit than he gets.

Of course we have to talk about the forwards, this year looks no different to previous years. In Franco Bredenkamp and Aiden Oosthuizen they have two beasts at lock, you will he hard pressed to find a better and more complementary duo in the country.

Twala in the backline looks a special player, we like the look of Tristan Lombaard as well and Jayden Bantom should certainly not be overlooked.

A number of least years players will return along with Edwards. Kyle Pepler at hooker is a class player as well as Werner Groenewald at flank. The centre combination of Louis de Bruin and Keagan Balfour look set to cause all sorts of problems for the opposition and if they can put Giovanni van Eeden into space we can finally see EG Jansen at its most dangerous, when they have their trademark brutality in the forwards and a fast paced backline.

SEASON PREDICTION

We see EG Jansen as being dark horses this season and other teams will underestimate them at their peril, we certainly expect some tough games as is to be expected in the North Vaal but they will more than hold their own.

We would expect them to push toward the Top 20, if their team remains relatively injury free you could even expect a Top 15 finish. Anything outside of the Top 30 I do not think would do this teams talent justice.

GARSFONTEIN

OVERVIEW:

The Garsies program continues to grow and grow, it is taking on a life of its own and few would argue that this could become South Africa’s premier rugby program within the next 5 years. Garsfontein are a school that is showing that if there is will among the school, among the community and the old boys then a rugby program can rise like a phoenix from the ashes and be counted among South Africa’s heavyweights which surely Garsies are.

PLAYERS:

 The forward back are something else, honestly if you wanted to go to war you would want the Garsies pack on your side. In Thansville Mayman they have one the premier props in the country, he will boss many a front row battle this year. Next to him at hooker will be Reinhardt Pretorius, good luck to other front rows who encounter these two.

Hanno Theunissen and Andre Pieterse will be a likely lock combo, a classic 4 and 5 setup Garsies have picked well here! Juan Steyl at flank may not be the biggest loose forward in the country but he doesn’t stand back for anybody, the youngster is all over the field of play and is a honey badger not giving an inch right until the final whistle.

There are many players to look at in the backline but there are fewer more talented players than Cornelius Coertze, a rugby IQ that belies his youth he should select himself for higher honours towards the ned of the year. Him and rookie Michail Damon are set to excite!

SEASON PREDICTION:

This is a top 5 rugby program, whether they finish in the Top 5 will remain to be seen but there is no reason why not. At the very least they should end up in the Top 10 rankings, expect some difficulties in the Verseker trophy toward the end when they will likely lose players to national commitments but it always gives us pundits an insight into the next seasons starts.

Garsies always start the season with players not many have heard of and by the end of the season we pundits act like we knew about these talents all along, we put our hands up and admit guilt in this context at times. What a program and we cannot wait to see them go!

HELPMEKAAR

OVERVIEW:

Helpmekaar is not what you would call and out and out rugby school, the culture is one that focuses on a more holistic experience and being a private school means that handing out sporting bursaries en-masse is not feasible.

But the program is one we personally enjoy, there have been some fantastic teams over the years and real talent has come through the school and we look forward to seeing what can be achieved come 2021.

PLAYERS:

Diego Cupido is the key player no doubt, he has been a part of the majority of the Elite Player Development camps in his age group. Searing pace and an ability to unlock opposition defenders if his backline can give him space he will be a handful!

Nathan Lainis is a standout player and will lead the forwards into battle, he is very much under the radar but come the end of the year many will know this talents name. Big Thonga Mbataha is another key cog in the Helpies machine, he will look to get the front row moving forward and is a hooker many in the country will expect to see at Craven Week at a bare minimum.

Other players to keep an eye on are Murray Ferreira at scrumhalf and Ruan Slabbert at lock, we hear many good things about these players.

Rookies set to make an impact are Brendan Venter at centre and Waldt Human at prop.

SEASON PREDICTION:

Last years group would have been a young one with many Grade 11’s in the squad, one would think that that extra year would of given them the 1st XV experience to have an extremely successful 2021 season but like all of last years rookies they missed out on a year of rugby.

We anticipate a stronger 2021 team who will aim to go far in the Verseker and will hopefully give the school a memorable centenary year.

JEPPE

OVERVIEW:

The Jeppe program has produced some absolute gems over the past few years, some players who have truly announced themselves and shown they have what it takes to succeed at a higher level. We don’t think there’s much coincidence in the fact that wherever Carl Spilhaus turns up there seems to be step up in terms of the overall rugby program.

PLAYERS:

Ayanda Xungu is certainly a player to keep an eye on, the centre was highly rated at Grant Khomo and will be a key player for the Joburg school. Prop Thumi Mthembu is a player being spoke about a lot and of course Nhloso Tshabangu needs to be looked at closely.

A rookie we are keeping tabs on is young Kanelo Moshe, we hear he is highly rated by the community and believe he will become a more and more established player over the coming season.

SEASON PREDICTION:

The Northern region have a brutal rugby program, perhaps second only to the Western Cape in terms of the intensity of fixtures and it will not be any different for Jeppe. By brutality we do not only mean the quality of schools faced by the variance in the style of play, one week you could be playing on dry fields against 120kg Afrikaans monsters and a week later you could be having your ankles snapped by kids who run the 100 meters in under 11 seconds, its something new every week.

We see Jeppe having a good season, but one will always wait and hope for another team on a level to the Golden generation where the late and great Muzi Manyike and Tyrone Green took backline play to another level. Could we see some bolters in this years Jeppe team?

KES

OVERVIEW:

Arguably the finest cricket school in the country, KES have also more often than not managed to punch above their weight on the rugby field. There were periods in history where KES were a true heavyweight of school rugby in South Africa but this aura fell away a bit for a few years before coming back roaring with numerous SA Schools internationals recently being produced.

We have always been a fan of the KES program, even a year where KES could be considered weak their program still entertains. For a school like KES playing for the love of the game comes first, while this attitude may not bring a number 1 ranking anytime soon what it does do is allow a players individual qualities to shine, freedom to play the game how you see fit cannot be underestimated for the development of some players.

PLAYERS:

Kelly Mpeku is someone we have spoken about a fair bit, his other brother was a fantastic player and Kelly has similar qualities. His pace is unreal and his upper body strength is deceptive.

Other backline players we really like the look of are Bronson Mills and Katlego Letebele, those two along with Kelly should really get the crowds going. Cole Knight is another player you certainly will want to watch closely, he is highly rated by the KES old boys.

SEASON PREDICTION:

Having not have the chance to watch a lot of their rugby it is hard to make a call on this group, from those in the know they are expecting a team to play their hearts out but it will all depend on what the forwards can bring to the party.

In terms of their backline there wont be many opponents that will have the advantage over them, however without quality ball even the best backlines can and will struggle. We will have to wait and see what the season brings.

MENLOPARK

OVERVIEW:

Menlopark have long been outstanding at youth level, their under 14 and under 15 teams often dominate the junior rankings. This however rarely translates to dominance in at senior level with the squad often being purged through their key players moving to other schools.

One feels that if Menlo were able to keep all their talent there would no doubt be somewhat of a power shift in the Northern region, could this year signify that change?

PLAYERS:

It does not take a genius to see where the teams main talent lies this year, their forward pack is one of the top 5 in the country and there can be few arguments there.

Francois Oosthuizen, Justin Fourie, Barend Bezuidenhout and of course Kevin Locke are players who you would not want to encounter down a dark alley. The level of physicality they will bring to the party will be unbelievable!

If that is not enough consider that Frikkie Dreyer and Aiden Smith are in the rookie year and are two other giants waiting to take on all comers. Aiden is someone we have been watching since he was at junior school in Benoni and is an elite level athlete who will go very far should be choose rugby over a career in athletics.

While the backline may not have the same out and out star power that the forward pack does, keep an eye on Wian Faber and Reynier Overweg in the backline. They are absolute outstanding athletes and will be key components in the team this year.

SEASON PREDICTION:

We don’t want to curse this years group, we predicted an outstanding year for the 2019 team based on their exploits as under 16 players but we really feel this could be one of the best Menlo teams in recent memory.

If their forwards can remain relatively injury free and their backline can fire on all cylinders there is no reason why they cannot be a Top 10 program this year, there is so much talent there it is hard to see any other result.

The key to a successful season will no doubt be effective rotation of their players, the season in the North is long and to be a Virsekerbeker Champion one needs to know that 25+ games in a season is not uncommon at all.

Expect a dark horse scenario here, many will be shocked at how well this team develop as a group we feel.

MONUMENT

OVERVIEW:

It’s 100 up for Monnas, the Krugersdorp school which is a huge source of pride for the community reaches a huge landmark in their history and we here at NextGenXV wish the school all the best for the forthcoming season.

Tjaart van der Walt and his team will be up against it this year, a massively talented group who not only have a tough set of fixtures but also have the weight of expectation upon them. But one feels that everything is in place for Monnas to enjoy a fantastic season of rugby.

PLAYERS:

The first name on our list has to be Waldo van den Berg, we don’t know what it is about Monnas and producing quality centres but we would like to know their secret. Waldo will absolutely be a key player for the team, his oozes talent and is one of the premier centres in the country.

In the forward department big Jan-Hendrik Bessinger is back and read to go! He loves the physical side of the game, relishes the contact and will be key in Monnas gaining a foothold up front. Cassie Botes has made the move over to Monnas and him and Jan-Hendrik will no doubt be the teams bash brothers.

Dries du Preez and Damian Engelbrecht are two premier locks, we look forward to seeing them in action of course and watch Tiaan Wessels closely – the youngster plays his heart out and was rewarded with EPD selection this year, he can be proud of the achievement.

At pivot Alec Vermaak is extremely underrated, we fully expect him to be up there with the top points scorers in the country come the end of the year.

In terms of the rookies Sfiso Magwaza the powerhouse prop is someone we spoke about last year, we really rate Sfiso and expect big things from him, along with him keep a close eye on Cian de Villiers.

SEASON PREDICTION:

Monnas should always aim for a Top 10 place regardless of whatever the season and this season should be no different.

A centenary year naturally will put more pressure on the school but one believes they will rise to the challenge, we expect a Top 10 finish this season with a push toward a Top 5 spot. If the bounce of the ball falls right you would think a battle for Top 3 would not be unlikely but the Top 2 may be just one step too far but you never know.

PARKTOWN BOYS

OVERVIEW:

Another very underrated rugby program, Parktown has made tremendous strides in its rugby program and we really like what we are seeing.

While not quite at an elite level yet they are playing a very important in player development with some outstanding athletes having their starts at Parktown Boys.

PLAYERS:

Vusi Nhlapo is a player all eyes will be on without doubt, the number 8 will be watched closely by the major Unions and could be a hidden gem.

The lock pairing of Isaac Kayembe and Tshepiso Fambe look promising and Melusi Sibaya at hooker is a tough customer.

In the backline the centre pairing of Zimvo Tsoanyane and Keegan van Huysteen have an excellent understanding of one another and we cannot wait for them to be unleashed on the Northern region circuit.

SEASON PREDICTION:

We really like the look of their forward pack and their backlines are always full of pace, if they can produce a pivot with high tactical awareness it could make everyones life far easier and we hope that this can be the case.

Their goal should be a Top 30 finish and if the squad can remain relatively injury free then why not?

PRETORIA BOYS

OVERVIEW:

Pretoria Boys have pulled off some great wins over the last few years especially over Affies, their first in many years. Last years game against Paarl Gim may have not looked pretty on the scoreboard but believe me when I tell you Pretoria Boys were at team that would have been dangerous last year.

This years team may not necessarily have the “star power” of last years group with flashy backline players, no this year its all about the forwards interestingly enough. By the end of the year no doubt there will be a number of these players being spoken about.

PLAYERS:

The loose forwards is where all the attention has to be. Thabang Mphela, Josh Mitchell and Jonty Lidenberg understand each other well and there individual styles of rugby all complement one another, this will no doubt be the spine of the team.

Shiloh Mapoa at hooker is a player we are told has promise and should he deliver quality ball to gifted rookie Lilitha Matziliza who was recently named to the SARU EPD virtual camp then dear readers we are looking at some interesting times ahead.

You didn’t think there wouldn’t be any gas men out wide did you? Keep an eye on Mfana Shabangu, expect to see him amongst the top regional try scorers this year.

SEASON PREDICTION:

An unknown quantity, that’s what makes them dangerous. Will they be in contention for titles? Likely not. Will they cause some upsets? Maybe. Will they entertain? You can bet the house on that!

RANDBURG

OVERVIEW:

Not many people know this but Randburg have a very strong rugby history, in a time before scholarships and rugby schools essentially becoming rugby academies and when schools had to rely purely on their catchment area Randburg was indeed a powerhouse.

A Beeld trophy win (now Virseker Cup) in 1990 shows this, and if you look back in the archives you will see that the school has some notable wins over the larger and more established schools. Randburg has changed and the school rugby landscape has changed but don’t let that fool you, there is some exceptional talent at the school.

PLAYERS:

We have to give Justin Diratsagae a shoutout, he has been following our brand since the start and bleeds the blue of Randburg, when we see how much dedication a player has toward his school it is infectious. When you hear him talk of the Linden derby, of his team mates and his coach you know that this is a youngster whose love for the game is trumped by few.

The key player in the team we are told is Lardo de Beer, he is an exceptional talent has a lot of pace and is an old school bulldozer of a centre. Other backline players who will look to make a name for themselves are James van der Merwe, Adam Herbst and Luke Spence.

Among the forwards we like the look of Dian Botha who is highly rated in the Lions region and Kamo Raborifi who is equally comfortable at lock and flanker.

SEASON PREDICITION:

We confess we do not know much about their fixtures this year but no doubt with the spine of the team made up of some exciting players some of who are in the Lions High Performance mix we think Randburg can spring a few surprises this year.

Watching schools such at this play their rugby is the real deal, it is a throwback to the time when school rugby was far more about community that it was about results and a time when players could play with the freedom and creativity they desired and that’s what makes schools such as this exciting as hell to watch!

ST JOHNS COLLEGE

OVERVIEW:

In 2019 we predicted St Johns to have a bumper season, the team as an age group had outstanding results and were in fact unbeaten as under 16’s. No doubt we were disappointed at the outcome and sure the team was but some enterprising rugby was still at play.

This years St Johns team will not have the same pressure as their predecessors to succeed, and that is a good thing as three are some exciting players waiting in the wings ready to be unleashed on the schools circuit.

PLAYERS:

Kgosi Mashugane is a beast at prop, wait until you see him in action, trust us you will not be disappointed. KJ Louw and Joel Leotela are two outside backs to keep a close eye on as well, pacey and creative they will surely create some truly highlight reel worthy moments during the year.

Josh Boulle at centre will have all eyes on him, he is an extremely talented player but with respect to all these young talents the player to watch above all others is Big Ike Anagu, who will be the centre of attention (pun intended).

An exceptional athlete Anagu excels as a basketball player but don’t let that take attention away from his ability on the rugby field, a natural athlete who can mix it up with the best of them he will likely be the seasons dark horse and we are confident many will talk of him come the end of the season.

SEASON PREDICTION:

As with all private school programs what this is all really about is keeping key players fit and free of injury, these more exclusive schools simply don’t have the depth that the state schools have and thus one or two injuries to key players could make or break their season.

We anticipate an exciting season with free flowing rugby and some of their talents to shine through and hopefully take a step up to the pro levels.

ST STITHIANS

OVERVIEW:

Are Saints really a rugby school? Perhaps they are not a traditional powerhouse but there is no reason to argue against them being considered a rugby school, especially when you consider the amount of boys available and the sheer amount of talent coming through the program in recent years.

There have been some epic Zimbabwean players who have come through the system, two names you can think of immediately are Munashe Mhere and Thabani Maguranyanga both who have earned pro contracts since leaving school. Last year there were high expectations for the team, what will 2021 bring?

PLAYERS:

Amongst the backline players we like the look of Luca de Leo at centre who we are told has an uncanny ability to open opposition defenses and will be key to Saints enjoying a winning season. Tawanda Matipano at fullback looks like he has all the goods, a multi-threat running outside back we cannot wait to see yet another Saints athlete surprise friend and foe alike with power and pace.

Matt McDiarmid at loose forward will be a pack leader for 2021, expect him to lead from the front with immense carrying and work on the ground.

Last and certainly not least, JP du Preez looks the real deal! Maybe it runs in the family?

SEASON PREDICTION:

Personally I love watching the private school league, they are not academies so much as they are nurturing grounds for young talent and thus you can always expect to see wide open play and some epic highlight reel worthy moments.

Will Saints threaten the top ranking schools? No they wont, but that’s not why they are here – they are here to play the game in the spirit it is intended and dazzle us with some memorable moments. We cannot wait!

TRANSVALIA

OVERVIEW:

The Vaal triangle is an area renowned for producing hard men, men who work hard and play hard and in Transvalia they have a school that exemplifies this quality. If only dear reader you knew just how much talent was plucked from this school by the bigger rugby programs you would understand how tragic it is and you would understand that this is a school that should they retain their talent could easily be a consistent Top 20/15 program.

But a Vaalia boy doesn’t moan, he gets up off the ground and he keeps fighting because he knows no other way! That’s why we love to see them play!

PLAYERS:

We are told this team will heavily lean towards the rookies with a view to having an epic 2022 season, but amongst the seniors this year we really like the look of Kian le Roux at scrumhalf. His energetic approach to the game and his enthusiasm rubs off on his team mates and it brings up all over those around him.

Wian McGeer at centre looks a good shout, he should certainly be in the Falcons mix come Craven Week time and should no doubt be joined by Rethabile Mollo as well as powerhouse Zander Saayman who is certainly a player to keep a close eye on.

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