South Africa: Central Region 2023 Season Preview

The central region includes schools from the Free State, Griquas and Griffons regions. We divide schools into regions and assign an unofficial regional winner at the end of each year, for a list of previous Central region winners please click here.

Note that we try to include as many schools as possible in the process, but information is hard to come by for some of the smaller programs. We rely heavily on coach and player feedback to compile the players to watch lists as well as gain an insight into the program. If you are a coach or supporter please feel free to mail me at tom@nextgenxv.com and I will be in touch for future editions.

The following schools were not included due to not being able to gather information: Noord Kaap, Landboudal, Bothaville, Sand du Plessis, Upington, Hoopstad, Louis Botha, Hentie Cilliers, Kalahari, Duineveld, Trio.

 

BETHLEHEM VOORTREKKER

2022 Ranking: 47th

Justin Taylor’s boys look the part, there is so much talent in this town but more often than not they end up at other larger and more established rugby schools. Finishing in the Top 50 with their limited resources speaks volumes about the work that goes into this program, we have watched with joy as they have gradually climbed up the rankings.

In terms of playing personnel keep a close eye on 8th man Fano Linde, a 100kg brutal ball carrier who was a massive influence at Craven Week last year. Ruan Warden at tighthead loves to run with ball in hand, we loved seeing some of his rampaging runs last year and to think he only recently started playing the game!

Harry Kymdell at lock will be the lineout general, extremely hard to beat in the air and light on his feet the player will be key to the teams hopes this year. Among the backs Alex Maree has incredible pedigree, he does the basics so well and his passing is crisp and clean.

Tiaan van Rooyen is a utility back with searing pace and has incredible energy on the field of play. He is not afraid to take risks and will no doubt entertain.

DIAMANTVELD

2022 Ranking: 56th

One of the bedrocks of Griquas rugby, a true feeder for Craven Week and Grant Khomo the school will have been disappointed with finishing outside of the Top 50 but they are yet another victim of player poaching (or opportunity?) which is all too common in schools rugby.

This year they have a number of exciting prospects to keep an eye on. Watch the trio of JJ Fourie, Michael Prinsloo, Stiaan van Logenberg and Zade Bester closely as they will likely form the spine of the team.

Among the rookies if there is  name to remember it is no doubt Valentino Lenge, the outside back who is full of running and one of the most entertaining young players in the country!

FICHARDTPARK

2022 Ranking: Outside Top 100

Another great regional program, Fichartpark may have lived in the shadows of larger rugby playing schools but like all schools in this great region the level of support from scholars and the community is immense.

They are a good group of youngsters this year who will want to help the program crack into the Top 100. Jaco Grobelaar at lock looks a good player and well as Jaco Jansen van Rensburg at hooker. Among the backs watch scrummie Devante Classen very carefully and of course speedy and well built winger Edward Mpinga.

GOUDVELD

2022 Ranking: Outside Top 100

We have long been in touch with coach Frans Crous, he is truly a community man and you could talk Goudveld rugby all day with him. Last year was a tough one for him and his young team, but be left in no doubt that you will have to search far and wide to find a more passionate and dedicated community of rugby supporters.

All eyes will be on big Jonathan Olivier at Number 8 this year, the youngster was selected for Grant Khomo in 2021 and was a member of the Griffons academy week team in 2022 including having a blinder against the Bulls scoring a hattrick.

Pieter Reyneke at loosehead certainly looks the part and blindside Schalk du Plessis is not a player anyone should take lightly. Schools in the central region are known for quality locks and Jaunricht Cloete looks to be a very interesting player. If you want to be dazzled keep an eye on utility back Tyrece Britz, the pacy back will likely be at 15 this year and will certainly get the crowd on their feet.

The rookie (U17) group this year looks stacked, 4 players who were all in the Griffons Grant Khomo squad you should watch closely are Joshua Coertzen (centre), Jan Coetzee (hooker), Ryan Lemmer (tighthead) and last but certainly not least Ru-Bran Kock at wing.

GREY COLLEGE

2022 Ranking: 2nd

The grand daddy of the Central region, make no mistake Grey College are the benchmark for all not only in the region but South African schools rugby at large.

This years team were beaten by Hamilton Boys in Thailand but the experience will no doubt bolster the squad ahead of the 2023 season. Again there is no shortage in depth, in the front row Jean Erasmus is a tank and many pundits are certain he walks into the SA Schools squad. Ranon Fouche will be the likely started at loosehead after moving there from lock, he has taken to the position admirably. Rookie Emile McGeer at hooker looks the goods, a proper hardman with an incredibly versatile set of skills keep a close eye on him.

The tight 5 will be bolstered by the likes of Marno Stopforth and Heinirch Theron who complement each other massively and the loose trio of JH Smit, Keegan Scholtz and JJ Theron likely to be among the best in the country. Rumours swirl around Theron’s future, but let the boy play and enjoy the last season with his school.

Christiaan van der Westhuizen and nuggety Phil McClaren are likely to rotate the 9 jersey, both offer contrasting styles of play. McClaren was one of the standouts at Grant Khomo, his sniping runs and game management are incredible. They are likely to pair with left footer Ian van der Merwe whose accurate boot and distribution will feed yet another speedy backline containing the likes of speedy Hayden Tolmay, big winger Martin Botha and skilled fullback Vincent Wolhuter. Pieter van der Merwe is another player to keep an eye on, he looks the part and is in his rookie year, a very special talent indeed.

Last years Under 16’s were ranked number 1 in the nation by many pundits and will add incredible depth to the team. Liam Santos, Heinz Stockenstrom, Alzeadon Felix, Ronald Duarte and big Marcel Coetzee are youngsters to keep a very close eye on.

Grey will have a lot to do this year, a difficult fixture list awaits them but when does it not? They will fight hard as always for the number 1 spot and their make or break games will likely be against the likes of the winelands schools and of course the mighty Kwaggas.

SENTRAAL

2022 Ranking: 72nd

Sentraal certainly had a respectable 2022 season finishing comfortably in the Top 100. Of course the team will have greater ambitions for 2023 and are a passionate group who go all out for the jersey.

Players to keep a close eye on include 8th man Sarel Taljaard, Hanco Smith at inside centre and AJ Seenkal the powerful loosehead prop.

ST ANDREWS SCHOOL

2022 Ranking: Outside Top 100

The namesake of the more famous rugby school in Mkhanda, St Andrews School in Bloemfontein love their rugby and the school spirit where the vast majority of the boys attend games is a sight to behold.

They ranked outside the Top 100 last year but we know that they will be working hard to improve their overall placing. Their forwards look the business this year with players to keep an eye on including Ioanni Giannakopoulos (hooker), Matthew Simon (tighthead), lock pairing Marco de Sousa and Lesedi Sipoyo and Jiovano Alexander (loose forward) all looking to impress.

The rookies coming through that you should watch out for are Mandela Sipoyo (loose forward), Setsoto Matamane (loose forward) and pacy Thilanifuthi Bergman on the wing.

WELKOM GIM

2022 Ranking: 59th

Welkom Gim have had some fantastic programs over the last decade, certainly a regional powerhouse who are not afraid to take on any opposition they will certainly look to improve on their previous years rankings and with the talent at their disposal no doubt they will play some enterprising rugby.

Tristan Appolis returns at loosehead, a big boy that is one of the team enforcers expect him to get stuck in as the season progresses. Julien Samuels looks an interesting prospect and Ronaldo Kiewiet at pivot can really get a backline going and in the backs expect the Goeda’s Nalen and Naven to entertain.

Among the rookies Rewaldo Farmer and Royaun van Niekerk look like they will add some great fresh blood into the team but the player I personally will be watching closely is Rylen Kirsten. He looks the part, strong and extremely athletic he is a player that could very well be a major dark horse in 2023.

SHARING IS CARING!
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