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Kimberley festival to provide stern test for top dogs

PREVIEW: Affies and Boishaai will look to make a statement in Kimberley this week, while Wynberg will have their hands full when they host Rondebosch on Saturday.

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Diamantveld will host the Kimberley tournament this season, with 24 schools from 11 unions – as well as St John’s College from New Zealand and Kirkham Grammar from England – competing across matches staged on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Down in Port Elizabeth, 16 schools will converge on Grey High School for a festival of matches played on Thursday and Saturday.

@Rugby365com shines the light on some of the more interesting match-ups at these festivals and on a couple of other fixtures staged in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

KIMBERLEY SERIES

Diamantveld have won three of their four home matches to date – with their only loss coming against Affies.

They will fancy their chances against Marlow in the opening game of the festival, as the Eastern Cape side has lost four out of nine games this season. Diamantveld’s second fixture against St John’s from Hamilton, New Zealand, should be more challenging.

Many of the top-performing schools will be on show at this tournament.

Given the demands of playing two games in the space of three or four days, these teams may have to pick and choose their battles, or they will run the risk of fatiguing in the latter fixture.

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That said, it remains to be seen whether some of the other schools will take advantage.

Grey College have bounced back since their shock loss to Jeppe earlier this season, beating Outeniqua, Paarl Gymnasium and Selbourne College. The Free State juggernaut will face Maritzburg College this Thursday, before tackling Garsfontein on Saturday.

Maritzburg College have won six from nine this season, but are yet to beat one of the top schools outside of KwaZulu-Natal. They couldn’t have asked for a tougher schedule at this tournament, as the fixture against Grey will be succeeded by a showdown with Paul Roos, who are yet to lose a game in 2024.

Garsfontein have lost three of their four matches – by margins of five points or fewer – and will be desperate to claim one of the biggest scalps in the country.

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Like Grey, Paul Roos will be favourites to win their respective matches against Monument on Thursday and Maritzburg on Saturday. The challenge of playing two games in quick succession, however, may dilute their potency.

Similarly, Gimmies will face EG Jansen and Helpmekaar. The form book suggests that Pieter Rossouw’s side – who have only lost to Grey College – will claim both scalps.

In terms of a high-profile meeting, the Affies and Paarl Boys clash on Wednesday could be one of the games of the tournament.

Affies boast a strong all-round unit this season, as their five-from-seven win record suggests. They lost 25-30 to Paul Roos and 19-20 to Paarl Gym, although they were in the latter contest until the closing stages.

Boishaai won their first six games, before sustaining a shock loss to Wynberg in Paarl. More recently, they were thumped 25-10 by Paul Roos, and have had two weeks to stew on that result. They should view the coming game against Affies as an opportunity to make a statement.

Their second fixture of the tournament won’t be much easier, as Durban High School have won seven of their nine matches to date.

GREY HIGH FESTIVAL

Grey High will be looking to bounce back after a winless three-week period.

They may take heart from the 10-all draw to Wynberg and the 7-21 loss to Paul Roos, given that Wynberg and Paul Roos are among the best-performing teams in the country this year.

Playing at home, they should expect to beat St John’s from Johannesburg on Thursday and Graeme College on Saturday.

Westville will be looking to hit back following their heavy loss to Maritzburg College last week, and Durbanville will also have a point to prove in the wake of their loss to Milnerton.

Following this clash on Thursday, Durbanville will face another tough encounter against Queen’s College, who are on a five-game winning streak.

OTHER FIXTURES OF NOTE

Cape Town’s southern suburbs will play host to two big derbies on Saturday.

SACS will have a big opportunity to end their losing run against Bishops, who they haven’t beaten since 2022.

Bishops’ present four-game losing streak includes a humbling 10-52 loss to Boland Landbou as well other home defeats to Milnerton and Wynberg.

Down the road, a strong Wynberg side will host Rondebosch. Some might say the pressure is on Wynberg to deliver, given they have already claimed the big scalps of Boishaai and Bishops.

Like Bishops, Rondebosch were made to pay for their complacency in a recent loss to Milnerton. They have also lost to Oakdale and Paul Roos this season.

That said, they have picked up six wins, and their recent performances – a 55-22 victory against SACS and a 45-13 dismantling of Melkbosstrand – speak to their attacking threat.

If they keep their foot on the gas for 80 minutes, Rondebosch may well hand Wynberg their first loss of the season.

Up in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands, Hilton College will battle Michaelhouse in a fixture steeped in tradition.

The last time these rivals met at Hilton, it was Michaelhouse who won 18-15.

In 2024, Hilton won six of their eight games, claiming notable victories against Grey High and Boland Landbou, and thrashing Kearsney 55-37 in their most recent home fixture.

Michaelhouse has been competitive, though, beating all of their KwaZulu-Natal rivals and smashing Bishops 37-17 in Cape Town. A win this Saturday would certainly boost their quest to become the top side in the province.

@rugby365com

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