What happens when an unstoppable force meets and immovable object? One school of thought suggests the answer is: they surrender.
Expect nothing remotely close to the mould of that response when Steinhoff Patria square off against Steinhoff Vishuis in the Steinhoff Koshuis final in Stellenbosch on Monday afternoon.
Both sides are undefeated, both boast some runaway victories in this year’s competition. Well-drilled and filled with talent. Enterprising and uncompromising. Hallmarks of each and there are hallmarks more.
Former champions, Steinhoff Patria, steamrolled their way to the final by scoring 171 points in four matches while conceding only 44.
“I take no credit for the success of this team,” says Patria coach André Pretorius, adamantly. “Henry Stewart shaped this side for three years. I was assistant coach under him and I inherited a brilliant setup. It has been nothing short of an honour to continue what he started,” he added.
The veteran of many a mammoth clash he may be, but the butterflies still flutter when the occasion arises: “I must admit, I am stressing a bit, but in a good way. I am enjoying it. It is a lot different going into a final than it is as player,” the former Springbok confesses. “You are constantly making sure that you covered all the bases. Yes, it is a lot different,” he laughs.
Looking towards the final, Pretorius is more pleased with the manner in which his side won than by the scores they racked up: “There we opportunities in some matches for us to unravel a bit. In the past we sometimes succumbed to white-line fever. I don’t want to say the scores were irrelevant, but I’m happy to say that the guys kept their composure. They showed a lot of character. But, there is always room for improvement. There was a few areas that needed a bit of attention, but we worked hard to rectify them.”
Not for no reason.
“We’ve kept an eye on Vishuis, they are an exceptional team. They are strong up front with the ability to give the ball a lot of air. They also have a brilliant flyhalf.” Skote Pretoors would know.
Win or lose, it will be a journey to remember.
“The boys really worked hard and they took no game for granted. During the break when there were no games they continued practicing and kept their fitness up as if the competition was in full swing. It was unbelievable to see.
Perennial finalists Steinhoff Vishuis bulldozed their way to the final by scoring 167 points in four matches whilst allowing the opposition a paltry 26.
“You know, another coach asked me how we accomplished that earlier today,” Vishuis coach Didier Nigrini says with a chuckle. “The residence as always been known for playing running rugby. After losing in the final last year the guys were hurting and this year they really wanted to prove a point. They are willing to put their bodies on the line and that’s why we conceded so few points. In every game they tackled like men possessed.”
It is the 34-year-old’s first season as coach of Steinhoff Vishuis after honing his skills with Shimlas’ Young Guns and the likes of Paul Roos and Stellenbosch High.
“It has been such a privilege to coach this team. Vishuis is a big residence with a rich tradition. I don’t know of many other residences who embody virtues like respect for everyone as much as we do. My head is properly in the clouds. The vibe in the camp and the attitude of the players is something else. The guys are ready. They are happy. They have a point to prove and they are willing to do anything and everything for the win,” says Nigrini.
The prospect of matching wits with Steinhoff Patria’s Pretorius is a challenge he is relishing.
“That is a man with a massive background. In his playing days he was such a good general and he looks to be the same as coach. I’m really excited by the challenge. I haven’t had the chance to speak to him yet, but hopefully we can get together after the game and share a few ideas,” he says in his ever enthusiastic, ever genial manner.
Like his counterpart, Nigrini admits to feeling a bit of nerves.
“I am feeling the pressure and the stress, but in a nice way. It is something the players and I share, which is sort of great as we have a special bond.”
According to him, Steinhoff Vishuis is expecting “hard, physical, running rugby” from Steinhoff Patria at the Danie Craven Stadium. “Patria is one of the better teams the NWU-Puk has produced the last couple of years. We have the highest regard for them. But, like I’ve said, we have a point to prove.”
It is sentiments such as those echoed by the respective coaches that reaffirms why Ajee Valentine, sponsorship manager at Steinhoff International, has the grin of the Cheshire Cat.
“For me, this competition is about giving the guys a stage to showcase their talents. Academics always comes first, as it should, but this adds to living the student experience to its fullest. It is the best versus the best. Since the first tournament I’ve seen the sides’ commitment grow to total dedication. They’ve adopted a more professional approach. Their fitness and skill levels have skyrocketed to the point where they are now able to give any club side in the country a run for their money,” says Valentine.
When the sides faced unforeseen obstacles this year they proved that commeth the hour, commeth the man: “No matter the obstacles faced, their love for the game never wavered. Through their passion rugby stood tall.”
Now for the final surge. Now to be remembered. Valentine: “Go out there and play with every ounce of desire you have to win. Koshuis Rugby is all about studying hard, working hard and playing hard. May the best team win.”
The Steinhoff Koshuis Rugby Final kicks off at 16:30 at Danie Craven Stadium and will be live on SuperSport 1
Steinhoff Vishuis team:
15 AJ Brits, 14 Buntu Zatu, 13 Graham Macquire, 12 Dawie Venter, 11 Mick Carroll, 10 Henco Posthumus, 9 Ruben Heymans, 8 Jandre Slabbert, 7 Awie Thompson, 6 Nelius van Heerden, 5 Francois Jones, 4 Stephen Botha, 3 Jan-Francois Bester, 2 Markus Odendaal, 1 Wybren Hiemstra
16 Francois Steyn, 17 Louis-Martin Cloete, 18 Charl du Toit, 19 Luan Reynders, 20 Andries Kruger, 21 Bradley de Wet, 22 James Moore, 23 Thorton Ford
Steinhoff Patria team:
15 Christopher Arries, 14 Denver Mororua, 13 Riaan Brummer, 12 Julian Delicado, 11 Timothy Prince, 10 Matthys Seyffert, 9 Adriaan Labuschagne, 8 Jaco Buys, 7 HJ du Plessis, 6 Berto Kleynhans, 5 Stefan Bergh, 4 Mauritz Bezuidenhout, 3 Gerhard Booysen, 2 Deon Stols, 1 Francois Taljaard
16 Jan-Hendrik Muller, 17 Almeru vanWyk, 18 Hendrik du Plessis, 19 Emil Meyer, 20 Marco Pretorius, 21 Johan van Heerden, 22 Awie Engelbrecht, 23 De Jager Botha
By Bertie Jacobs