Clash of township titans

Neale Emslie
emslien@timesmedia.co.za

THE battle lines have been drawn and all that is left now is for Ithembelihle and Ndzondelelo to show who rules township schools rugby when their FNB Classic Clash takes place at Dan Qeqe Stadium tomorrow (3.30pm).

To say that a wave of excitement is sweeping through the schools would be an understatement.

A visit to the two institutions yesterday revealed two sets of squads determined to grab the bragging rights.

Those currently belong to Ithembe who under coach Theo Pieterse have triumphed in the last seven encounters, winning last year’s match in a bruising 20-13 battle.

“It does not get much bigger than this,” Pieterse said yesterday, although he acknowledged they had not had their best season.

“We have had a poor season so far, getting some big scores against us, but this is a very young and inexperienced side.

“However, they are learning. Games against Ndzondi are always tough and this will go down to the wire again.”

Ithembe are coming off a loss to Nathaniel Nyaluza last weekend, but Pieterse said he was not disappointed about the result.

“What I am happy about is that we had a game last Saturday which I used to sort out my side. We are determined to make it eight in a row [against Ndzondelelo] on Friday.”

Ironically, Khanyiso Mpini, who scored a try for Ndzondelelo in last year’s derby, is now captaining Ithembe and he said they were ready for the big game.

“We are determined to take them on and come away with another win,” Mpini said.

Ndzondelelo, however, are thirsting for a measure of revenge after having been on the receiving end for so long. Coach Gerald Antonie said their boys were fired up for the encounter.

“I have given up some of my other rugby duties and have been able to devote my time to the team this year,” Antonie said. “And you can see how keen the players are. We didn’t have an official practice today, but the boys are here practising their specialty roles.

“There is great excitement in the team for this big clash and we are confident we can produce the goods.”

His words were echoed by Ndzondelelo captain Ayabulela Khame, who took time from a gym workout to give his thoughts on the game.

“We are prepared and motivated for this clash and not scared of anything,” Bulela said.

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