FROM Port Elizabeth to Queenstown, the Eastern Cape schools rugby programme is awash with a fascinating array of derbies as the season goes into overdrive after numerous holidays and festivals.
One of the major showdowns will take place at the New Brighton Oval today when township giants Ndzondelelo and Ithembelihle square up in arguably the biggest match of the year for both teams.
As each side guns for victory, Ndzondelelo vice-principal Dan Ngcape said they were geared up for this traditional contest.
“We are the Nelson Mandela Bay Nite Series champions and are more than ready for the game,” he said yesterday.
“We know we had a close thing in the Nite Series final and will learn from that.”
Ngcape was referring to a gritty fightback by Bertram in last weekend’s Nite Series when Ndzondelelo held on for a 31-27 win after leading 31-15 deep into the second half.
Ndzondelelo will also have good memories of last year’s match when they ended a run of seven straight losses in this classic clash, winning 14-13.
However, Ithembelihle, under shrewd coach Theo Pieterse, will be well set to restore their pride. Last month, they showed their style be easily winning the inaugural Mzwandile Mali Memorial tournament and they will be hungry for more success today.
Across the Chatty River, the Uitenhage bragging rights will be up for grabs when Daniel Pienaar and Brandwag battle it out at Daniel Pienaar.
These clashes have been extremely well contested in recent years after Brandwag won four in a row from 2008-11. Daniel Pienaar restored their pride in 2012, but Brandwag edged them 17-15 in a gripping contest last year. This weekend, it will be another furious battle.
Down the N2 in Grahamstown, another chapter unfolds in the lengthy St Andrew’s-Graeme rivalry, a contest which the Andreans have ruled in the last few years.
Graeme came within a whisker last year and would love nothing better than to lower their rivals’ colours on the St Andrew’s Lower field tomorrow.
The Andreans are coming off a disappointing 39-15 loss against Bishops on Monday in Cape Town and they will need a quick turnaround to handle the Graemians’ challenge. In Queenstown, Grey High will be looking to bounce back after successive defeats in the Wildeklawer tournament when they take on Queen’s.
The Border school have not had the best of seasons, but they are always difficult to beat at home and Grey will need to cut their errors to a minimum to get back on the winning trail.
One of the big games in PE takes place in Summerstrand where Pearson, celebrating their 88th birthday, will entertain cross-town rivals Alexander Road.
Despite a lack of success this season, Pearson have played some tough schools and they will be battle-hardened for this encounter.
Alex are on a four-match winning streak but will need to maintain their intensity to cope with the home team.
The fixtures, subject to change, are (home teams first, 11.30am start unless indicated):
Today, New Brighton Oval: Ukhanyo v Mzontsundu 1.30pm, Ithembelihle v Ndzondelelo, 3pm
Tomorrow: Pearson v Alexander Road (1pm), Despatch v Andrew Rabie, Humansdorp v Bertram, Daniel Pienaar v Brandwag (12.30), VP v Cillie, Westering v DF Malherbe, Framesby v Otto du Plessis (1pm), Gamble Street v John Walton, St Andrew’s v Graeme (4pm), Queen’s v Grey High (3pm), Newton Tech v Linkside, Marlow v JF, Molly Blackburn v Lungisa, Nico Malan v Muir, David Livingstone v Solomon Mahlangu, Arcadia v McCarthy Street. – Neale Emslie