Let the games be­gin …

Weekend Witness - - Sport - JONATHAN COOK

THE Mar­itzburg Col­lege 150th Win­ter Sports Fes­ti­val gets un­der way to­day and is one of the high­lights of the school’s 150th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions.

The Mar­itzburg Col­lege 150th Rugby Fes­ti­val, from to­day to Wed­nes­day, at which 10 first XVs from lead­ing South African rug­by­play­ing schools will be play­ing, suf­fered a blow yes­ter­day when Mar­itzburg Col­lege’s brother school, Dur­ban High School (DHS), with­drew af­ter one of their pupils died of a se­ri­ous ill­ness.

“It is a very un­for­tu­nate sit­u­a­tion, dread­ful that DHS have lost a young­ster to ill­ness,” said the act­ing head­mas­ter of Mar­itzburg Col­lege, Keith Guise-Brown, yes­ter­day.

“For­tu­nately our di­rec­tor of rugby, Ryan Strud­wick, has been work­ing fever­ishly to put to­gether a KZN Devel­op­ment XV to re­place the DHS first XV and we as a school will sup­port this devel­op­ment side where they might have prob­lems at such late no­tice.

“This de­ci­sion to in­clude the Devel­op­ment side will en­sure that all the teams will get a full three games.”

Guise-Brown said Mar­itzburg Col­lege had huge sym­pa­thy for DHS and un­der­stood fully why they had had to make the de­ci­sion to with­draw.

He said the school had fol­lowed a very dif­fer­ent pro­gramme to that held 25 years ago when the school had cel­e­brated its 125th birth­day. It has been very sports-ori­en­tated.

“A care­ful, well-thought-out pro­gramme to keep the com­mu­nity in­volved, from the school’s con­tri­bu­tion at this year’s Dusi Ca­noe Marathon to the Mid­mar Mile and the up­com­ing Com­rades Marathon, has been un­der­taken,” he said.

“The un­doubted cherry on the top was the march from the Pi­eter­mar- itzburg City Hall to the school, which was the third time in the 150-year his­tory of the school that this march has taken place.”

The first time the march was un­der­taken was when the school moved to its cam­pus in Col­lege Road.

The sec­ond was on the oc­ca­sion of the school cen­te­nary in 1963, and the march un­der­taken on March 1 to co­in­cide with the 150th an­niver­sary on March 2 was the third.

“It was a very emo­tional oc­ca­sion and we were won­der­fully im­pressed and touched by the sup­port from the en­tire com­mu­nity. In the con­text of the 150th year, this was very spe­cial,” Guise-Brown added.

The un­veil­ing of the Jime­layo Ji statue on the Forder Oval, ad­ja­cent to the Vic­to­ria Hall and above the Barne’s field, was also a spe­cial moment, while the Cen­te­nary Gala Ball was an­other hugely emo­tional oc­ca­sion for those present.

“The Easter Sports Fes­ti­val will hopefully be as suc­cess­ful.

“We are truly hum­bled by the re­sponse of the par­tic­i­pat­ing schools and the sac­ri­fices they have made to be here, and we are all look­ing for­ward to three en­ter­tain­ing days of school­boy rugby and school­boy hockey at its best,” Guise-Brown said.

The Mar­itzburg Col­lege 150th Win­ter Sports Fes­ti­val, over the Easter school hol­i­days, in­cor­po­rates three stand-alone tour­na­ments — the 150th Rugby Fes­ti­val, the No­mads Hockey Fes­ti­val, from to­day to Mon­day, which is a long-es­tab­lished an­nual fes­ti­val for 12 of South Africa’s top-tier school­boy first teams, and the an­nual Husq­varna Skonk Ni­chol­son Rugby Fes­ti­val, from April 5 to 6. It features eight top teams in the U14 age-group, and eight qual­ity teams in the U16 age-group.

More im­me­di­ately, the Mar­itzburg Col­lege 150th Rugby Fes­ti­val has South African school­boy rugby giants Afrikaans Hoër Se­un­skool (Affies) top­ping the bill.

They are joined by Hoërskool Mon­u­ment (Mon­nas) from Krugers­dorp, Grey High School (Port Elizabeth), Queens Col­lege (Queens- town), Dale Col­lege (King Williamstown), Ron­de­bosch Boys’ High (Cape Town), ris­ing power Hoërskool No­ord-Kaap (Kim­ber­ley), Jeppe High (Jo­han­nes­burg), Mar­itzburg Col­lege and the KwaZulu-Natal Devel­op­ment XV.

The hosts — who have pro­duced both of the Spring­boks’ Rugby World Cup-win­ning fly­halves, Joel Stran­sky and Butch James, among a host of other big names — will have their pedi­gree sorely tested when tackle Port Elizabeth’s strong Grey High School line-up to­day at 3.30 pm.

Then they face the grow­ing force that is Hoërskool No­ord-Kaap of Kim­ber­ley on Mon­day at 2.10 pm be­fore bring­ing down the cur­tain on this mag­nif­i­cent fes­ti­val of school­boy rugby with a match against the Queen­stown sports in­sti­tu­tion, Queens Col­lege, on Wed­nes­day at 2.20 pm.

Not only will Mar­itzburg Col­lege be host­ing two pre­mier Easter rugby fes­ti­vals, and a top-level hockey fes­ti­val, they will also a month later be stag­ing the in­vi­ta­tion-only Wildeklawer Rugby Fes­ti­val, which runs from from May 1 to 4.

It will al­low sup­port­ers to en­joy even more of the best in South African school­boy rugby, fea­tur­ing the likes of Grey Col­lege (Bloem­fontein) and the Paarl pow­er­houses of Paarl Boys’ High and Paarl Gym­na­sium.

Among a num­ber of other at­trac­tions in what is ex­pected to be a cel­e­bra­tory, car­ni­val-like at­mos­phere over the fes­ti­val pe­riod next week are a re­fresh­ment garden and play fa­cil­i­ties for chil­dren. En­trance is R10 per per­son and se­cure park­ing will be pro­vided on the school’s lower fields off Col­lege Road.

PHOTO: IAN CARBUTT

Mar­itzburg Col­lege Head Boy and first team rugby cap­tain Seko Buthelezi holds up team mas­cot Skonk ahead of the Mar­itzburg Col­lege 150th Win­ter Fes­ti­val, which gets un­der­way to­day.

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