Let the games begin …
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.
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.