False Bay RFC, for the third time in their 93-year history, were crowned Super League A Champions when they ground out a deserved victory over rivals Durbanville-Bellville at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch on Saturday night.
The final score was 25-15 after the Bay led 8-6 at the break.
On the eve of the 50th anniversary since their first title at the top, that of the 1972 Grand Challenge victory under the captaincy of the late Butch Watson-Smith, Thabo Ngcongo’s team bagged the Super League A title for the second time under the guardianship of coach Johnno van der Walt.
The respective teams were led onto the pitch by centurions, Dylon Frylinck of False Bay and Danie Botes of Durbell.
No final is played in any spirit other than hard, full-out committed performance and the sizeable crowd in attendance, including members of the Stormers squad who had played earlier, were left in no doubt that this would be a battle to the very end.
Barely five minutes into the brutal contest, Ngcongo had to be replaced, a recurring injury rearing its head. His replacement, Izzy Wharton spent barely a minute on the pitch before he was removed for a head injury assessment, his return vetoed by the medical officer on duty. That left the Bay with a returning-from-injury Ryan Olivier to face 75 minutes of challenging, grueling rugby against opposition renowned for their physicality. The battle-hardened giant, never one to shy from a challenge, delivered the goods and more as replacement captain and loose forward.
Sadly, these were not the only injuries. Durbies eigthman, Ruben Venter was stretchered off with a severe concussion.
After these unsettling departures, the arm wrestle most finals tend to become took its course. Durbell opened the scoring through a penalty kick by faultless kicker, fullback Lohan Lubbe, who proved to be a constant threat with his place kicking. Any transgression within range was clearly going to be points off his boot. Moments later, Bay pivot, Irwan Adams levelled the score with a penalty of his own.
The Constantia team continued to exert pressure on their opponents, none less in the area where Durbies were dominant in the round robin match at False Bay, the scrum. The Bay’s powerhouse front row of Wayrin Losper, Vlam van Vuuren and Tahriq Allen dismantled their opponents from beginning to end, their dominance the foundation of the Bay’s victorious performance.
False Bay extended their lead to five points when Olivier stretched over the line to score a try. Late in the half, Lubbe reduced that lead to just two points with a penalty.
Durbies took the lead early in the second half when Lubbe converted another penalty. Their strategy of securing possession up front and kicking for the corners had a negative impact of starving their own outside backs of possession. Unfortunately this strategy throttled many of their opportunities. Their outside backs were offered limited opportunity to influence the scoreboard, something they appeared very capable of doing on the occasions they were given the chance. Lubbe reminded all that any penalty within his sizeable range would be converted and that was the grasp from which False Bay had to escape.
The teams traded the lead through penalty kicks, in the process Lubbe getting his fifth penalty conversion for his team’s 15 points and what turned out to be Durbell’s last score of the season.
With no more than 10 minutes left in the contest, Durbies were hanging on to their slender four-point lead for dear life and Van der Walt’s warriors were beginning to exert sustained pressure on them.
Barely five minutes from time, a sweeping counter attack started by Adams in his own half saw False Bay on a marauding run up the left flank, which resulted in replacement scrumhalf Niyaaz Johnson stretched over the Durbies line after slicing through the smallest of gaps to give his team a one-point lead, increased to three by Adams’s conversion.
False Bay could taste the victory. The try of the day was to follow, started by another counter attack from Adams from his own half, a feed to evergreen Danie Roux who sliced through the defence and then fed to Muji van der Hoven to score under the poles and set off a mass-hug as he was swamped by his team mates. Adams converted and the final score appeared on the electronic scoreboard.
It was a fitting end to a most successful False Bay season and a golden era under Van der Walt and his assistant, Ryan “Slab” Williams.
“Winning it again is super special,” said Van der Walt. “Some clubs never get a chance to make a play-off let along win the competition”
“2016 with the single round format had a different kind of pressure where every game was a must win game and every game felt like a final,” he said in reference to False Bay’s previous SLA victory.
“We lost to Durbell in the 2018 semi-final after a very good season and then we lost to Maties in the 2019 semi-final after another decent season. So when there was no league in 2020 and 2021 we could not redeem ourselves from that 2019 exit in the play-offs. Fast forward two Covid years and we are back with a bang”.
False Bay hold their Annual Awards Dinner tomorrow night and with their First and Second Teams crowned champions, their Thirds and Under 20A ending second and the booming Women’s section performing exceptionally well in their respective leagues, the celebrations will be long and well-deserved.