Crunch Time for Villager in SLB Title Decider

It just doesn’t get any bigger than Villager against Sir Lowrians at Brookside in the SLB winner-takes-all season finale. Both clubs’ entire seasons come down to this last game, as if this fixture was purposely arranged to ensure these two SLB colossuses battle it out to be crowned champion. With the title decider on the line, as well as three clubs vying for only two promotion spots, all eyes will be on Brookside this Saturday 30 August at 16h00.

Captain Ashley Clarke will lead from the front on Saturday

Captain Ashley Clarke will lead from the front on Saturday. His ball carries will be crucial

The Villager faithful may be wondering how their side ever ended up in such a precarious position after having gone unbeaten for ten games, until three weeks ago when St Georges arrived at Brookside and ruined their fairy-tale run. Even with Villager losing that game they were still in a strong enough position to guarantee promotion before the Sir Lowrians fixture, however with their shock loss to Hamlets in Mamre two weeks ago, Villager have only themselves to  blame for their current predicament.

Although Villager claimed the vital win against Pniel Villagers last weekend to keep their promotion hopes alive, the dark horses of the SLB this year, St Georges, ruined the party when they claimed a bonus point win as well a vastly improved points difference against Scottsdene in their last fixture of the year.

As a result the permutations between Villager, St Georges and Sir Lowrians have become extremely complicated, albeit hugely exciting, but one permutation that will be on every Brooksider’s mind will be the fact that should Villager win and deny the visitors a bonus point they will be crowned the 2014 SLB champions. For this to happen, however, Villager has to not only overcome a very good team, but an entire club with big ambitions and an even bigger support base.

Formed in 1976 after the merger of two clubs, the “Navy Train” as Sir Lowrians are affectionately known, has slowly become the powerhouse of Helderberg Rugby over the past decade. When one looks at their previous records it quickly becomes apparent that this club has big plans for their future and clearly aren’t content with remaining in the lower leagues. They have their sights set firmly on not only playing in the SLA, but winning it too.

Mercurial Earl Rose is expected to be named in the "Navy Trains" side

Mercurial Earl Rose is expected to be named in the “Navy Trains” side. ©(November 16, 2009 – Source: David Rogers/Getty Images Europe)

Having played as low as Division 5 in 2004, the Navy Train steamed through the leagues winning every Division until 2010 when they were temporarily halted by UWC in the Premier B. Although confined to playing another year of Premier B, Sir Lowrians ambitions were not thwarted as they appointed ex-Springbok Quinton Davids as 1st XV Head Coach. With Davids at the helm, the Navy Train gained promotion into the Premier A in 2012, a league which they also won in 2013 to earn them promotion into the Super League B in 2014. Although nine other clubs joined them as a result of the restructured club league, Sir Lowrians were clearly a club on the rise.

When analysing the “blue locomotive’s” fortunes this year it is no surprise to learn that under the astute guidance of Head Coach Ricky Pietersen they have won 12 from 13, although some decisions remain for the WP Executive on this, there is no doubt Sir Lowrians are a force to be reckoned with. As a result of their advantageous relationship with their sponsors, the ASLA Group, Sir Lowrians have been able to entice former Springboks Bolla Conradie, Wayne Julies and Quinton Davids as well as touring Springbok, Earl Rose onto their playing roster. With such quality in their side it is no wonder they occupy the top spot going into the last round against Villager.

Even though Sir Lowrians possess quality players and have a plethora of clubs supporting them on Saturday, most notably by St Georges, it must be remembered that Villager FC have done exceptionally well in getting to the final round still in contention for the  title. The club’s decision to no longer pay players in 2013 brought with it new challenges and as a result the club struggled enormously in their first year in the SLB. With the appointment of Andrew Hughes as Head Coach in 2014 as well as the clubs adoption of the “Right Reasons” maxim, the club has attracted a wave of new players who were all enticed by the notion of playing for the right reasons.

Bolla Conradie is expected to be named at scrumhalf on Saturday. ©HSMimages/Anne Laing

Bolla Conradie is expected to be named at scrumhalf on Saturday. ©HSMimages/Anne Laing

Spearheaded by the acquisition of former Racing Metro loose forward Ashley Clarke, as well as numerous other former provincial and SLA club players, the 2014 Villager FC 1st XV were quickly earmarked as potential title contenders. Although Andrew Hughes came in with a three year plan to only gain promotion in 2015, the potential of the squad ensured his well laid out plans quickly became obsolete.

“If someone said to me at the start of the year that we would be playing for the title against Sir Lowrians this weekend I would not have believed you,” Hughes says. “What the fellas have achieved this year, the title and promotion aside, they have done an incredible job of which I am massively proud.”

Looking forward to this weekend, Villager FC have been hard hit by the injury to gifted flyhalf Tim Marsh as well the unavailability of outside centre stalwart, Stuart Pattison. Both provided strong leadership and maturity to the backline, but when one considers that their replacements are the hugely talented Jarred Stokes and Geoff Van Ryneveldt, Villager are more than covered. The only other change in the backline sees the inclusion of Neil Du Toit on the wing. While in the forwards the livewire flanker, Jannie Bester, makes a more than welcomed return to the side in place of Andrew Wilkins who moves to the lock. The question remains however:  How will these skilful youngsters fair against their more experienced counterparts?

With so much on the line for both clubs we expect Brookside to be well supported on both sides. We look forward to hosting the Navy Train and their supporters at Brookside this weekend and encourage as many Villager supporters, old and new, to join us for what may be one of the most import days in the clubs history.

Villager FC vs Sir Lowrians RFC

1. Troy Lee 2. Scott Pitcher 3. Ryan Germishuys 4. Andrew Wilkins 5. Richard Williams 6. Brodie Blows 7.  Jannie Bester 8. Ashley Clarke (CPT) 9. Christo Terblanche 10. Jarred Stokes 11. Blane Hansen 12. Geoff Van Ryneveldt 13. David Radloff 14. Neil Du Toit 15. James Allderman

16. Adrian Cleophas 17. Ayden Coetzee 18. Luke Westgarth Taylor 19. Eddie Ntaka 20. Jamie Marinus 21. Daniel Anderson  22. Jethro Valentine

Fixtures vs Sir Lowrians RFC:

 Villager FC 1st XV Sir Lowrians 1st XV Brookside ‘A’ 16:00
Villager FC 2nd XV Sir Lowrians 2nd XV Brookside ‘A’ 14:45
Villager FC 3rd XV Sir Lowrians 3rd XV Brookside ‘B’ 13:35
Villager FC u20 Sir Lowrians u20 Brookside ‘B’ 13:35