7 August 2017 – The Saint Andrew’s 1st XV pulled off a remarkable comeback victory over table-topping Reddersburg on Saturday to secure a place in the final of the B League this coming weekend. Down 0-21 after only seven minutes, they clawed their way back to a stunning 38-35 victory.
The Saint Andrew’s 1st XV and their supporters celebrate a memorable victory over Reddersburg (Photo: Marino Papas, Saint Andrew’s Photographic Club)
The match was played at a rugby day at Sentraal and despite there being actions on three fields, it soon became the contest that everyone was keeping an eye on.
Down by so much, so early on, what was going through the coach Lieben Pietersen’s head?
“A lot of things went through my head: are we going to stop the game? Are we in over our heads in this match? Is Reddersburg really that good?” he shared.
“When we were 0-21 down, [assistant coach] Dean Tucker came to me, because he was going onto the field the whole time, and the ref came to him and asked him if we are going to do the same as in the league where when it is 35-0, or 35 points ahead in the first half, they stop the game, and 50 points ahead in the second half?
“I said there is no chance they are stopping this game. Even if we go 0-100 down, we play this game until the end. There is no chance we are stopping this game!
“Three minutes after that we scored a try and then, all of a sudden, it just turned around.”
Herman Pietersen, son of the coach Lieben Pietersen and aged only five days old, was on hand to help the Saints’ boys celebrate their win (Photo: Marino Papas, Saint Andrew’s Photographic Club)
The seeds for the victory were planted during the holidays when the Saints’ 1st XV participated in the Uplands Festival, Pietersen reckoned.
“I think that is the whole reason why we were able to pull off a win like this. Only the two wings did not play in the team that started the Uplands Festival.
“We were speaking about it on Saturday after the game and on Sunday night again. The Festival helped us a lot, because we set our goals for the Festival. We didn’t go there to see how many teams we could beat. We went then to see if we could change the attitude in the team and the camaraderie, and the reserves and how they settle into the team. It worked.
“I think the recent win against Sentraal also boosted the guys’ confidence. The Festival meant a lot and helped a lot.”
Yet, standing on the sidelines, it must have been tough texting the parents’ group the scores during the early stages of the match. Pietersen said he remembered sending messages to them, telling them Reddersburg had scored at 12:28, 12:30 and 12:35.
“Four minutes after that, we scored a try. I would love to hear from the guys (I probably will at practice today) what the chats were about when they were standing behind the poles.
Down by three converted tries inside seven minutes, Saints fought back to claim a 38-35 victory (Photo: Marino Papas, Saint Andrew’s Photographic Club)
“One comment I heard was [captain] Connor [Kruger] telling the guys to relax and settle in. I think he played a huge captain’s role. A lot of other guys also, potential future captains, also had a good say.”
A good game plan and executing it bore fruit, he added: “They had a very quick backline, but we cut them off at flyhalf and centre. They couldn’t do anything. I think the guys realised that.
“The half-time chat was just executing our game plan and finding our rhythm. They played into our hands, playing into channels A and B. We needed to keep our structure and it worked. We had to get our heads up and the guys felt we could win the game.”
Looking back on the match, he said finding a good reply to Reddersburg’s three quick tries was crucial in boosting the Saints’ team and giving them confidence: “When William [Oosthuysen] scored the first try and when Nantus [Aucamp] kicked the kick over from the corner, the match turned. That’s when the guys decided we are going to change what is happening.”
Flyhalf Nantus Aucamp got the Saints’ backline moving smartly against Reddersburg (Photo: Marino Papas, Saint Andrew’s Photographic Club)
Saints’ confidence was evident late in the match when, with a narrow 31-28 lead, they chose to run a penalty when the coaches were shouting to them to take a kick at the posts. “But the guys tapped the ball and ran it in and scored a try under the posts,” Pietersen said. “I asked them about it afterwards and they said they saw they had an overlap. So they started believing in what they could do.”
The team unanimously selected flanker Alex Ramsay as man of the match. He was inspirational, the coach said, stealing a lot of balls and making good runs.
Opponent for the final
In the other semi-final, Brandfort, who had finished third on the log, upset second-placed Sand du Plessis, to reach the final. When they met Saints in Brandfort earlier in the season, the home team eked out a 15-12 win. Neither team, however, was at full strength on that occasion, so it is difficult to take much away from that game.
“I spoke to some guys last night and I said we have to forget about Saturday. It’s all over,” Pietersen said. “There’s two Saturdays where we won, and also against Bloemfontein High on Tuesday, but they’re in the past now.
“You can’t think, now that we have scored three good wins on the trot, that we are suddenly better than all the other teams. The top two finishers on the log have been knocked out and the third and fourth placed teams are now playing in the final.”
Two other Saints’ teams, the 2nd XV and the under-15 As, won through to the finals of their leagues, while the under-16 A team suffered a narrow loss. The 2nds thumped Sand du Plessis 66-19, the under-15s blanked Sannies 45-0 and the under-16s went down 16-21.
Pietersen commented: “The second team lost 0-50 to Sand du Plessis in the league, but the majority of the forwards had played for the 1st XV this season and I think 13 players in total had played for the first team at some time this season. The experience was there and the guys just came out and played. Everything came together. Balls bounced right. Chips went to hand.”
Focusing on the age group teams, he ended: “The under-16s were the one team that we thought was going to win their league. I heard they lost focus a bit.
“The under-14s played well. They won convincingly. It’s good to know we’ve got some young guys coming through. I also watched them at the President Steyn Rugby Day and they played very good rugby. We have good talent coming through. We just have to look after it.”