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View from the Dugout #65

3 May 2019

My highlight this past weekend was having the opportunity to watch the U16C rugby team play against Northwood. This match was a particular high point as it marked the return to sport of a brave young man named Avu Zondi. Avu’s sport story is a heart-wrenching one. Having come to Hilton as a very accomplished rugby player in Grade 8, a series of horrific injuries kept him from participating in sport for almost 2 years. Hardest of all was that each time as he was about to make a comeback another one of these disasters awaited – more pain, more medical interventions and more time spent on the sidelines. It’s been a long hard road of doctors’ appointments, hospitals, operations, physiotherapy treatments, biokinetic rehabilitation and strength and conditioning. Having monitored his progress from a distance I know that it certainly wasn’t easy and there were moments when it seemed like he was going to give up sport. But, thanks to the expert care of our Sport Medical and Conditioning team, Avu was encouraged and exhorted to keep going. Two years later, almost to the day, he made his comeback in the last half of the mighty U16C match. I had a lump in my throat when I watched him coming off the bench to shouts of delight and encouragement from his team mates and from the parents that were in attendance. Every time he touched the ball presented another opportunity for them to encourage him. It was an emotional moment indeed.

Although Avu’s story is not necessarily a unique one, his story is laudable in that it represents true courage in the face of adversity. In sport, courage is needed in big doses as it presents an environment of constant challenge and, at times, misfortune. It is the courage to overcome ones fears and, in particular, to overcome setbacks that is needed if one is to be successful. Fortunately, at Hilton College you are never alone in your sporting pursuits and Saturday was an excellent example of our wonderfully supportive community, boys, parents and staff, who got behind a young man who needed every ounce of courage to take the field again. Thank you to all of those people who were there watching or playing in the U16C, you didn’t just lift Avu’s spirits (and mine), you have reminded us what our school is all about.


Congratulations to four of our rowing boys, Samuel Quibell, Josh McKenzie, Rory Plunket and Patrick Plunket, on competing at the SA Senior National Championships last weekend. This regatta, which is the final event of the 2018/2019 season, hosts all the top men and ladies from all over the country. The Plunket boys, coming off what has been an incredible junior season, were the dark horses in the men’s double race. Shrugging off their junior status, they took the fight to the men’s teams to complete an historic win, claiming what is possibly the first ever school boy crew victory at Senior Nationals. Incredible! This is the cherry on the top of all their exploits whilst rowing for our school. I know that they agree that none of this is possible without a competent coach. Mr. Steenkamp who has worked incredibly hard as the Head Coach of rowing over the years. The Senior National Gold medal is as much his achievement as it is for the boys. Well done sir, you are a rowing legend!


Joshua Roberts and Caine Letschert competed at the KZN High Schools Championships during the holidays. Caine achieved 2nd place in the U14 50m Freestyle and 3rd place in the U14 50m Breaststroke whilst Joshua achieved 3rd place in the U19 200 Individual Medley.

Congratulations to Joshua Roberts and Jack Rankin on their performances at the South African Swimming Level 3 Championships. Joshua won 4 gold medals, 4 silver medals and 2 bronze medals and Jack also did exceptionally well to win two silver medals and a bronze medal.

Congratulations to Christo Van Loggerenberg and Greg Braithwaite for their performances at the SA Junior Swimming Nationals held in Durban from 21st – 24th March. Christo did especially well to win bronze medals in two events, the 50m Freestyle and in the 100m Freestyle. Christo subsequently qualified and competed at the SA Youth Swimming Nationals also held in Durban from 8th-12th April. He finished 11th overall in the 50m Freestyle and 12th overall in the 100m Freestyle. These are especially impressive results as this event is an U19 age competition.


Congratulations to the following Water polo players who participated at the SA National Championships held in Durban from 14th-17th March. The following positions were achieved at this tournament:

  • Luke Tillim finished in 2nd place for the SA U17 team
  • TJ Joubert and Akil Ramcharrun finished in 4th place for the KZN U18 team
  • Jonty Alexander, Ryan Jenkins and Tyron Anderson finished in 11th place for the KZN Midlands U18 team

Well done to Luke Tillim who won a silver medal whilst representing the South Africa U17 team at the EU Nations Cup in Brno, Czech Republic (19th-22nd April).

Further congratulations must go to the Water Polo Club and to Niall Wheeler, an old boy from the class of 2014. Niall has recently been selected to represent the South African Senior Men’s team at the EU Nations Championships to be held in the Czech Republic in July. Niall is the first Hilton College representative to achieve this accolade.


Congratulations to three of our boys Michael Booth, Slade van Staden, Ross Boast, and old boy James Ritchie on being awarded the KZN Inland Player of the Year award in each of their respective age groups. The awards were given at a ceremony held in Pietermaritzburg last week and were achieved on the basis of their performances at 2018 CSA National Weeks. Old boys, Gareth Schreuder and James Ritchie, also received awards for their selection into the SA Colts team at the Khaya Majola Cricket week.


Our 1st team golf attended the Affies Golf Tournament at the beginning of the Easter holiday. This is an event which attracts some of the best teams in the country. After a successful first day’s play, our boys continued their good form on day 2 to qualify for the 3rd /4th playoff. For this final round we were matched against Clifton. The boys rose to the occasion to overcome the Durbanites and claim 3rd place overall – an outstanding effort by this young team.

Congratulations to Christopher Bagnall who played for the U19 Ekurhuleni side in the U19 inter-provincial quadrangular held at Modderfontein Golf Club this weekend. Christopher and his partner won the foursomes beating Gauteng North (5 and 4) and Central (2 and 1). He then went on to win his singles beating Gauteng North (5 and 4) and Central (4 and 2). Although his team did not win the tournament, his outstanding contribution was particularly impressive considering that he is only U15. Well done Christopher!


A number of our winter sport teams were involved at various festivals this holiday. Our teams did exceptionally well, winning most of the matches that were played. In hockey, the 1st XI finished unbeaten at the St. Stithians Easter Festival. After drawing to St. Albans (3 – 3) they found their form to go on and beat Pretoria Boys (1 – 0), St. Davids (3 – 0), St. Stithians (4 – 2) and Pearson (3 – 0). The 1st XV played at the World Schools Festival and at the Kingswood 125th Rugby Festival. At the World Schools Festival they came up against the USA School’s XV (41 – 0) and an Italian All-Stars team (32 – 15), both of which they beat convincingly. In Grahamstown, they won against St. Georges (Zimbabwe) and Kingswood, with their only loss being against St. Andrew’s (27 – 43). In the lower age groups, the U16A XV and U14A XV rugby teams were both unbeaten at the Jeppe and Uplands Festivals respectively. The U15A also played exceptionally well to comfortably beat St. Benedicts (27 – 0) and St. Johns (45 – 7) their only loss being to Helpmekaar (10 – 29) in a close fought match.


With the excellent improvement shown by the Northwood Knights in all competitions this season, our expectation was that we would be thoroughly tested in both hockey and rugby. This was certainly the case with the Durban boys giving their all in every match.

In hockey, Northwood definitely had the best of the lower Open and U16 exchanges – a good indication of the health of their club and that they are working hard on their depth. They also put in a good account of themselves in the U14 age group but our boys proved to be too strong in that division, winning all games A – D. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the U14A match, an all-out tussle that went down to the wire with our boys holding out for the win 3 – 2.

The U16A match was just as exciting. Northwood came out firing in the first quarter and, following an excellent counter attack goal and a penalty corner conversion, we were 0 – 2 down at the end of the first quarter. This needed calm heads and a decisive response. Our boys duly obliged by showing excellent maturity and patience to gradually work their way into the match. The fire-power in our team is something to admire and 5 unanswered goals saw the game end in our favor 5 – 2.

The 1st XI match was another humdinger of a game. Northwood were playing with clear purpose and confidence in their structures which made them hard to break-down. Eventually we did get our chance and a superbly taken penalty corner was converted by Cameron Pearce to give us the lead at the mid-way break. Our opponents never gave up and eventually converted their own penalty corner deep in the last quarter. Immediately after this goal (with only 4 minutes to play and the scores level) our boys replied in the best possible way by making an immediate counter strike. A ball maneuvered expertly up the right and behind the Northwood defense was cross-passed for Robbie Haynes to deftly deflect into the net. 2 – 1 up. The last few minutes were very tense but in the end we were able to withstand Northwood’s attacks to claim the win.
The rugby club also met with stiff resistance from the Knights on Saturday with the top teams in each age group made to work hard to gain any advantage. In the end it turned out to be a very successful day for the Black and White, although, if we are totally honest, our stats (won 15, lost 3, drew 1) flattered us. The reality is that many of the games could have gone either way. Of the teams that I watched the U16B (50 – 0) and U16C (32 – 7) performed incredibly well. They combined, to good effect, direct physical play and width, a tactic for which their opponents really had no answer. The U14A also were clinical in their match. Although we went “down” to an early Northwood try, we progressively took control of the match as time wore on. In the end it was a well-deserved win for the young-guns.

The U15A’s may have considered themselves lucky to have won with a kickable penalty given in our favour in the dying moments. But then again, one must appreciate just how well we defended against this a first-rate team. Top teams are top teams because they are able to manufacture a victory even when they don’t play their best. Well done boys! The U16A were their indomitable selves in the first half of their match. They romped to an unassailable 30-point lead in this period. Although they took the foot off the gas in the second half, the game ended in a comprehensive 41 – 0 win for the colts.

The Hoop and Badge showed immense character in their match. Despite being battered and bruised in the first stanza by a bigger Knights outfit, our sterling defence kept them at bay. Defence eventually turned into attack in the second half as our opponents, unable to find a way through, began to panic. This ended as an impressive (15 – 0) victory against a very competent team.

For me, the team of the week was our 1st XV. I don’t think there would have been a pundit in KZN that would have given our boys the favourites tag going into this game when considering the quality of Northwood’s outfit and, not least of all because we were playing in Durban. Playing the territorial game early on brought rewards sooner than we expected when unforced errors by the Knights gave us attacking options deep in their half. A well worked backline try finished by Michael Booth and a penalty tap-and-go try by Latica Nela early on gave us a dream start; 14 – 3 up in 15 minutes.

Frustration for the home side mounted as our boys clinically ousted their attacks and turned mistakes into scoring chances. A 3rd try finished by Thabiso Dlamini, who collected a grubber kick placed behind the defenders by Latica, gave us a 21 – 3 lead at the half – who would have thought… To their credit Northwood never game up and were the first to score after the break 21 – 10. A converted penalty kick and try out wide by Josh Cox finally sealed the game for the White 31 – 15. A clinical performance by our 1st XV and one of the best in recent times.

Tony Shuttleworth
Executive Director – Sport

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