The Battle of Balgowan between Hilton College and Michaelhouse will always be one of those matches that will attract thousands of adherent supporters.
And for scenic splendour there is no better day out than a drive down Nottingham Road on a winter’s day to witness the spectacle on “Meadows” at House.
What makes this match even more important is that Hilton College produced a special performance on the 7th of May this year to beat their neighbours 18-14 in an absorbing match. Yet a trip up to Michaelhouse HQ is a far more daunting prospect and the chance of Hilton repeating that result one that House will be doing everything to prevent.
Neither team have had a particularly strong season this year and Hilton can draw confidence from victories over Northwood, Daniel Pienaar and the Michaelhouse win as their best achievements this season. They have also been on the receiving end of some huge defeats as soon as they have had to face stronger opposition.
The form book reads a similar tale for Michaelhouse who have shown signs of being able to compete against the top teams, but all too often they have faded badly in the second half. Their last outing against Maritzburg College was a good performance and it was only in the finals stages of the match that College ran away with the result.
Still what counts for these teams is not really how well they have done against other teams but who can claim to be the King of Balgowan by the time Saturday evening arrives.
There is no shortage of skill in both teams and House will rely heavily on their playmaker at No.10, Austin Lockington to use his boot to pin Hilton in their own half and get the backline moving. The likes of Justin Moberly and Michael Mvelase are also key to their success and one gets the feeling that they will need to get onto the scoreboard early, build a lead and avoid going to sleep at the end.
On the 7th of May, Michaelhouse looked like they were cruising to victory only to have the result snatched from under them by a never-say-die Hilton side. This is Hilton’s big strength, their fitness and their ability to play until the final whistle. Watch out for the Hilton speedster Ross Bartlett as well as the powerful centre Jonathan Hugo to exploit any weaknesses that they find in the Michaelhouse defence.
In the last 97 matches these two teams have played, Michaelhouse lead with 50 wins compared to the 40 of Hilton. The loss to Hilton in May this year ended their biggest winning streak of 7 matches and it could be that the tide has turned and Hilton repeats their 2006 feat of back to back wins.
However a win at Michaelhouse will not be easy, there will be thousands chanting “House, House, House” and if Hilton are to walk away with the spoils it will be one special effort they would have to put in. With home ground advantage the scale is tipping slightly in the favour of Michaelhouse to take this one.