A highly competitive third day of the SA Rugby Under-18 Craven Week once again confirmed why this flagship schoolboy tournament is such a popular event amongst all stakeholders – and how much it was missed in its two-year COVID-enforced absence.
On a day where the skill levels of the country’s best Under-18 players were on full display at Rondebosch Boys High School, Eastern Province secured a first win against FinGlobal Boland by 25-12, the Valke overcame Griquas by 34-28 in a highly entertaining affair, before Border silenced a passionate crowd at Tinkie Heyns Field when they outlasted the DHL Western Province XV 34-31 in another nail-biter.
The final game of the day, featuring the unbeaten Sharks and DHL Western Province, had everything a pundit can expect at this level of rugby. Some outrageous skills, huge physicality, good game management, and individual brilliance on both sides delivered a stunning game and showed the depth of talent on display before the hosts snuck through by 29-24.
Eastern Province showed a lot of composure in their second match of the tournament and outplayed Boland in a team effort of note. The impact of flyhalf Logan Muller in this match could not be denied, as he scored in all ways possible – try, conversion, penalty goal, and drop goal.
The Valke and Griquas scored nine tries between the two – five by the East Randers and four by the team from the Northern Cape – in a match that stayed tight right through. The Valke held a 19-14 lead at the break and managed to keep that margin in the second half when both teams scored two tries each.
Border thought they had the game all sewn up at halftime after scoring four tries, but DHL WP XV refused to give up and kept on coming. The East Londoners held a 28-19 lead, but WP came back strongly in the second half.
Border kept their cool though with good game management and flyhalf Kyle van Wyk kicked two long-range penalty goals that handed them the crucial buffer. The home side scored in the last minute of play, but by then the result was secured for Border.
The final match delivered even more intensity, as can be expected between two of the biggest unions in the country. Western Province scored some wonderful tries through their dangerous backs and was leading 19-14 at the break, with the Sharks nudging away through their pack of forwards that were slowly getting the better of their counterparts.
A late Sharks try to cut the Province lead to 29-24 with five minutes to play, ensuring a pulsating end to the match.
It will be another day of drama on Thursday, with the Blue Bulls and SWD realising that only one of them will have an undefeated record come Saturday, as will the Pumas and Thepa Trading Motswako Griffons. Both these northern sides scored good wins on Monday.
The Leopards and Limpopo Blue Bulls will open proceedings at 10h30 tomorrow and in the other match on day four, Free State and Golden Lions will be looking for a first win.
Eastern Province 25 (22) – Tries: Max du Pisani, Logan Muller, Luvuyo Nkompela. Conversions: Muller (2). Penalty: Muller. Drop Goal: Muller. Boland 12 (12) – Tries: Biggy Claassen (2). Conversion: Jayden Fortuin.
Valke 34 (19) – Tries: Devon Strydom (2), Nathan Matthee, Jaydon Bantom, Juandre Nel. Conversions: Bantom (3). Penalty: Bantom. Griqualand West 28 (14) – Tries: Wynand Botha, Ruben Pienaar, Phillip Visser, Melvin Diedericks. Conversions: Botha (2), Eldridge Jack (2).
Border 34 (28) – Tries: Sibabalwe Mahashe (2), Sesethu Mpaka, Michael Maseti. Conversions: Kyle van Wyk (4). Penalties: Van Wyk (2). Western Province XV 31 (14) – Tries: Haashim Pead (2), Isaiah Louw, Gino Cupido, Dean Crouse. Conversions: Jandre Genis (3).
Western Province 29 (19) – Try: Shah-Jehaan de Jongh (2), Ben Heydenrych, Jameel de Jongh, JC Mars. Conversions: Thurlon Williams (2). Sharks 24 (14) – Try: Lihle Bester, AJ Knoetze, Kungawo Mbanga. Conversions: AJ Knoetze (3). Penalty: Knoetze.
Issued by SA Rugby Communications