The Golden Lions and Blue Bulls took top honours in the Under-18 Craven Week and Academy Weeks in an exciting finish to the SA Rugby Youth Weeks series at St Stithians College in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The Golden Lions defeated the Sharks 45-18 in a thrilling final match in the Under-18 Craven Week, while the Blue Bulls outplayed Western Province 49-37 in the main match in the Academy Week.
In stark contrast to the opening four days play in the tournaments, the other matches proved to be close, which kept fans gripped throughout the day.
The Golden Lions got the final match of the Craven Week off to a strong start as wing Tino Swanepoel navigated his way to the tryline in the ninth minute. But the Sharks hit back soon after with scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba slotting a penalty goal, which they backed up with two tries in two minutes by Conan Le Fleur and Cham Zondeki respectively. The teams exchanged penalty goals soon after through centre Kennedy Mpeku and Nohamba, which pushed the Sharks 18-11 ahead going into half-time.
The hosts bounced back with intent in the second half with flank Franco Schutte crashing over the tryline two minutes after play resumed and the successful conversion saw them level the scores. Both sides had opportunities in the following minutes, which they were unable to capitalise on. A subsequent penalty goal by Mpeku and back-to-back tries in two minutes by winger David Cary and flank Mark Snyman, however, earned them a 17-point cushion with 12 minutes left on the clock. This fuelled their motivation as Mpeku inflicted further damage with a penalty, while flank PJ Jacobs forced his way over the tryline on the stroke of full-time for a rewarding 45-18 victory.
In the Academy Week the Blue Bulls overcame a hard-fought first half against Western Province for a 49-37 victory and the honours as the top team in the competition. Blue Bulls centre Edmund Ludik played a key role in the team’s performance with his try, four conversions and two penalty goals. The Pretoria side scored seven tries to the Capetonians’ five in a fantastic North-South derby. The victory saw the Blue Bulls finish the tournament unbeaten.
Free State continued their fine form in the tournament and delivered a solid performance for a 54-33 victory against Western Province. The first half was gripping as the teams exchanged tries throughout the half, with the Free State taking a narrow 29-26 lead. The Bloemfontein side, however, built on their attack as the game progressed, while they tightened up their defence, to earn seven tries to the Cape side’s five. Free State flyhalf Christopher Schreuder, meanwhile, kept the scoreboard ticking with his effective kicking and earned five conversions, two penalty goals and a drop goal for his efforts.
The Blue Bulls also finished the tournament with a victory as they pipped Border 45-40. Blue Bulls centre Marnus Potgieter scored hat-trick, while fullback Diego Appollis earned a brace and flyhalf Ulrich Maritz slotted over five conversions in key performances for the side. In the end an unconverted try was the difference scoreboard as the Pretoria side scored seven tries to Border’s six.
SWD overcame a strong challenge from the Pumas for a rewarding 49-36 victory after trailing 17-14 at half-time. The first half was tight as the teams proved to be closely matched in all areas of their game, but the lapses in defence by both sides in the second half saw SWD increase their try tally to seven, while the Mpumalanga side were only able to score five. SWD flyhalf James Mollentze made a valuable contribution to their score as he scored a try and kicked seven conversions for 19 points.
A penalty goal proved to be the difference on the scoreboard as Eastern Province held on in a tough encounter against the Leopards for a 29-26 victory. The Eastern Cape side worked their way to an encouraging 15-5 lead at the break, but they faced a determined onslaught from the Leopards in the second half. Both sides scored four tries and kicked three conversions in the match, but the penalty goal by Eastern Province proved vital as it nudged them to victory.
The Valke staged a strong second-half comeback from 17-29 down against Griquas CD to secure a narrow 43-41 victory in a thrilling match. Three Valke players contributed a brace to the team’s seven tries, while Griquas CD’s six tries, four conversions and penalty goal allowed them to remain in the game. Their determined efforts, however, were not enough in the end.
Griquas started their clash with a bang as they ran in three tries in the first 10 minutes for a 21-0 lead, but they faced a tough challenge from the Limpopo Blue Bulls as the match progressed. The Kimberley side won 57-34 in the end as they delivered a constructive performance with their forwards and backs doing their bit on attack to guide the side to nine tries – three of which were scored by hooker Rory Leijdekkers. Limpopo centre Vincent Roos also touched down three times for his team, but the side’s efforts were not enough to outplay Griquas.
In the International, meanwhile, Namibia defeated Zimbabwe 45-21 spurred on by a fantastic performance by Namibian fullback Delron Brandt. The player scored two of the team’s six tries and slotted over six conversions and a penalty goal for 25 points, while they limited the opposition to two first-half tries and one in the second half.
The Griffons’ stamped their authority early on against Boland to steer their way to a comprehensive 42-12 victory after taking a 22-0 lead at the break. The Welkom side’s flyhalf Andrew Kota was instrumental in their success as he scored one of the team’s five tries, while he kicked four conversions and three penalty goals for 22 points. The Tshepa Trading Griffons backed up this efficient attacking display with solid defence to limit Boland to two tries for their efforts.
Eastern Province CD ran riot on attack to score 12 tries for a 70-0 victory against Border CD thanks to their effective attack, with hooker Dean Jenkins scoring a hat-trick They supported this with a solid showing on defence, to deny Border CD from scoring a point.
The Bidvest Waltons Golden Lions XV ensured that they finished the tournament on a high note in front of their home crowd as they powered their way to a 45-14 victory against SWD thanks to a dominant second half performance. Such was the good quality of their attack and defence they ran in a total of seven tries to two by the George side. However, they were tested thoroughly in the first half, which saw them take a narrow 13-7 lead.
A classy performance by Free State flyhalf Alex-Zander Du Plessis, meanwhile, set up his team for a 38-29 victory against the Sharks, with a personal total of 28 points thanks to his hat-trick, five conversions and penalty goal. The Bloemfontein side led 21-19 at the break, but their accurate goal-kicking handed them the edge on the scoreboard as each side scored five tries in the match.
Border also held their nerve in a tight affair against the Tshepa Trading Griffons to convert their 12-10 halftime lead into a 34-27 victory. Border lock Simbongile Kampi was a star player for his team as he scored three of their five tries, while fullback Sibalomzi Mqeni’s superior goal-kicking thanks to his three conversions and penalty goal, proved to be the difference on the scoreboard as both teams finished the match with five tries.
Six tries by Valke Platteland to five by the Limpopo Blue Bulls earned them a 38-31 victory in an entertaining match. Valke Platteland made their presence felt early on to play their way to a 23-7 lead at the break, and that paved the way for their victory despite a strong second-half fightback by the Limpopo side in which they scored 24 points.
The Leopards solid goal-kicking also secured a 35-34 victory for them against Eastern Province, as the team was outscored six tries to five by the Eastern Cape side. The Potchefstroom team led 21-17 at the break and they added two converted tries in a closely fought second half in which Eastern Province scored 17 points, but their five conversions was enough to seal the victory.
A strong first half showing by GWK Griquas CD in which they built up a 33-12 lead earned them a 59-30 victory against Border CD. In total GWK Griquas CD ran in nine tries to four by Border CD, with centre Valdo Pieters and scrumhalf Charl Olivier each contributing a brace.
Eastern Province CD and the Pumas were involved in a tight tussle from start to end, with the Eastern Cape side taking a narrow 17-14 halftime lead, while they managed to hang on for a 27-21 victory. Eastern Province CD’s inaccurate goal-kicking – an area the Pumas proved to be strong in – cost them a few points, but fortunately they made better use of their opportunities to outscore the Pumas five tries to three.
The Tshepa Trading Griffons bounced back from trailing 19-12 at the break against Sharks CD to earn a 26-26 draw as both sides scored four tries and converted three in a tight match. Sharks CD winger Jacques Lindeque scored a hat-trick for his team in a fine display, which also earned him the man of the match award.
In another close encounter, hosts, the Bidvest Waltons Golden Lions defeated Boland 26-19 as they scored four tries to the Western Cape sides three. The Johannesburg team snuck 12-7 ahead in the first half and they capitalised on their point-scoring chances as the match continued and slotted over three of their four conversions to seal the victory.
In the Test match, Namibia overturned a 10-5 halftime deficit to defeat Old Mutual Zimbabwe 27-24. Namibia were solid on attack as they crossed the chalk five times, while they limited their African neighbours to three. But Old Mutual Zimbabwe’s effective goal-kicking which saw them convert all three tries and a kick a penalty goal kept them in the match. This, however, was not enough as they fell three points short on the scoreboard.
The Valke and Pumas CD were involved in a gripping match, which saw the Kempton Park side register a close 40-36 victory. Such was the closeness of the match the Valke led 26-24 at the break, and the teams continued to throw everyone at one another as the match progressed, which saw the sides each earn six tries. The Valke’s kicking, however, proved to be the difference on the scoreboard.
GWK Griquas dominated their clash against the SA Learners with Special Education Needs (LSEN) team as they produced a balanced performance to power their way to a 17-0 lead, which they built on for a 22-10 victory. The SA LSEN team tightened up their defence in the second half and stepped up their attack to earn double figures, but these efforts were too little too late.
Craven Week Day 5 results:
SWD 49-36 Pumas
Academy Week Day 5 results:
SWD 14-45 Golden Lions XV