Best of the best ready to bat­tle it out at the Craven Week

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - THEO GARRUN

The cream of school­boy rugby will again be in ac­tion at the Coca-Cola Craven and Coca-Cola Un­der-18 Academy Weeks at St Stithi­ans Col­lege in Rand­burg this week.

The 20 pro­vin­cial teams play­ing in the Craven Week rep­re­sent the best of school­boy rugby in the coun­try, while the 26 next best Un­der-18 sides will be in ac­tion in the Academy Week.

This is the 54th staging of the Craven Week, mak­ing it the old­est youth tour­na­ment in the world. It is widely re­garded as one of the main rea­sons South African rugby man­ages to pro­duce such prodi­gious a flow of tal­ented play­ers into the se­nior ranks of the game.

Close to 300 Spring­boks have come through the week over the years and just about ev­ery mem­ber of the cur­rent na­tional team played at the Craven Week in their time.

SA Rugby takes these tour­na­ments very se­ri­ously and uses them as a tal­ent iden­ti­fi­ca­tion win­dow. South African Schools and South African Schools A teams will be se­lected at the week and they will play schools in­ter­na­tionls against Eng­land, Wales and France in Au­gust.

Both weeks are fes­ti­vals, with all the games played as friendlies. The only prize up for grabs is be­ing cho­sen to play in the week’s “main game” – the fi­nal fix­ture on the pro­gramme.

The Golden Lions were in the main game last year, where they lost to Western Prov­ince, and are one of the favourites to be there again this year. They be­gin their cam­paign against Bor­der in to­day’s late game.

Western Prov­ince have been the most suc­cess­ful team in re­cent years and are ex­pected to be a force again. They play the Pu­mas in their open­ing game this af­ter­noon.

Only the open­ing round of fixtures are pre-de­ter­mined, with the matches for the fol­low­ing days ar­ranged af­ter each day’s ac­tion. In a move that has puz­zled many, the SA Schools com­mit­tee has put both Western Prov­ince and the Golden Lions in the “Mon­day” group this year, so there is a chance that the two strong­est teams will meet each other in their sec­ond out­ings and that one of them will be elim­i­nated from the race for a spot in Satur­day’s show­piece con­clud­ing game.

The teams play ei­ther on Mon­day or Wed­nes­day or Tues­day and Thurs­day. Fri­day is a rest day and all the teams are in ac­tion on Satur­day.

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