Upbeat WP in Craven Week ‘final’
WESTERN PROVINCE’S under-18 team, unbeaten after two matches at Craven Week, will feature in the showpiece game against the Golden Lions today (kick-off 3.15pm, live on SS5).
Having hammered the Pumas and Blue Bulls, Province will feel confident for the final game of the six-day tournament in Polokwane.
The team has scored eight tries so far and appears set to end unbeaten if they produce the form they showed in the 30-6 mauling of the Bulls on Wednesday.
Fears over the Province side’s ability to gel as a unit have proved unfounded; the 22-man squad has worked brilliantly in delivering an all-round game.
“I’m very proud of the way the 17 players from the Boland schools – Paarl Gym, Paarl Boys’ High and Paul Roos – have gelled and as a result put us on a winning path,” said coach Hein Kriek.
“The entire squad has played in the two games to date and the spirit and desire has shone through,” he added.
WP centre Daniel du Plessis got the ball rolling with four tries of the six against the Pumas. The side went on to collect three more touch-downs in the win over the Bulls.
Right wing Grant Hermanus has kept the scoreboard ticking over with eight conversions from nine attempts.
The showdown with the Lions is set to be a mouth-watering encounter.
Both camps have employed an exciting brand of 15- man rugby. The Lions booked their place in the “final” after wins over KwaZulu- Natal and Free State, the latter success clinched with a last- gasp penalty from 45 metres out from the boot of fullback Ervin Harris.
For Free State, who had fought back from a 9-11 deficit and led 19-17, there was heartbreak at conceding a penalty off the last play of a top-class encounter.
The Lions demonstrated great resilience in the closing minutes.
Harris made no mistake with his kick from the centre of the field to clinch his side’s win.
This will be the Lions’ third consecutive appearance in the final game, and their fifth in the last 10 years. They lost to the Blue Bulls last year, and to Free State in 2011. They last won the main game in 2005.
Province have also appeared in the main game five times in the last decade. Their last appearance was in 2010, when they lost to Free State.
As far as today’s other fixtures are concerned, Zimbabwe, who have had a very good week – they beat Griquas and the Limpopo Bulls – have been rewarded with a game on the main field, against Namibia in the schools “Test” match that is always a feature of the final day.
WP manager of youth rugby Theo Kleynhans was keen to point out that all of the age-group teams bar one had com- pleted clean sweeps at their respective tournaments.
“The under- 13, - 15 and - 17 sides stayed unbeaten, as did the girls’ under18 Sevens team. The only loss suffered was by the boys’ under-18 Academy team who won two and lost one by three points,” Kleynhans said.
LIFT OFF: Grant Hermanus puts WP on the front foot against the Blue Bulls earlier this week.