Up­beat WP in Craven Week ‘fi­nal’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - MIKE DE BRUYN

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.

Gallo Im­ages

LIFT OFF: Grant Her­manus puts WP on the front foot against the Blue Bulls ear­lier this week.

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