Paarwater praises WP U21s’ spirit in turning season around
WESTERN PROVINCE’S Under- 21 rugby team have lifted the national title after flooring the Blue Bulls in the final in Durban.
The side coached by Jerome Paarwater beat the young men from Pretoria 48-41 to collect the trophy.
Paarwater, who is currently in Hong Kong with the Kenyan national team, is a happy man as a result of the success.
“We had a great pre-season … so it was a bit of a shock for the boys when they opened their SA Championship campaign on a losing note at home to the Bulls, and then in the second home fixture again lost.
“It meant we could ill-afford being beaten again in the remaining four games, but we did just that to get us home in third place in the six-team standings, with the Bulls topping it and the Golden Lions next best.
“Without doubt the side got better as the season progressed and I was confident about making a final appearance again.
“For that to happen would mean us having to beat the Lions in an away semi-final, a tough ask when factoring in the altitude in Gauteng.
“Our hosts had us on the ropes but we hung in there and managed to turn things round in the second half, then scored and converted a try with a couple of minutes left on the clock to snatch a 37-36 victory and qualify for a final for the sixth year in a row.
“In Durban, against a Bulls side that had flattened Free State in their last-four clash, we produced a solid performance at Kings Park to win 48-41 against rivals who up until that point were unbeaten.
“Credit to the boys and the back-up staff for all their efforts.
“For me, coaching at this level brings plenty of rewards; guiding the fortunes of the province’s most talented play- ers and watching them grow is special.”
As for the WP U-19s, to have won 11 of 12 pool games to top the table ahead of the knockout rounds was a brilliant effort. Not so when it came to the semi-finals. Facing Free State, who they had beaten comfortably on two previous occasions, one would have predicted coach Nazeem Adams and his charges would walk this one on their home ground at Newlands. But it never panned out that way, as the visitors from Bloemfontein hit the ground running and never looked back on their way to a 32-25 victory.
Free State took on the defending champions, the Golden Lions, in the final and lost 55-24.
“We let ourselves down,” said Adams of Province’s semi-final defeat. “I’m not sure what went wrong. We came out of the blocks slowly and paid the price. The boys know they let themselves down ... but still it was a good season.”