Province face Sharks in Craven Week showcase
WESTERN PROVINCE tackle the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks in Paarl today for the right to be crowned unofficial champions of Craven Week.
The ‘final’ will kick off at 2pm at Paarl Boys’ High.
The Sharks held off a late charge from Free State to bag a 29-20 victory on Thursday to book their place in the final match of the tournament for the second year running.
It’s going to be a huge encounter between two unbeaten sides blessed with an abundance of talent and big forwards not afraid to get stuck in to the physical confrontations.
Province, who were top dogs in 2015 and 2016, began their campaign on Monday hammering the Pumas 72-10 before taming the Golden Lions 13-5 two days later in a hard-fought encounter that was in the balance until late in the game.
The Sharks had to work hard to beat South Western Districts in their opener on Tuesday before coming to grips with a Free State team with high hopes of being crowned champion team after years of having to play second-fiddle to the likes of Province and the Lions.
The Lions were top dogs last year after an easy win over the Sharks.
Province’s clash with the Lions was a bruising affair and it was pleasing to see how the home side defended a total onslaught from the Lions as a unit late in the second half protecting a narrow lead.
The youngsters from Johannesburg threw the kitchen sink at Province in a sustained spell of offensive play but the brick wall that met the threats showed no signs of cracking at all.
Had the Lions indeed managed to score a try it would have placed huge pressure on the hosts desperate to win this one to secure their place in the main game today.
Whether the Sharks have the armoury to mow down Province remains to be seen. Beating Free State will give them the belief they can go all the way this time after coming so close in 2017.
The Sharks have a squad loaded with 12 players from unbeaten Glenwood High School, currently ranked third in the unofficial school rankings headed by Paul Roos of Stellenbosch with Grey College in hot pursuit.
And of course Province, who have only lost one game in three years, have seven Roos players in their ranks, which makes them the slight favourites.
Province have two cracking centres in the form of Brendon Ventre and 2017 cap Dawid Kellerman, both able and willing to break a game open with their eye for the gap and pace. Stravino Jacobs on the left wing has produced a number of telling runs and will pounce hard if given the gap.
The pack has captain Adrian Alberts calling the shots at lock, and the big fellow always seems to be in the action. Evan Roots at No 8 has dazzled the crowds with his carries and looks a certainty to make the SA Schools team.
But it will be a collective effort from the Province boys, as coach Faizel Adam will tell you.
So we await a high- octane affair and no doubt the spectators who have turned up in big numbers from day one will be licking their lips in anticipation of the 70-minute bout.