Prov­ince face Sharks in Craven Week show­case

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

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.

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