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Craven Week kicks off


Written by beet bailey (beet)

Posted in :Original Content, Reader Submissions, School Rugby on 11 Jul 2011 at 09:22
Tagged with :

The 48th edition of Craven Week for under -18 schoolboys begins in Kimberley today. Eighteen South African regions as well as Namibia and Zimbabwe are being represented at the tournament which runs until Saturday.

The format is unchanged. Fixtures for the first two match days have been decided in advance. A selecting committee will then review the performances of Day 1 and Day 2 separately and arrange “strength vs strength” matchups commencing on Wednesday for the Day 1 teams and on Thursday for the Day 2 teams. Friday is a rest day. On Saturday all 20 teams will be in action in fixtures also determined by applying the “strength vs strength” technique to the first four match days. Saturday’s last match is the traditional unofficial final. It is followed by the announcement of the SA Schools team.

Of the Day 1 teams, the Free State and the Bulls are the overwhelming favourites to win their respective games and meet on Wednesday in an unofficial semi-final of sorts.

As usual Grey College, the current number 1 ranked schoolboy team in South Africa, is well represented in the Free State team. They have no fewer than sixteen players in the squad of twenty-two, including the much-admired centre pairing of Jan Serfontein and Dries Swanepoel, the only two schoolboys invited by Dawie Theron to attend SA under-20 trials earlier in the year.

Much more of a surprise is the make-up of the Bulls team. Fourteen Waterkloof players form its nucleus, in a season in which their better known Pretoria rivals Affies, who contribute only three players, have produced excellent results and outrank “Klofies”. That said, it would have been foolish for Bulls selectors to have overlooked undeniable “Klofies” talents like Shaun Robinson, Faf Tradoux and the 120kg dominant lock Irné Herbst.

Griquas is a Day 1 dark horse based on the success of unbeaten Kimberley school Noord-Kaap, who make up half their squad and given their home-ground advantage. Teams like the Pumas, Boland and South Western Districts, the 2008 final winners, are also quite capable of producing winning formulae and can never be underestimated.

The formbook suggests that Day 2’s results will in all likelihood give rise to a Thursday main clash involving Western Province and Border.

Province always have a wealth of talent at their disposal and in reality their region is not done any justice by having only one representative team at Craven Week, such is their depth. In most years their top rugby institutions, Paarl Gym, Paarl Boys High, Paul Roos and Bishops hold down single digit national rankings and schools like Rondebosch, Boland Landbou and of late Tygerberg aren’t far behind. WP can however expect some stiff opposition from a confident and well prepared KZN team, led by inspirational College scrumhalf and SA Schools hopeful, Stefan Ungerer.

The backbone of Border’s team is their high flying Selborne College tight five that tip the scales at a massive 540kg. That’s an average of 108kg per man. Their three loose-forwards, including highly rated Sharks Academy bound no.8 Johan Meyer, are good as well, so it’s no exaggeration when comments are made that this 820kg pack has all the ingredients to be the best on display this week. They are big, strong and hardworking. In a nutshell, the only thing that could possibly stand in the way of Border and an appearance in Saturday’s final game is sub-par performances by their backs. Here they have broken up school combinations and gone with the skills of some very slick Dale College players working alongside four Selborne starters at 9, 11, 12 and 15.

Two other Day 2 big-name sides that cannot be written off are the Golden Lions and Eastern Province. They’ll square off in an interesting contest with the winner remaining in contention for top honours. However the Lions have struggling to find form, losing all three warm-up games and it’s questionable whether EP will have the level of cohesion required to play attractive enough rugby to suitably impress the selectors.

As usual the week will be jam-packed with eye-catching gifted players, of which a handful will go on to play rugby at the highest level at some point in the future.

Fixtures for Day 1 and Day 2:

Day 1, Monday 11 July

10h25: Leopards vs Namibia
11h45: Eastern Province Country Districts vs Valke
13h05: Boland vs Blue Bulls
14h25: Free State vs Pumas
15h45: Griquas vs South Western Districts

Day 2, Tuesday 11 July

10h25: Zimbabwe vs Border Country Districts
11h45: Griffons vs Limpopo
13h05: Golden Lions vs Eastern Province
14h25: Western Province vs KwaZulu-Natal
15h45: Griquas Country Districts vs Border



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