Cape Town - Western Province on Saturday took top honours in the Under-18 Coca-Cola Craven Week and the Coca-Cola Academy Week at Kearsney College in Durban in a satisfying day for the provincial union, which wrapped up the SA Rugby Youth Weeks.
Western Province defeated the Golden Lions 27-20 in an entertaining final match of the Coca-Cola Craven Week, while their Coca-Cola Academy Week counterparts fought until the end against the Blue Bulls for a 23-12 victory.
The victory for the Coca-Cola Craven Week team ensured that they retained their status as the top team after a 95-0 victory in the final match last season against Eastern Province, while the Western Province Academy Week team built on the success of the side in the final match since the 2014 season.
In a thrilling closing day to the Youth Weeks, a total of 22 matches featuring all 44 teams were played at Kearsney College and Glenwood High School respectively.
Over the five days in the Coca-Cola Craven Week 269 tries and 1888 points were scored, while 268 tries and 1902 points were scored in the Coca-Cola Academy Week.
The main game of the Coca-Cola Craven Week between Western Province and the Lions was scintillating as both teams gave everything to get onto the front foot. The difference between the sides, however, was that Western Province made better use of their point-scoring chances, and they backed this up with a determined defensive effort. The opening exchanges of the clash were tight as the teams exchanged penalty goals. Western Province scored the first try of the match in the 15th minute compliments of Manuel Rass as they spread the ball wide, but this was cancelled out by Lions flyhalf Tyrone Green, who won a turnover and later touched down under the posts. The Cape side, however, had the final say with a try by Muller Uys to take a 20-10 halftime lead.
The second half was tightly-contested as the Lions struck first with a try one minute into the half, but this was cancelled out by Western Province two minutes later as they crossed the tryline for their third try. Both teams ran hard at one another as the match progressed, but neither could break through the defence. The Lions closed the gap on the scoreboard to 27-20 compliments of a penalty by centre Wandisile Simelane eight minutes before the final whistle, but that proved to be the last points of the match, and saw Western Province emerge as the top team for the second successive year.
In the final match of the Coca-Cola Academy Week, the Blue Bulls ran hard at Western Province from the opening exchanges and did well to break through tackles and work their way close to the tryline. But they were denied from crossing the chalk by the tenacious Cape side’s defence. Unfortunately for Western Province, however, penalties conceded in kickable positions, allowed the Pretoria side to slot over three first-half penalties to take a 9-0 lead. But the opposition fought back and managed to apply pressure on attack as they put together phases on attack. They were unable to breach the Bulls defence, but they earned their first points five minutes before half time compliments of a penalty.
Both teams gave everything in the second half, but Western Province made the most of their chances with Johannes Steenkamp taking a gap and accelerating en route to the tryline to touch down under the posts, for a 10-9 lead. The teams exchanged penalties shortly after, but the Cape side made a breakthrough in the 63rd minute as Theo Boshoff scored a try, while Steenkamp added his second penalty to seal a 23-12 victory for the team. Steenkamp’s two penalties, two conversions and try earned him a personal total of 15 points.
In the other top match-ups in the Coca-Cola Craven Week, the Blue Bulls produced a sensational showing against the Free State to power their way to a 74-8 victory, while Griquas overpowered the Valke 43-12 and the Pumas pipped hosts, the Sharks, 26-23.
The Blue Bulls’ forwards and backs combined well, while they created try-scoring opportunities at will and rounded them off, which allowed them to control the match from start to end. This paid off as they crashed over the chalk a staggering 12 times, while the Free State scored all eight of their points in the first half.
Griquas also dominated their clash against the Valke as they did well to capitalise on their try-scoring chances for an impressive six tries, while they allowed the Valke to break through only once in each half for their 43-12 victory.
The clash between the Pumas and Sharks was epic, with the Sharks breaking through the first try in the second minute, but back-to-back penalties by the Pumas allowed them to apply pressure on the Sharks. Both teams added tries before the break, which saw the Pumas take a 13-12 lead. The Pumas extended their lead with a penalty shortly after play resumed, but the Sharks bounced back with a try and two penalty goals. But this lead was short-lived as the Pumas fought back hard with a converted try to level the scores with seven minutes left on the clock. A fourth penalty by flyhalf Riekert Barnard in the dying minutes, however, allowed the Pumas to edge the Sharks 26-23.
In the traditional Coca-Cola Craven Week Test match, Namibia outscored Zimbabwe six tries to none for their 34-3 victory, which marked their second win in the tournament and their seventh successive win against their African neighbours.
Border also finished their campaign on memorable note with a 64-26 victory against Boland as they ran in 10 tries and limited the opposition to four, while the Leopards survived a late comeback by Griffons for a 36-24 victory.
Border Country Districts, meanwhile, went down 29-8 against Griquas CD as they battled to shut out the opposition on defence, while SWD delivered a solid display all around to secure a 64-12 victory against Eastern Province as they forced their way over the tryline 10 times, while they managed to limit the Port Elizabeth side to two tries.
The Limpopo Blue Bulls finished the tournament with a fine performance against Eastern Province CD, which saw them charge to an encouraging 21-0 lead at the break. They maintained this form in the second half to increase their try tally to five, while they leaked only one try to come out 35-5 victors.
In the Coca-Cola Academy Week, meanwhile, the Golden Lions staged a strong second-half comeback in their clash against the Sharks to recover from a 17-8 halftime deficit and win the match 29-22, while Eastern Province overcame a tough challenge by Namibia to win 17-15.
The Sharks touched down for the first time in the ninth minute, and added another shortly before the break, while they also slotted over a penalty. They supported this with a solid defensive effort, which saw the Lions score only one try and a penalty. The Lions, however, came out firing in the second half as they stepped up their attack and tightened their defence, which earned them three back-to-back tries to inflate their score to 29. The Sharks refused to give up and scored their third try of the match on the stroke of fulltime to go down 29-22.
Eastern Province took a 10-0 lead in the first half against Namibia with a penalty in the 9th minute followed by a try the 11th minute, but Namibia managed to shut them out for the rest of the half. Both sides stepped up their attack in the second half and the points followed with Namibia scoring back-to-back tries and a penalty to take the lead. Eastern Province, however, forced their way back into the lead with a try by Lindsay Potgieter to take a 17-15 lead. Namibia had an opportunity to win the match with a late penalty, but the attempt was unsuccessful.
Pumas CD kicked off the final day of the Coca-Cola Academy Week with a narrow 17-15 victory against the SA LSEN (Learners with Special Education Needs) team compliments of a late penalty by fullback Johnny Smith, while SWD delivered a strong second-half showing against Border to bounce back from 10-7 down to win the match 24-10.
GWK Griquas CD also finished the tournament on a winning note as they overcame a competitive first half against Border CD to register a 24-7 victory, while the Free State dominated from the outset against Sharks CD as they forced their way over the tryline five times, and limited Sharks CD to a converted try and penalty in the first half to win 44-10.
The clash between the Limpopo Blue Bulls and Griffons CD, meanwhile, was a one-sided affair with the Limpopo side working their way to a 36-0 halftime lead, which they built on after the break to secure a rewarding 60-14 victory.
A strong first half by Boland, in which they scored a penalty and three tries, also set them up for a comfortable victory 39-3 against the Pumas, as they added two tries after the break and managed to deny the Mpumalanga side from adding to their score.
In stark contrast the clash between the Griffons and Leopards proved to be tight, with the Welkom side winning 36-26 after surviving a strong second-half fight-back from the Leopards. Griquas and the Red Valke found themselves level at 12-12 at the break in their clash as they each scored two tries in a hard-fought first half, but the Kimberley side found their rhythm at attack in the second half and tightened up their defence, which earned them a satisfying 34-12 victory.
The clash between the Blue Valke and Eastern Province CD was close with the Valke taking a narrow 3-0 lead at the break. Eastern Province, however, made the most of their point-scoring chances in a hard-fought second half to score two tries and two penalty goals to only two tries by the Blue Valke for a 18-13 victory.