As with all the various weeks in the last frantic fortnight of interprovincial schoolboy rugby, Craven Week 2011 showcases all that is good in the sport. These lads represent the best young talent in the country.
However, even as the various teams prepare for their opening fixtures at the GWK Stadium, one match already looms just that little bit larger than the rest, if for no other reason than the fanatical interest shown by supporters of both sides on this website.
While Western Province and KwaZulu Natal both boast many schools with pedigrees the envy of their peers countrywide, they are also traditional exponents of the most exciting brand of rugby, the running game. It is with these thoughts in mind that even neutral viewers will be sitting up just that little bit straighter when these two sides take the field on Tuesday at 14.30.
Let’s see how they measure up against each other.
As far as the back three goes, KwaZulu Natal fullback Mbembe Payi, renowned as much for his sidestep as for the speed at which he executes it, has been the one outstanding feature in a less than stunning DHS season. On the right wing the Shark Pups have prolific Maritzburg College speedster Lwazi Sithole, an out-and-out finisher, while designated kicker Siyabonga Tom, no slouch himself, wears no 11.
Their Western Province counterparts can’t offer the current form to match that. Fullback Cheslin Kolbe is a utility back for his school, Brackenfell, while wings Dalen Goliath and 2010 SA Schools cap JP Lewis, both of Paul Roos, have only managed seven tries between them. Their class is indisputable, but there have been many more successful performers around the peninsula. Perhaps having so much to prove will bring out the best in them.
At centre Province have Paul Roos’s Kyle Lombard inside slightly-built Tygerberger Justin Geduld, one of the most impressive youngsters in the Cape. Geduld is more used to playing inside centre which he has done so effectively that the Tygers’ 11–15 have notched up 63 tries so far in just 15 games! Unquestionably, he is the playmaker in the team. With Lombard’s experience alongside him, he should thrive. Their defensive capabilities are, however, open to debate.
Physically the KwaZulu Natal pair couldn’t be less similar. Tyler Fisher (Westville) stands 1,89 m and weighs just under 100kg, while Glenwood partner Dean Moolman isn’t much smaller. Both are considered excellent on defence, a contention that might well be put to a stern test come Tuesday. This could well be a major flashpoint in the game. Whoever settles first in the midfield is likely to end up calling the shots.
Unlike his famous scrumhalf father, Robert du Preez (jnr) (Kearsney) dictates matters from the flyhalf berth. Accomplished in all the facets the position demands, he will be aided even further by Maritzburg College scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer, regarded by many as the star in the Banana Boys team. It is going to take a Herculean effort to keep this pairing in check.
The Strepies have livewire Tim Swiel, as slippery as the homophonous eel, who has been largely instrumental in the resurrection of the Bishops side after a dubious start. Capable of exploiting even the tiniest gap, he will be relying on Boishaai scrummy Jean Nel’s service. Nel may have played full back last campaign, but his insightful reading of the game and his huge pass have proved the catalyst for much of his team’s success.
The Cape loose trio is nothing if not experienced. Paul Roos no 8 Andreas Dercksen, a strong calming influence, and flank Sikhumbuzo Notshe of Wynberg both attended CW 2010. Tearaway newcomer Ramone Samuels (also PR) has been one of the revelations of the season out in the Eikestad.
Facing them will be retreaded Glenwood lock Carel Swart, superbly talented Kearsney 15 year-old Jean-Luc du Preez and George Campbell flank Sanele Nanto. Their attacking tendencies are going to ask serious questions, in particular of Notshe, who does not seem to relish the tight exchanges. The Western Province lads are going to have to function together with precision to keep this trio at bay!
The days of locks trundling around from ruck to maul to scrum to changing room are long gone. The four youngsters occupying this department will leave you in no doubt about that! KwaZulu Natal (and Kearsney’s) third du Preez brother, Daniel (Jean-Luc’s twin) and Glenwood giant Ferdi Horn have both earned their spurs as fearsome ball-carriers rather than line-out thieves.
They come up against the Boishaai pairing of Ryno van der Merwe and Seb Ferreira. Ferreira, in particular, delivered stunning performances in the latter stages of the local trials, so much so that they consigned Boishaai 1st XV captain Takkies Reitz to the Academy Week side. Van der Merwe is the tallest of the four and a line-out expert, but possesses more than enough speed to make his presence felt anywhere on the paddock.
The Glenwood front-row trio of Matthew Worrall-Clare, Jacques Taylor and Niel Oelofse will need to call on all their shared experience as they are going to find themselves sorely tested at the coal-face. One suspects that Black-and-Whites’ fortunes may well depend to a large extent on their ability to cope with what many consider Western Province’s strongest facet.
Mighty Tshepo Motale (SA Elite Squad 2010) has improved his handling skills to the point where he is now a regular try scorer for Bishops. His battering-ram capacity is finely counterbalanced by the finesse of Boishaai’s JE van der Merwe, who, on ten, is joint top try scorer for the Paarl unit! Between them is the wily Chad Solomon (Paul Roos), whose rugby pedigree stretches back almost to his birth.
Don’t look to school form books to predict this one. Glenwood may have beaten Paul Roos earlier this year; Bishops saw off Maritzburg College. Forget those results. As a famous poet once put it: “All paths lead where….the truth is here”. Sit back and enjoy – you can expect top-class stuff!
KwaZulu Natal: 15 M bembePayi (DHS), 14 Lwazi Sithole (Maritzburg College), 13 Tyler Fisher (Westville), 12 Dean Moolman (Glenwood), 11 Siyabonga Tom (Glenwood), 10 Robert du Preez (Kearsney), 9 Stefan Ungerer (Maritzburg College), 8 Carel Swart (Glenwood), 7 Jean-Lue du Preez (Kearsney), 6 Sibulele Nanto (George Campbell), 5 Ferdinand Horn (Glenwood), 4 Dan du Preez (Kearsney), 3 Matthew Worral-Claire (Glenwood), 2 Jacques Taylor (Glenwood), 1 Neil Oelofse (Glenwood), 16 Cullen Collopy (Kearsney), 17 Sanele Pina (Glenwood), 18 Johan Klingenberg (Vryheid), 19 Jackson Buthelezi (Westville), 20 Brendan Cope (DHS), 21 Sandile Khubeka (Kearsney), 22 Nkululeko Marwana (Glenwood)
Western Province: 15 Chelsin Kolbe (Brackenfell), 14 Dalen Goliath (Paul Roos), 13 Justin Gedult (Tygerberg), 12 Kyle Lombard (Paul Roos), 11 JP Lewis (Paul Roos), 10 Tim Swiel (Bishops), 9 J Nel (Paarl Boys' High), 8 Andreas Derckson (Paul Roos), 7 Sikumbuzo Notshe (Wynberg), 6 Ramone Samuels (Paul Roos), 5 Ryno van der Merwe (Paarl Boys' High), 4 Sebastian Ferreira (Paarl Boys' High), 3 Jaco van der Merwe (Paarl Boys' High), 2 Chad Solomon (Paul Roos), 1 Tshepo Motali (Bishops), 16 Craig Corbett (Paarl Boys' High), 17 Entienne Swanepoel (Tygerberg), 18 Clyde Davids (Paarl Gim), 19 Tarquin Carlson (Bishops), 20 André Warner (Tygerberg High), 21 Handre Pollard (Paarl Gim), 22 Michal Hazner (Paul Roos),
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