Border Country Districts caused one of the biggest upsets in the history of any Coca-Cola Craven Week when they beat hosts Western Province 3-0 in the main game on Day 3 of the 2008 Under-13 tournament being held at Paarl Gymnasium.
Coach Sizwe Sodinga's side have enjoyed a fairytale week, beating the Griffons 26-0 on Day 1 followed by a 0-0 draw against the Valke in Day 2's main match. Their reward on Day 3 was the main game yet again, this time against the unbeaten hosts.
Flyhalf Gwavuma Lungile's first-half penalty was all that separated the sides on a cold and wet afternoon in Paarl – but it was enough to in all probability award the Border CD team a spot in Friday's 'final', most probably against the competition's only other team to have won all of their matches: the Blue Bulls.
The Valke were the only other side to remain unbeaten after Day 3, after they notched up their second draw of the tournament when their match against KZN ended deadlocked at 12-12.
In the curtain-raiser, the Blue Bulls took advantage of the wet conditions to run out comfortable 19-7 winners against Mpumalanga.
In the day's earlier matches, Boland finally got their first win with a 21-6 win over the Leopards, the Lions and EP drew 5-all, Limpopo beat Zimbabwe 23-5, the Griffons held out 10-7 against SWD, Border recorded a 17-6 win over Free State, who have now lost all three of their matches, while Griquas edged past a spirited Namibia 10-5.
Free State (6) 6 Border (12) 17
Tries from man of the match, left wing Douw Schoeman (converted by fullback Thabani Mgugudo) and right wing Mthulisi Langatye, gave the boys from East London a 12-6 halftime lead against a Free State side hoping to break their duck at this year's tournament. The young Cheetahs kept in touch via two penalties from the boot of fullback EW Viljoen, but yet again they could not break down the opposition defence in this match. Border, it must be said, tackled with gusto in the closing stages to notch up their second win of the week, having beaten Griquas 12-5 on Day 1 before losing 22-10 to the Leopards on Day 2. Free State have now lost three in a row, having gone down 22-7 to the Pumas on Day 1, and 7-5 to Zimbabwe on Day 2.
Griquas (5) 10 Namibia (0) 5
The luckless Namibians have for some reason drawn the short straw at this year's Craven Week, being drawn to play their third straight match on the back fields while all 17 other sides have played at least one game on the main field. On this evidence of this match, you couldn't put their isolation down to a lack of spirit, for they took it to Griquas for large stretches of the match and drew level early in the second half to set up a tense final quarter. Griquas opened the scoring through left wing Gavian Cloete, before his namesake on the Namibian side, Kevin Cloete, levelled matters after the break. Griquas finally broke the deadlock with five minutes to play when lock Darryn Bronn barged over from close range to give the boys from the Northern Cape their first win of the tournament, having lost 12-5 to Border on Day 1, and 6-0 to SWD on Day 2. The Namibians are still winless, with losses to Zimbabwe (5-0) and the Griffons (26-0) but they have won plenty of friends here with their positive approach and good sportsmanship and it's good to know that they have indeed been pencilled in to play in the main arena on Friday.
SWD (0) 7 Griffons (10) 10
The Griffons followed up their 26-0 win over Namibia on Day 2 with a hard-fought 10-7 victory over SWD in the first match on the main field. The boys from Northern Free State have improved beyond recognition since their 26-0 opening-day defeat at the hands of Border Country Districts, and scored two tries in the first half here to set the foundation. Flyhalf Rian Pretorius and right wing Morena Mofekeng dotted down while the young Eagles struck back in the second half through a superb try in the right-hand corner by fullback Jayden Onkers, beautifully converted by Erwin Harris.
SWD, after their 19-10 opening-day loss to Limpopo and Day 2 win over Griquas (6-0) then pushed hard for their second win but the Griffons just managed to hold out.
Limpopo (5) 23 Zimbabwe (5) 5
Zimbabwe lost their unbeaten record when they were soundly beaten by an ever-improving Limpopo Blue Bulls side, who picked up their second victory of the Week in the process after beating SWD 19-10 on the opening day. The boys from the Northern Province, who lost narrowly to EP (12-10) on Day 2, opened their account through flanker and man of the match, Thapelo Rapelwana, who would also cross the line in the second half to round off an outstanding display. The Zimbabweans, who disposed of Namibia 5-0 on Day 2 followed by their shock 7-5 upset over Free State, were in the match until halftime, drawing level just before the break through right wing Taku Chinoda. But the second half was one-way traffic as the heavier Limpopo side asserted their dominance up front, resulting in centre JP van Wyk kicking a penalty and fullback Jesse du Toit crossing the line to make it 18-5. Limpopo then finished off in style when their elusive right wing Jino Moyo capitalised on an errant Zimbabwean clearance to scoot in at the right-hand corner.
Lions (0) 5 EP (0) 5
This match will be remembered for its intensity, with neither team giving an inch in the contact situations. EP went close twice in the first half, with only desperate cover tackling preventing them from going ahead. The Lions, who were looking for their first victory after losing to both KZN (24-11) and the Blue Bulls (13-0), scored first through flyhalf Muller Brink, before EP's outstanding hooker Stefan Ebersohn, playing at number eight, crashed over near the posts in the dying minutes to level the scores. Centre Peet Schoeman then hooked what might have been the winning kick. Sadly for Ebersohn, this was to be his final contribution of the Week after he had to be stretchered from the field, with a suspected neck injury, following his try. The result means EP have now won one (12-10 against Limpopo on Day 2), lost one (to the Blue Bulls on Day 2) and drawn one match at this year's tournament.
Boland (7) 21 Leopards (6) 6
The Bolanders notched up their first win of the tournament with a three tries to nil victory over an outpaced Leopards team. Boland, who lost 19-0 to the Valke on Day 1, followed by a last-gasp 14-10 defeat to Mpumalanga on Day 2, finally hit their straps to run in tries from left wing Eldron van Rooyen, centre Ricardo Arries and hooker Hendrik Visagie. Flyhalf Ewan Adams kicked superbly to convert all three tries, including an audacious pot from the tramlines. The Leopards, who lost 30-5 to WP on Day 1, followed by a 22-10 victory over Border, just never got going and could reply with nothing more than a couple of penalties from their fullback, Rohan de Clerk, who apart from his kicking prowess has displayed some excellent counter-attacking skills during the week.
Valke (7) 12 KZN (0) 12
KZN's off-colour tournament continued when they inexplicably tapped a penalty awarded almost in front of the posts in the dying seconds – a kick that would have given them a 15-12 win over the unbeaten Valke. The ball was spun out wide but the Valke, one of the tournament's better defensive teams, snuffed out the young Sharks' attack and the match ended in a tame draw – the second stalemate for the East Rand team after their 0-0 draw against Border Country Districts in the main match on Day 2. Earlier, the Valke, who started the tournament with a 19-0 win over Boland, opened the scoring through scrumhalf Danie Venter, converted by lock Johann van Rensburg, to lead 7-0 at the break. KZN fought back in the second half, scoring tries through Bongokuhle Nene and Sfundo Mhlongo, the latter converted by flyhalf Nkululeko Mcuma, to lead 12-7. But Venter powered his way over in the left-hand corner with minutes remaining to tie up the game before KZN, who beat the Lions 24-11 on Day 1 before coming unstuck against WP (24-3) got their golden opportunity to win their second match of the tournament – until scrumhalf and captain Matthew Reece-Edwards decided to take a quick tap instead.
Blue Bulls (12) 19 Pumas (0) 7
The rain predicted for Day 3 finally came during this match – and when it did, the Bulls used their big forwards to maximum effect to strangle the Pumas out of a match they never looked like winning. The Bulls, who have now won all three of their matches after Day 1's 24-14 win over EP, and Day 2's 13-0 demolition of the Lions, were in complete control throughout and raced to a 12-0 lead at halftime, thanks to tries from scrumhalf and man of the match, Ivan van Zyl, and big right wing Johan Gouws. Flyhalf Marno Prinsloo converted Van Zyl's try. The Bulls added another goal in the second period while for the Pumas, who beat Free State 22-7 on Day 1 and Boland 14-10 on Day 2, impressive lock Alpheus Mbata dived over under the posts for a consolation try but that was about as close as they came on a typically wet Cape afternoon.
WP (0) 0 Border Country Districts (3) 3
What an afternoon for the underdog! Border Country Districts have quickly become the darlings of this year's tournament and their match against Western Province here, played in cold and wet conditions in front of a crowd of around 3,000 people, will live long in the memory. Coach Sizwe Sodinga and his squad of 22 players from the former North Eastern Cape have played entertaining rugby all week – and yet this isn't a team limited to the odd flashy backline player. Their pack is rock solid, their props excellent in the tight and loose, their lineouts good, but even more importantly this team is expertly coached: they are streetwise, tactically aware, and know what it takes to play winning rugby when the situation demands it. Take their mature decision midway through the first half to kick for goal when they were awarded a penalty five metres from WP's line from a difficult angle: flyhalf Gwavuma Lungile, knowing that in such atrocious conditions a penalty would probably decide the game, made no mistake with the kick that did eventually separate the sides. Now, all that remains is one final hurdle: can Border CD do the unthinkable and beat the Blue Bulls to take the unofficial Craven Week title? The way these youngsters play the game, and the way their forwards haven't taken a backward step for anyone, anything's possible against an admittedly physical Bulls side, but one that possesses neither the pace nor the panache of the Border brigade.