The Free State Under-21s continued where their Under-19 colleagues left off and were crowned Absa Under-21 champions on Saturday following their 32-25 victory over the Sharks Under-21s at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
Earlier on Saturday, the Bloemfontein Under-19 side defeated the Xerox Lions to claim the Absa Under-19 Cup.
Four tries were scored by the Free Staters thanks to efforts by Mhlanga, Hoffman Maritz, Ivan Stevens and Ruan Jacobs.
Winger George Whitehead kicked three conversions and a penalty while flyhalf Sias Ebersohn, who represented the SA Under-20 team during the IRB Junior World Championship in Japan earlier this year, kicked a drop goal.
“It was quite a tough game but all thanks to the guys for holding their nerve and achieving this victory,” said Free State captain Wayne Stevens.
“The Sharks made it extremely difficult for us, but we kept our cool and scored more points than them at the end of the match. Well done to the team, management and everyone that contributed to the success of this team during the Absa Under-21 competition.”
While the Bloemfontein team played some enterprising rugby at Loftus, the Sharks also looked to play attacking rugby and scored three well-worked tries thanks to Anton Bresler, Mark Richards and Sabelo Nhlapo.
Fullback Patrick Lambie converted two of the three tries scored by the Durban side and also kicked one penalty. The Sharks Under-21s’ other points came via a drop goal by flyhalf Guy Cronje.
Scorers: Free State Under-21s – Tries: Alec Mhlanga, Hoffman Maritz, Ivan Stevens, Ruan Jacobs; Conversions: George Whitehead (3); Penalty: Whitehead; Drop goal: Sias Ebersohn. Sharks Under-21s – Tries: Anton Bresler, Mark Richards, Sabelo Nhlapo; Conversions: Patrick Lambie (2); Penalty: Lambie; Drop goal: Guy Cronje.