Eastern Province will meet SWD in the grand finale of the Under-18 Coca-Cola Craven Week on Saturday following dominant performances in their opening two matches at HTS Middelburg, which left them undefeated in the competition.
This will mark the first time in 14 years that one of the current franchise unions will not feature in the final match of an Under-18 Coca-Cola Craven Week tournament.
The last time this occurred was in the 2000 season in which the Pumas and Boland battled it out in the final match.
In the other top match-ups on Saturday, KwaZulu-Natal will meet the Blue Bulls, Western Province will go up against the Free State, and hosts the Pumas will take on the Golden Lions.
The teams will have Friday off to recover from the physically taxing matches since Monday.
Eastern Province were in top form on the fourth day of the tournament on Thursday as they shocked the Free State with three first-half tries, which set them up for a satisfying 19-5 victory.
In the other big game the Blue Bulls survived a strong second-half charge by the Golden Lions for a 21-10 victory, while the Leopards registered a 26-20 win against the Valke and Griquas beat Boland 38-27.
Namibia, meanwhile, thrashed Border CD 69-0 for their first victory of the tournament after going down to the Leopards in their opening match on Tuesday.
Namibia 69 Border CD 0
Namibia were emphatic in their performance against Border CD as they ran circles around the opposition with their impressive attack.
They supported this with a solid defensive effort to shut out Border CD from scoring a single point in the match.
The Eastern Cape side tried hard to make their presence felt on attack and defence in the first half, but Namibia proved too strong and built up a an encouraging 24-0 lead at the break.
The second half, meanwhile, was a one-sided affair as Namibia dominated proceedings completely and increased their try tally for the match to 11 for a satisfying 69-0 victory.
Namibia – Tries: Adriaan Booysen (3), Divan Rossouw (2), Janry Du Toit, Milaan Nicole Tovey van Wyk (2), Pieter Willem Steenkamp, Stefan Potgieter, Unamasa Ngatangue Uerikua Jnr Kavita. Conversions: Adriaan Booysen, Pieter Willem Steenkamp (4), Stiaan van der Merwe (2).
Boland 27 (10) Griquas 38 (20)
Griquas started their clash against Boland with a bang as they scored two tries in the first 13 minutes while flyhalf Robbie Petzer kicked two penalties for their 20 points.
But Boland forced their way back into the game with a converted try on the stroke of half time to add to an earlier penalty to trail 20-10 at the break.
This bolstered Boland’s confidence significantly in the second half, as they found their mojo on attack and earned three extra tries. But two more tries by Griquas and another two penalties by Petzer pushed the match out of range for Boland.
Boland – Tries: Andre Gouws, Conal Brown, Handre Ontong, Iver Aanhuizen. Conversions: Adriaan van der Bank (2). Penalty: Adriaan van der Bank.
Griquas – Tries: Brandon De Melim, Gerhard Holtzhausen, JP Abrahams, Robbie Petzer. Conversions: Robbie Petzer (3). Penalties: Robbie Petzer (4).
Valke 20 (20) Leopards 26 (13)
The Leopards fought their way back from a 20-13 deficit against the Valke to secure a narrow 26-20 victory in a hard-fought encounter.
With both teams boasting physical packs, the forward battle was particularly tough. This was supported by solid defensive efforts by both sides in the early stages of the match.
As a result the teams opted for penalty kicks in the first 10 minutes get onto the scoreboard. The Leopards, however, struck first when the game opened up thanks to a try by centre Markus Coetzer.
The Valke, however, hit back with two tries within five minutes for a strong finish to the half and 20-13 lead.
But the tables were turned in the second half as the Leopards capitalised on their point-scoring chances despite a determined effort by the Valke to create opportunities on attack, which sealed the victory for the Potchefstroom side.
Valke – Tries: Darren de Bruin, Martin van Wyk. Conversions: Forrest Roos (2). Penalties: Forrest Roos (2).
Leopards – Tries: Brenden Christoff Esterhuizen, Markus Coetzer. Conversions: Markus Coetzer (2). Penalties: Markus Coetzer (4).
Blue Bulls 21 (21) Golden Lions 10 (3)
The clash between the Blue Bulls and Golden Lions was tense as both teams tried hard to dominate physically with their powerful forwards.
Both teams created chances on attack as they stretched the defence across the field, but the Blue Bulls’ smart game plan to kick for territory and try to force the Lions into making mistakes combined with their skilful passing handed them an edge.
This paid off for the Pretoria side as they managed to cross the Lions’ tryline three times in the first half for a 21-3 half time lead.
The Golden Lions, however, forced their way back into the match with their strong forwards after the break by retaining possession on attack and camping in the Blue Bulls’ half.
This set them up for a try from a rolling maul shortly after half time. They created several more opportunities on attack through their impressive forward play and fantastic line breaks and managed to come within inches of scoring.
But the solid Blue Bulls’ defence denied them from dotting down the ball, which meant they had to settle for a 21-10 defeat.
Blue Bulls – Tries: Juandre Michau, Ruan de Beer, Stedman Gans. Conversions: Ruan de Beer, Tinus de Beer (2).
Golden Lions – Try: Constant Beckerling. Conversion: Ralton October. Penalty: Wikus Van Biljon.
Eastern Province 19 (19) Free State 5 (0)
Eastern Province and the Free State delivered a high-tempo battle to end the day’s play in style, but it was Eastern Province who had the first say as they applied early pressure on attack and managed to cross the tryline first compliments of a clever chip kick, which fullback Keanu Vers gathered to score.
Free State tried hard to bounce back with a few encouraging attacking phases, but this was short-lived as Eastern Province penetrated the defence, which they finished off with a classy off-load to Athi Mayinje who touched down the second try.
Wing Darren Lottering scored their third try minutes later after the Port Elizabeth side took advantage of a turnover from the Free State to build up a convincing 19-0 lead at the break.
Free State gave everything to force their way back into the match in the second half, but Eastern Province put their bodies on the line on defence and the pressure proved too much for the Bloemfontein side as they made errors at vital times.
Free State’s efforts, however, paid off seven minutes before the final whistle as they finally breached the Eastern Province defence for their first and only points of the match.
Eastern Province – Tries: Athi Mayinje, Darren Lottering, Keanu Vers. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2).
Free State – Try: Julian Jordaan.
Under-18 Coca-Cola Craven Week day five fixtures, Saturday 19 July:
HTS Middelburg Main Field
08h30 – Pumas vs Golden Lions
09h50 – Western Province vs Free State
11h10 – KwaZulu-Natal vs Blue Bulls
12h45 – SWD vs Eastern Province
HTS Middelburg A Field
08h30 – Zimbabwe vs Namibia
09h50 – Border vs Griquas
11h10 – Griffons vs Leopards
HTS Middelburg B Field,br>
08h30 – Griquas CD vs Border CD
09h50 – Boland vs Limpopo Blue Bulls
11h10 – Eastern Province CD vs Valke