The Blue Bulls, Western Province, Mpumalanga, Zimbabwe, Border Country Districts and the Valke remained the only unbeaten teams after the second day of the 37th annual Coca-Cola Under-13 Craven Week at Paarl Gymnasium.
WP picked up where they left off on Day 1 in beating KwaZulu-Natal 24-3, while the Bulls won the Gauteng derby 13-0 against the Golden Lions.
But the biggest cheer of the day undoubtedly went to coach Steve Macdonald’s Zimbabwe side, which caused a major shock when they beat Free State 7-5 with a try at the death.
The Pumas came back from 10-0 down against Boland to win 14-10 with a try in injury time, while in the main game, Border Country Districts and the Valke earned a standing ovation from the large crowd after playing themselves to a standstill in a match that finished, quite incredibly, 0-0.
EP (5) 12 Limpopo (7) 10
Eastern Province, who lost 24-14 to the Blue Bulls on Day 1, came from behind to snatch an exciting victory over the Limpopo Blue Bulls in Tuesday’s opening game. But they had to rely on their excellent hooker, Stefan Ebersohn, who scored two tries, and the goalkicking of flyhalf Ernst Stapelberg, who kicked the winning points after Ebersohn’s second touchdown had levelled the scores at 10-10 late in the second half.
The mobile No 2 – probably the best hooker on show here – opened EP’s account in the 11th minute to give them a 5-0 lead.
But Limpopo, who beat SWD 19-10 on Day 1, struck back thanks to a charge down by left wing Matjikinyane Molapo, converted by fullback Jesse du Toit, to make it 7-5. Centre JP van Wyk, who showed against the Eagles that he has a big boot, then extended the Limpopo side’s lead with a long-range penalty before Ebersohn’s late heroics swung it EP’s way.
Griffons (14) 26 Namibia (0) 0
The boys from Northern Free State scored as many points against their Namibian opponents as they had conceded to Border Country Districts on Day 1. Man of the match, tighthead prop Frans van Wyk, was the Griffons’ star player with a hat-trick of tries. At 1.84m and 104kg, Van Wyk is the heaviest player at this year’s U13 Craven Week and he made his considerable bulk count, while also catching the eye in open play with his tackling and passing.
Van Wyk’s opening score was converted by fullback Shaun Reynolds, who kicked three conversions in total. Griffons flyhalf Rian Pretorius also grabbed a first-half try to give his side a 14-0 lead at the break, before Van Wyk added another two tries to his tally in the second half to erase the disappointment of his team’s 26-0 loss the previous day. For the second match in a row, Namibia, who lost 5-0 to Zimbabwe on Day 1, gave their all but could not score a point.
Free State (5) 5 Zimbabwe (0) 7
Darryn Bentley was the hero as Zimbabwe shocked all and sundry with a thoroughly deserved victory over a disjointed and outclassed Free State side.
Zimbabwe, who beat Namibia 5-0 on Day 1, weren’t expected to give the young Cheetahs much competition, despite the Bloem boys’ surprising 22-7 loss to the Pumas on Monday. But Free State, for the second match in a row, looked decidedly off-colour, and their first-half try from centre EW Viljoen was as good as it got for them. The second half was all Zimbabwe, and the crowd roared its approval when the Free State defence finally buckled in the dying minutes for Bentley to level matters at 5-5.
There was still the small matter of the winning kick, of course, but a nerveless Brendon Mandivenga made no mistake – much to the delight of almost everyone who witnessed the match. Free State then threw everything into attack in the final minute, but the Zim defence held firm for a famous victory.
WP (5) 24 KZN (3) 3
The hosts moved up another gear after their impressive opening day victory, with a clinical win over a lacklustre KZN outfit on Day 2. Left wing Tiano Fortuin, who scored a hat-trick in Monday’s 30-5 thrashing of the Leopards, picked up another two here to race clear in the tournament’s try-scoring stakes.
Left wing Joshua Hendricks opened WP’s account in the first half after KZN flyhalf Nkululeko Mcuma had kicked an early penalty, but after the break there was only one team in it as Fortuin and his right wing, Dilan van Wyk, crossed for tries. For the second match in a row, all WP’s tries were scored by the back three. Flyhalf Dennis Cox kicked two conversions as the hosts flexed their muscles against a team who, it must be said, seem to be taking themselves much too seriously this week.
The boys from KZN, as they showed on Day 1 victory over the Lions, don’t seem to be having fun playing here – and seem more intent on winning at all costs than enjoying themselves. The lesson they can learn from their first two matches is to simply let the ball do the work – and forget about intricate set moves or kicking the ball at every opportunity.
Blue Bulls (5) 13 Lions (0) 0
The boys from Pretoria made it two wins in a row with a clinical victory over their Gauteng neighbours. The Bulls, who beat EP 24-14 on the opening day, opened their account on the stroke of halftime with an unconverted try from centre Shawn Hicks.
The Lions, who played reasonably well in the opening 20 minutes, could not sustain any attacking opportunities in the second half, and had to watch in horror as a piece of individual brilliance from Bulls’ left wing Thabo Nkosi ended the contest. Nkosi caught a miscued clearance kick on the halfway line and set off on a jinking run across field. He evaded several would-be tacklers with his deceptive changes of pace and dived over in the right-hand corner to give his side a 10-0 lead.
Hicks kicked a late penalty to extend the lead and leave the Bulls as one of the few remaining unbeaten teams in the competition. For the Lions, who also lost their opening day fixture (24-11 to KZN), fullback and captain Innocent Radebe tried hard with ball in hand but was too often guilty of not passing to his teammates.
Border (3) 10 Leopards (8) 22
The Leopards proved they have more class than their opening day loss to Western Province showed. They might also have the best player at this year’s Craven Week in versatile back Christoff Venter. Venter, who played centre against Border, scored two excellent tries and was the unanimous choice for man of the match.
Fullback Rohan de Clerk opened the Leopards’ account with an early penalty before Venter showed off his pace and running skills to give his side an 8-0 lead. Border’s fullback Thabani Mgugudo, who scored the first points of this year’s tournament in their 12-5 win over Griquas on Monday, made it 8-3 with a penalty just before halftime but after the break it was one-way traffic.
First it was Venter who crashed over for his second, before dynamic front-ranker De Wet Dirksen crashed over for De Clerk to add his second conversion of the afternoon. Unfortunately for Dirksen, he injured his neck as he dived over and had to be stretchered from the field.
Border scored a consolation try through big left wing Douw Schoeman, converted by Mgugudo but despite a late rally they could not reduce the deficit.
Griquas (0) 0 SWD (3) 6
In the week’s first tryless match, SWD had to rely on tenacious tackling, as well as the boot of flyhalf Arno Moolman, to give them a slender victory. Moolman kicked two penalties – one in each half – to give the young Eagles their first win in Paarl after losing 19-10 to the Limpopo Blue Bulls on the opening day. Griquas can’t be faulted for trying, and several of their attacks finished just short of the tryline. They have now lost both their matches, having gone down 12-5 to Border on Day 1.
Mpumalanga (0) 14 Boland (7) 10
The most exciting match of the tournament so far produced a dramatic finale when Pumas lock Alpheus Mbata – the best second-rower at this year’s Craven Week – chipped ahead and then regathered his kick to score under the posts and give his side a popular victory. Boland looked to have the game sewn up, leading 10-0 midway through the second half and then 10-7 going into injury time.
The Boland flyhalf hacked a clearance kick into touch, thinking the match was over – but the referee indicated that a few seconds remained and instructed the teams to form a lineout. Mbata grabbed the ball in midfield, charged at the opposition backs, then took them by surprise with a deft kick ahead before diving across the line – to screams of delight from neutral observers and howls of protest from the Boland team management and fans.
The unbeaten Pumas have now added Boland to their list of victims, having seen off the challenge of Free State on Day 1. Boland have now lost both their games, having gone down 19-0 to the Valke, and while they will argue about Mbata’s late try, the fact of the matter is that they, like Free State and KZN, have played average rugby this week and have been overshadowed by less glamorous sides who have taken their chances.
In contrast, the Pumas are an exciting team, boasting the best centre pairing of the Week in Michael Nkosi and Sandile Sibande, who scored a great try in this match, which he converted himself. Sibande has it all: spiralling touchfinders, a deadly goalkicking boot, and a beautifully timed pass. For Boland, left wing Eldron van Rooyen scored a try converted by Dalian Fredericks, who also kicked a penalty.
Valke 0 Border Country Districts 0
It’s not every day that a match finishing 0-0 is accorded a standing ovation but that’s how the second day of this year’s U13 Craven Week wrapped up: with a thrilling duel between two of the top sides at the tournament.
The Border Country Districts, who surprised friend and foe alike with their 26-0 win over the Griffons on Day 1, were not overawed playing the main match on Day 2, and took the game to their much bigger East Rand opponents, who had beaten Boland 19-0 in their opening game. Indeed, a Valke scrum featuring some provincial shot-putters and discus throwers found themselves going backwards with regularity as the Border CD eight asserted themselves at the set piece, with props Moshani Asanele and Dlanaye Sinethemba also throwing themselves about in open play.
But unlike against the Griffons, the exciting Border backs just couldn’t find any space in which to operate and the match turned into a kicking duel .
That said, hats off to both Border Country Districts and the Valke for a game that had everything: intensity, a bit of niggle, nailbiting missed kicks and frantic last-gasp tackling. Going on this display, Border CD and the Valke should now expect to face one of the Blue Bulls or WP on Day 3 – with the strength of the field becoming clearer with each passing match, there’s no doubt these four, as well as Mpumalanga, are the best teams on show.