The Blue Bulls were crowned unofficial champions of the 2008 Coca-Cola Under-13 Craven Week when they beat Border Country Districts 10-7 at a wet and bitterly cold Paarl Gymnasium on Friday afternoon.
The unfancied Transkei side’s fairytale run looked set to take them all the way to the ‘title’, after they grabbed a 7-0 halftime lead despite being on the receiving end of a slew of penalties from referee Francois Veldsman. But two tries from the Bulls after the break gave them victory and bragging rights until next year’s event kicks off in Kimberley.
Mpumalanga (3) 3 KZN (7) 12
The boys from KwaZulu-Natal saved their best performance for last when they scored two unanswered tries against the young Pumas in a match played in conditions best suited to penguins and polar bears.
KZN’s Lindokuhle Mkhwanazi opened the scoring in the first half with a try that came from a Mpumalanga mistake near their own goalline. Flyhalf Mkululeko Mcuma had no trouble with the conversion.
The outmuscled Pumas replied with a solitary penalty in the opening stanza and had their backs to the wall for much of the second half, conceding a second touchdown to strongly built Natal right wing Jan du Plessis in the closing stages. Du Plessis never got going in this tournament but it will be interesting to track his progress in the coming years.
KZN played in fits and starts during the Week but they finished on a high and deservedly celebrated their victory with a lap of honour. Their record reads: played 4, won 2, lost 1, drew 1.
For the Pumas, their week ended in disappointment after producing some good rugby in their opening matches. Their record reads: played 4, won 2, lost 2.
Namibia (0) 0 Leopards (12) 12
The Namibians celebrated their first match on the main field with a gutsy performance in foreign conditions, and against a heavier team.
But they were by no means outclassed and kept the Leopards scoreless in the second half, after the boys from North West had scored first-half tries through No 8 Tiaan Bezuidenhout and man of the match, lock Jandre Roux.
Roux’s try was converted by fullback Rohan de Clerk, who proved himself to be one of the best kickers of the Week.
The Namibians return home without a win but they can be proud of their never-say-die attitude in all four matches.
The Leopards’ record reads: played 4, won 2, lost 2.
Eastern Province (0) 3 Boland (0) 3
Flyhalf Ernst Stapelberg was the hero for EP as he kicked a penalty on the stroke of full time to give the boys from Port Elizabeth their second draw of the tournament.
This match, like the rest played on an icy and wet Cape morning, produced not unexpectedly a litany of errors and little constructive play to speak of. The conditions were summed by when Boland’s kicker, Dalian Fredericks, slipped horribly as he successfully kicked what looked like the winning penalty midway through the second half.
But Stapelberg, who produced a stunning corner-flag conversion to give EP a 12-10 win over Limpopo on Day 2, showed some BMT as he calmly slotted the kick from 40 metres to give EP a tournament record that reads: played 4, won 1, drew 2, lost 1.
For Boland, one of the tournament’s underachievers, their record reads: played 4, won 1, drew 1, lost 2.
Western Province (5) 5 Valke (0) 0
Left wing Tiano Fortuin scored his sixth try – the most by any player at this year’s tournament – to give the hosts their third victory of the week.
The Valke, who lost their unbeaten record, battled bravely in the muddy conditions but try as they might they couldn’t make their passes stick as the rain poured down.
Border Country Districts (7) 7 Blue Bulls (0) 10
Heartache for Border Country Districts but joy for the Blue Bulls! In a tense final played on a heavy and muddy field, the Bulls came back from a 7-0 halftime deficit to run in two tries to hand them victory in this year’s ‘final’.
One doesn’t like to dissect refereeing performances, especially at this very junior level where the result really does not matter in the greater scheme of things, but the Border team found themselves well and truly up against it when it came to the match official, Francois Veldsman: it took all of 28 minutes for them to win their first penalty; at that stage the count was 10-0 to the Bulls.
Make of that stat what you want, but to any observer who has spent all week watching Border play the best rugby of the tournament, it’s mystifying how they could have then conspired to made virtually all the mistakes in this match, while the Bulls hardly committed an offence.
Border did however take the lead on the stroke of halftime when centre Bambiso Onke hacked the ball downfield after a dropped Bulls pass and then skilfully grubbered the ball over the line and won the race to dot it down.
Flyhalf Gwavuma Lungile kicked the conversion and, given the atrocious conditions, the seven-point cushion looked to be enough for a team that had caused one of the biggest upsets in Craven Week history on Day 3 when they beat Western Province.
But give credit to the Bulls: they saved their best match for last and with their pack driving exceptionally well and flyhalf Marno Prinsloo marshalling his troops with the aplomb of a mini Naas Botha, you got the sense that it was only a matter of time before they scored.
Another feather in the Pretoria team’s cap is that they hardly dropped a high ball all afternoon, which in the tricky conditions was enough to keep the Border lads in their half for most of the match.
The Bulls scored their first try through flanker Sean Joyce, who picked up a loose ball on the Border 22 and drove through a number of would-be tacklers to put his side on the board. It was a soft try but it knocked the stuffing out of what had been up to that point a spirited effort from coach Sizwe Sodinga’s charges.
With the clock winding down and Border hanging on for what would have been a famous victory, the Bulls spoiled the party when tighthead prop and man of the match, Roelof Diedericks, copied Joyce’s approach to steamroller his way over the line and all but seal victory.
The Transkei side had a few opportunities to level matters in the dying minutes but Lungile, perhaps foolishly, elected to kick a couple of penalties that were clearly out of his range, and which might have been put to better use through a kick to the corner.
The Bulls were the only team to win all four of their matches, while for Border CD their record reads: played 4, won 2, lost 1, drew 1.
In the day’s other matches, played on the outer fields, Griquas beat Zimbabwe 13-3, Border edged SWD 12-7, the Lions overcame Free State 10-0, and the Griffons whipped Limpopo Blue Bulls 27-10.
These eight teams’ records for the Week:
Griffons P 4 W 3 L 1
Border P 4 W 3 L 1
Griquas P 4 W 2 L 2
Limpopo P 4 W 2 L 2
Zimbabwe P 4 W 2 L 2
Lions P 4 W 1 L 2 D 1
SWD P 4 W 1 L 3
Free State P 4 W 0 L 4