THE 41st annual under-13 Coca-Cola Craven Week got under way in icy conditions in Bloemfontein on Monday, with all 18 teams getting a chance to show off their talents on the fields of South Africa’s greatest rugby school – Grey College.
The honour of scoring the first points at the week fell to Boland winger Thaakir Abrahams, who scored a try in the seventh minute in their 15-0 win over the Griffons.
It could not have been pleasant having to perform, barefoot, in near-freezing conditions, with a light drizzle to boot, but the players threw themselves into the fray with gusto and, at the end of the day, three teams: Western Province, SWD and the Blue Bulls signalled their intentions to be in the running for a place in Thursday’s prestigious final game of the week.
Province turned it on it style in beating the Pumas 36-5 in the first game after the opening ceremony, scoring five tries in the process and a displaying a style,of running rugby and level of skills that belied their years.
Their tries were by Bernadus Drotskie (2), Alexander Wedgwood, Muller du Plessis, Xolani Masembathe, and man of the match Zakareeyah Sallie. Henry Chamberlain converted three of the tries.
The Bulls beat Eastern Province 31-6. Their forwards were too powerful for their Eastern Cape opponents. They starved them of the ball and ran in five unanswered tries. Dylan Nysschen and Themba Monareng got two each and Jaco Laubscher one. Werner Nel kicked three conversions.
SWD dealt a blow to the hopes of the hosts, Free State in the final game of day 1.
They beat them 15-10 in a tight game between two evenly matched sides in a game characterised by tight defences and plenty of tactical kicking.
In the end the game-breaker for the Young Eagles’ was winger, Darryn Fortuin, who darted down the touchline to score what was probably the best try of the day to secure victory for his side.
In other action on day one, the Valke caused something of a surprise when they beat KwaZulu-Natal 18-3, while the Golden Lions were disappointing in going down 10-8 to Border.
As is traditional at SA Rugby’s Coca-Cola Youth Weeks, the fixtures for day one only are pre-arranged. The match ups for Tuesday’s play were determined according to the results from day one. The sides all play on Tuesday, Wednesday is a rest day and the week concludes on Thursday.
Two of Bloemfontein’s most famous Springboks, Os du Randt and Gysie Pienaar were at Grey on the opening day to take a look at the future stars. Du Randt is one of 49 players who played in the Coca-Cola under-13 Craven Week and then went on to play for South Africa.
Gysie Pienaar’s son, Ruan is the latest player to come through those ranks – he played in the 1997 under-13 week which was also held in Bloemfontein.
“All Coca-Cola Youth Weeks, of which there are four, are aimed at identifying and nurturing talent within South Africa,” said Coca-Cola SA Marketing Asset Manager, Craig Van Niekerk. “And the Under 13 age group is crucial as this is the age youngsters develop the passion for the game which will last a lifetime.”
Griquas 38 Namibia 0; Boland 15 Griffons 0; Leopards 56 Zimbabwe 0; Valke 18 KwaZulu-Natal 3; Border 10 Golden Lions 8; Blue Bulls 31 Eastern Province 6; Western Province 36 Pumas 5; Limpopo 14 Border Country 12; SWD 15 Free State 10.
10h00 – Lions vs EP
10h50 – Pumas vs Griffons
11h40 – Valke vs Boland
12h30 – WP vs Leopards
13h20 – Blue Bulls vs Border
14h10 – Zimbabwe vs Namibia
15h00 – Free State vs KZN
10h00 – Limpopo vs SWD
10h50 – Griquas vs Border CD