KZN face formidable Free State Craven Week side

2009-07-13 00:00

CRAVEN Week, the prestigious Under-18 rugby tournament that first began in 1964, gets under way this morning in East London. With close to 500 players in 22 different teams, the cream of South African youth rugby will be on display this week.

There are teams from each of the 15 franchises with Eastern Province, Border and Griquas also having country districts teams. Both Namibia and Zimbabwe have again been invited.

For the first time, a South African Academy team selected at the end of the SA Academy Week in Pretoria two weeks ago and a South African team from the LSEN Week (Learners with Special Education Needs) will also take part, making 22 teams, two more than in 2008.

KZN travelled to East London by bus yesterday. They do not play today, but will play the main game late tomorrow afternoon against Free State.

This will be a very difficult match for a number of reasons. Free State have 15 Grey College players in the side and Grey College is acknowledged as being the top South African rugby school this year. Grey have played 12 matches this season, winning all 12 and scoring 522 points with 78 against.

There are 10 players in the Free State side that played at Craven Week last year, including centre Francois Venter from Grey, who was selected for the 2008 SA Schools team.

In 2008 they were just beaten by SWD in the final match and the previous year they won the final game against Western Province. In 2008, Free State beat KZN 23-5 so Free State will be confident in their first game.

The other seven players all come from HTS Louis Botha and thus Free State is a more unified union than any of the other teams.

KZN has three players who were at the 2008 Craven Week and the squad comes from seven different schools, with nine of the players from Glenwood. The three players who will be at their second Craven Week are Reef Nakin of Michaelhouse, Francois Kleinhans of Glenwood and Nic Schonert of Maritzburg College.

The team selection is vital as the result from the first game will be used in choosing the team they will play in the next match. Do they play with the strongest combination or do they use a mixture of the chosen 15 and some of the reserves?

Choosing the KZN team of 15 from the 22 players that will play against Free State is going to give coaches Tony Richter and Barend Steyn a headache because of the regulations at Craven Week.

All 22 players must have a full 70 minutes on the field in the first two matches. In other words, there will be no substitutions in those games other than for injury. There must also be four players of colour playing at any one stage.

Matches to watch will be the Eastern Province (with four players each from Grey High and Brandwag) against Western Province (six from Paul Roos and four from Paarl BHS) and SWD (13 players from Outeniqua) against Golden Lions (11 players from Monument and seven from KES). SWD were the winners against Free State in the main game last year and they have three SA School’s players from last year.

Fixtures for the first two days:

Today: Namibia vs Griqualand CD; Griquas vs Pumas; Eastern Province vs Western Province; SWD vs Golden Lions; Border vs Falcons

Tomorrow: Border CD vs SA LSEN; Eastern Province CD vs Leopards; Griffons vs Limpopo; SA Academy vs Zimbabwe; Blue Bulls vs Boland; Free State vs KZN

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