Craven Week set a high standard

2013-07-16 00:00

THE 50th Craven Week that ended on Saturday will go down as one of the best as far as the standard of rugby played goes.

The emphasis has switched from a kicking game to running, keeping the ball in hand and scoring tries, as highlighted by the large number of tries that were scored. There were tactical kicks made obviously to get out of pressure situations but far less ball was aimlessly kicked away.

“The standard of the Coca-Cola Craven Week certainly improved this year,” said Peter Jooste, the convenor of the selection panel.

“In terms of the quality of rugby played it was definitely one of the better tournaments, and it was particularly encouraging to see a few teams such as the Pumas, Zimbabwe and Namibia raise their game,” Jooste said.

Herman Masimla, SA Rugby Union’s (Saru) manager of junior high performance, says the physical conditioning of players has markedly improved on previous years and, although some teams are clearly tactically superior, as far as physical strength and condition are concerned, the gap between provinces has closed.

Much of this has been attributed to the high-performance programmes that are now in their second year. Each province identifies 30 to 50 players at U15 and U17 levels to prepare them for the following year U16 Grant Khomo Week and the U18 Craven Week. Saru then supplies the provinces with the necessary protocols, bio­kinetic support, testing kits and software to enable a standardised programme to be followed.

After the U16 Grant Khomo Week, a squad of 50 players was identified to attend a high-performance training camp in September. At the end of that week an elite group will be announced and they will be fully supported in the year ahead of the U18 week.

The SA Schools squad of 28 that was announced (published in yesterday’s Witness) will play international matches against U18 teams from England, France and Wales and, after that, an elite squad will again be chosen.

Masimela said the U20 Junior Springboks in 2014 will include some of the players in the elite squad as the first step to Super Rugby and ultimately the Springboks.

This pathway envisaged by Saru should not deter other players from achieving higher status as shown by those Springboks who did not play at Craven Week.

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