Coach Chris October has selected his strongest possible side to face Italy U18 in Kimberley on Tuesday.
The home side looks impressive on paper, but they have to play under a tarnished reputation. SA Schools’ have failed to prove their superiority in recent years after losing three out of four games against the ‘inferior’ SA Academy side.
However, October believes his team will do the job against the Italians today at 4pm.
‘The past is the past and we can’t change that,’ he told keo.co.za, ‘ but the present is a gift and we will do better.
‘The 22-man squad have been selected based on their performances at Craven Week, so they are the best in their respective positions. They have put their provincial loyalties aside and are prepared to represent their country together.
‘We can beat them, but we have to remember to win the small battles on the field to ultimately win the war.’
October admitted he has received no analysis on their Italian opposition but expects a physical battle after having had a quick look at them on the training grounds.
‘I have no knowledge or insight on them, but they have some big boys. So I’m sure they will have a physical game plan.’
Free State scrumhalf Peter Rademan will lead the team and October has full confidence in him.
‘Peter is a brilliant captain. He’s a down to earth, natural-born leader and the players find it easy to approach him.’
The SA Schools’ squad has suffered one casualty ahead of their clash after the players represented their respective schools last week.
Western Province scrumhalf Ricky Schroeder – who was named on the bench – tore ligaments in his ankle during training at Paul Roos. He has been replaced by Border scrumhalf Kobese Bangihlonbe.
October hopes situations like this can be avoided in the future.
‘To be honest, the fact that they play for their schools is a big concern for me. Some players have even played more games during the week, which adds up to four games in two weeks.
This is too much for the boys, but the board has been discussing this problem and we hope it will be sorted out by next year.’
However, October praised the medical assistance the players received on their arrival.
‘The boys returned with some bumps and bruises, but the medical staff has done a great job. They have made it possible for all the players to be available for selections.’
SA Schools’ final game will be against the England U18 side in Kimberley on Friday at 5pm.
SA Schools: 15 Riaan Britz (Free State) 14 Sizo Maseko (Pumas) 11 Brian Skosana (Eastern Province CD) 13 Piet Lindeque (Free State) 12 Andile Jho (Border) 10 William van Wyk (Western Province) 9 Pieter Rademan (Free State, captain) 8 Siya Kolisi (Eastern Province) 7 Jean Cook (Free State) 6 Lean Schwartz (Blue Bulls) 5 Carl Wenger (Free State) 4 Frederick Schnetler (KZN) 3 Jozua Malherbe (Western Province) 2 Bongi Mbonambi (Lions) 1 Stephanus Kotze (Free State) Subs: 16 Siyabonga Ntubeni (Lions) 17 Zolani Faku (SA Academy) 18. Chris Cloete (Border) 19 Nizaam Carr (Western Province) 20 Kobese Bangihlonbe (Border) 21 Tony Jantjies (Blue Bulls) 22 Philippus du Plessis (Western Province)
By Gareth Duncan