U18 Craven Week Preview: Unofficial final

GARETH DUNCAN looks ahead to the U18 Craven Week unofficial final between the Blue Bulls and Golden Lions.

The Bulls were expected to qualify for the unofficial final this year as they were touted as one of the front runners with a strong squad. They met these expectations with good wins over WP (47-27) and the Pumas (36-10).

The Lions weren’t seen as favourites, but surprised many with their 17-8 triumph of day one stars KZN (who downed last year’s unofficial champions Free State 48-24). They weren’t convincing in their 29-14 win over Border in their first match, with late tries contributing to the deficit, but head coach Wynand Moolman says this was all part of the plan.

‘According to tournament rules, all 22 boys need to play one full match. This means you have to prepare two different teams in a short space of time, which is difficult,’ Moolman told keo.co.za’s Schoolboy Derby. ‘So I played most of the reserves against Border, so I knew we’d struggle a bit. But we dug deep, and got the win. This boosted the players’ confidence.

‘This allowed us to field our strongest team against KZN. We knew they didn’t experience much tackling in their first game, so we brought some big hits and were strong up front. This laid the platform for the win.’

The two teams will field their strongest teams in Saturday’s clash, which is expected to be determined by the strong pack of forwards.

After sunny conditions on day one and two, the rain has arrived on the east coast. It’s set to be a titanic battle, especially among the front rows as the Bulls boast manpower of 331kg and the Lions have 319kg among their props and hooker.

Bulls head coach Riaan Brandt believes the wet weather will disrupt his team’s game plan, but he’s positive his heavies can do the job.

‘In our match against WP and the Pumas, our forwards laid the platform for our backline to run riot,’ Brandt also told this site. ‘But with the rain, it will take most of our backline’s influence out of the game. Our forwards will have to step up. They’ve done well so far, and I’m confident we can follow through with that momentum.’

Like against KZN, the Lions will be considered the underdogs for the unofficial final. But Moolman doesn’t mind this tag.

‘People will believe the Bulls are the favourites, and we won’t mind that,’ says Moolman. ‘We will have our best team on the field, and we proved against KZN that our forwards are a force. This is our second consecutive unofficial final, so some of the senior players’ experience will help our cause. There are also six Grade 11 pupils in our squad, so that bodes well for the future.

‘We’re looking forward to the challenge.’

Blue Bulls – 15 Jaco Hayward (Centurion), 14 Marcus Kleinbooi (Affies), 13 Jurie Linde (Affies), 12 Rohan Jansen van Rensburg (Waterkloof), 11 Caswell Khoza (Southdowns), 10 Ryno Eksteen (Affies), 9 Justin Phillips (Waterkloof), 8 Steven Meiring (Affies), 7 Heinrich Viljoen (Affies), 6 Thabo Mabuza (Centurion), 5 Janse van Rensburg (Affies), 4 Hyron Andrews (Garsfontein), 3 Johan Bannink (Garsfontein), 2 Vean Roodt (Centurion), 1 Pierre Schoeman (Affies, c)
Subs: 16 François Steyn (Affies), 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen (Centurion), 18 Johan Ras (Centurion), 19 Bobby de Wee (Southdowns), 20 George-Lee Erasmus (Centurion), 21 Chad McKay (Centurion), 22 Marquit September (Garsfontein).

Golden Lions – 15 Erwin Harris (Florida), 14 Surprise Mayekiso (KES), 13 Koch Marx (Alberton), 12 Innocent Radebe (St Stithians), 11 Allistar Mcquire (KES), 10 Jako van der Walt (Monument), 9 Bradley Janse van Rensburg (KES), 8 Revo Mabunda (Parktown Boys’), 7 Chris Massyn (Monument, c), 6 Ruan Mcdonald (Monument), 5 Victor Sekete (Monument), 4 Stefan Vermeulen (Queens), 3 Clinton theron (Florida), 2 Malcom Marx (KES), 1 Dylon Smith (KES).
Subs: 16 Emmanual Morowane (Jeppe), 17 Frans van Wyk (Monument), 18 Cyle Brink (KES), 19 Thapelo Rapelwane (St John’s), 20 Eric Botes (Florida), 21 Wanele maholwane (KES), 22 Barend Herbst (Monument).

Kick-off: 13:40, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.