Grey College in Bloemfontein has been a hive of activity since the beginning of the week and will remain so until Saturday after the annual U18 Craven Week rugby tournament, which is taking place at the famous rugby school.
The tournament, named after the late, great rugby Springbok, coach, and administrator, Doc Danie Craven, born in Lindley in the Free State, sees provincial rugby teams from across South Africa testing their mettle against each other. Namibia and Zimbabwe add an international flavour to the tournament each year as well.
In the opening stages of the tournament some wonderful rugby was produced as the hosts, Free State Cheetahs, Western Province, Western Province XV and the Blue Bulls emerged as the favourites to play in the unofficial final on Saturday. At the time of print, Free State and Western Province had not played in their Wednesday afternoon fixture.
Free State fired early warning shots by stunning the Sharks 46-24 in the main match on day one, and in a sense exacted revenge after losing 29-20 to the team from KwaZulu-Natal in Paarl last year. This time around, the captain, George Cronjé, and his charges were ruthless in dispatching the powerful Sharks team, and this with two players in the sin bin towards the backend of the match.
Western Province are also a force to be reckoned with and have played in the unofficial final more times than any other team. They made light work of thumping their neighbours, Boland, 50-24 on day one. Many still believe that strong rugby schools like Paul Roos Gymnasium, Paarl Boys’ High and Paarl Gymnasium should actually play under the banner of Boland, instead of Western Province.
On day two, the Blue Bulls came from behind to upset Border with a 35-24 win. Border stunned Free State last year, and was the surprise package in the 2018 tournament. Western Province XV fielded an incredibly strong team this year and they proved it by beating the Golden Lions, who are by no means a weak team, 18-14, in the last match of day two.
While the Craven Week is taking place at Grey, the Academy Week is also being contested at the school, and this tournament is producing equally good rugby.
Craven Week Day Three fixtures (Wednesday, 3 July):
11h00 – Pumas v Leopards (A Field)
12h30 – Boland v NWU Valke (A Field)
14h00 – SWD Eagles v Sharks (A Field)
15h30 – Free State Cheetahs v Western Province (A Field)
– MORGAN PIEK