With the 2019 edition of the U18 Craven Week nearly here, DYLAN JACK picks out the teams that will be worth watching during the tournament.
Where else to start, but with the ‘defending champions’ who beat the Sharks convincingly in the unofficial final last year. This year, WP have balanced their squad between the Boland and Southern Suburbs schools, with a number of Bishops and Rondebosch players making it into the squad. It will be interesting to see how the team cope with a bigger blend between schools. In terms of pure player quality, WP should still have far too much, and can be expected to make the ‘final’ once again.
Out of all the teams participating this year, Free State should go into the tournament with the best buildup and preparation. Once again the squad are a majority of Grey College players, which should ease matters in terms of getting the team into a cohesive unit. Further, it should help that most of the players head into the week fresh and fully fit, as Grey last played a competitive match against Affies in May. Grey College have once again enjoyed a fantastic year, carrying their unbeaten run through 2019. As an added bonus, Grey College are hosting the week, so many of the players will be on home soil.
The surprise package of 2018, Border went unbeaten through last year’s Craven Week, picking up the scalp of Free State on the final day. Much of that was down to the fact that the majority of the squad were made up of Selborne’s 1st XV, who only lost three games in 2018. It is no surprise that the same has been done with this year’s squad, with the likes of Jacques Goosen and Jarrod Taylor back for their second week. It remains to be seen whether they can replicate their efforts.
Western Province XV
So strong is WP’s depth this year that the two WP squads could quite comfortably be interchanged and still achieve similar results. The WP XV still possess plenty of talent, with Bishops hooker Keagan Blanckenberg, Paul Roos flank Jarred Cairn and Paarl Gim centre Stephan du Toit among the impressive names in the squad. One could quite easily see a WP vs WP XV match close the tournament out. This team should not be underestimated.
After an average 2018, where EP took losses against the Golden Lions and Pumas, far better results may be anticipated from the team in 2019. The EP selectors seem to have followed suit from Free State and Border, composing their squad with a spine of players from Hoërskool Framesby. Whether it pays off, is yet to be seen.
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