Six players from last year’s SA Schools team will be playing at the U18 Craven Week at Paarl Boys’ High from next Monday, writes THEO GARRUN.
Craven Week is not supposed to be about individual player achievement. Dr Danie Craven was quite adamant about that when he gave his blessing to an interprovincial school tournament back in 1964. He insisted that it should be all about the team.
But the reality is that the SA Schools team is selected at the week, there are Man of the Match awards and a Player of the Tournament is chosen these days, so there is always a lot of speculation and interest in which players to watch out for.
It’s difficult to predict who will be in the running for SA Schools action until the boys have actually played a game.
That said, six 2017 SA Schools players are in the mix again, and two of them – WP’s Adrian Alberts and the Pumas’ Banele Mthenjane – are captaining their teams this year.
Glenwood prop Jordan Clarke is back for the Sharks, along with Celimpilo Gumede, who made the SA Schools side as a lock last year but has been impressive as a No 8 for DHS this season. Monument hooker Morné Brandon is in the Lions team, while Garsfontein centre Diego Appolis is in the Bulls side.
The majority of the players who were invited to SA Rugby’s high-performance camp at the beginning of the year have been included in their provincial teams although, refreshingly, a number of new faces have forced their way in at their expense.
Appolis and Gumede were in the successful SA U18 sevens team earlier in the year, along with Ross Braude (Free State), Christie Grobbelaar (Boland), Dawid Kellerman (Western Province), Muzi Manyike (Golden Lions) and William Rose (Western Province).
The SA Schools team will play in a quadrangular series involving the U18 teams of England, France and Wales in August.
The U18 Craven Week was last in Paarl in 1987 when the main game ended in a 22-22 draw between Transvaal and Natal. There were two future Springboks in that Transvaal team: Brendan Venter and James Small. Venter’s son, also Brendan, is in the Western Province team this year.
The year 1987 was a rich one as far as future Springboks were concerned. No fewer than 12 players who played at that Craven Week were to wear the green and gold in international matches. Apart from Small and Venter, and there were Vlok Cilliers (North West Cape), Ruben Kruger (Free State), Thinus Linee (WP League), Charl Marais (Free State), Pieter Muller (Free State), Botha Rossouw (Far North), Chris Rossouw (Eastern Transvaal), Phillip Schutte (Northern Transvaal), Toks van der Linde (Eastern Free State) and Mornay Visser (Western Province).