The Free State’s clash with Western Province is the highlight of an interesting third day of the U18 Craven Week in Bloemfontein on Wednesday, writes DYLAN JACK.
Pumas vs Leopards (11am, A Field)
Both the Pumas and Leopards were competitive in their opening outings against the SWD Eagles and Valke, respectively, before ultimately running out of steam in the final 10 minutes. One assumes that the coaching staff from both teams had prepared with this clash in mind, knowing this could be their most winnable fixture of the week. The Pumas were able to take the lead and contain SWD in the first half of their match, so that perhaps makes them narrow favourites for this one.
Prediction: Pumas by 3
Boland vs Valke (12:30pm, A Field)
Despite taking a 50-24 loss against Western Province, Boland gave a good account of themselves against their near neighbours and, as has been the pattern in the week, couldn’t keep up their efforts for the full 70 minutes. The Valke will be pleased to have come away with a win over the Leopards, especially as it looked tight when their opponents came back in the second half. If Boland are to come away with a win in this game, they will have to front up and stop the Valke’s heavy hitters including No 8 Franco Enslin and flank Juandre Odendaal.
Prediction: Boland by 8
SWD Eagles vs Sharks (2pm)
Both teams will be fired up for this one for different reasons. SWD have a good chance of picking up a major scalp after resting a couple of players against the Pumas, while the Sharks will want to bounce back after their loss against the Free State. The Sharks certainly showed in that game that they are more than the sum of their parts, with their majority Northwood starting lineup matching their Grey College counterparts. If the Sharks can replicate that effort, perhaps with a bit more accuracy on attack, they should walk away with a win.
Prediction: Sharks by 10
Free State vs Western Province
The big one. This game will probably decide who plays in the unofficial final on Saturday, so plenty is on the line for both teams. The tournaments hosts were excellent on attack against the Sharks, especially when they sped the game up. Province can’t afford to start this game in the disjointed manner they did against Boland, as they won’t get away with the same errors as they did in that match. A Free State side boasting mostly Grey College players will probably be slight favourites because of that fact, but a WP side with plenty of players from the Boland schools can match them.
Prediction: Free State by 6
Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images