The clashes between Western Province and Boland and the Free State and Sharks will highlight an entertaining first day of the U18 Craven Week in Bloemfontein, writes DYLAN JACK.
Valke vs Leopards (10:20am, A field)
The Valke should be too strong for the Leopards in what will be an entertaining Craven Week opener. The Gauteng team boasts a squad made up mostly of players from EG Jansen and Transvalia, who play some of the top schools in the country on a regular basis. That will give them the edge in this game. Keep an eye on Valke flank and EG Jansen student Juandre Odendaal, who has been in impressive form during the North-South and Kearsney Easter Festival tournaments.
Prediction: Valke by 12
Pumas vs SWD (12:10pm, A field)
This is one SWD should comfortably win. The team from the Western Cape again have the spine of their squad made up by Outeniqua and Oakdale, which have both had fairly good seasons up to this point. Outeniqua hooker Leon Volschenk is one to watch in his second season of 1st XV rugby.
Prediction: SWD by 15
Western Province vs Boland (13:40pm, A field)
Western Province come into this year’s tournament with a wider spread of players than usual, having generally tended to select players from Paul Roos, Paarl Boys High and Paarl Gim. This should be a big win for WP regardless, especially as HTS Drostdy, who provide the majority of the Boland squad, have won just five games all year. WP flyhalf Kade Wolhuter needs no introduction, having recently made headlines after signing for Montpellier from next year. Expect a number of ferocious tackles from Paarl Gim flank Pierich Siebert, while centre Quan Horn is someone who can create havoc in midfield.
Prediction: Western Province by 21
Free State vs Sharks (15:40pm, A field)
What a game to end day one! Both squads will be well prepared this year, having had plenty of time to gel since the halfway point of the schools rugby season. Free State will be looking to avenge last year’s 29-20 loss, which effectively took them out of the main game in 2018. The hosts again have a powerful pack of forwards, mostly from Grey College, which will look to be agressive from the start. The Sharks will by no means be easy beats. On the contrary, the KZN team have their own threats in loosehead prop Okuhle Siyeni, flyhalf Jordan Hendrikse and flank Sasko Ndlovu, who will captain the team. Still, the expectation is that Free State win this one, with the likes of hooker André-Hugo Venter, fullback Sonwabo Sokoyi and No 8 George Cronje being impressive.
Predictions: Free State by 5
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images