SA Schools made a winning start to their U18 International Series campaign with a 23-13 victory over Wales in Stellenbosch on Friday. DYLAN JACK reports.
On a muddy field that had suffered from both the Cape rains and the two preceding matches, SA Schools were able to hold onto a narrow lead to make a successful start to the series.
The match was very much a war of attrition, especially in the first half as the South Africa U18s struggled to break down a stubborn Welsh defence.
It was a short five-minute period at the start of the second half that proved the difference between the two sides as first scrumhalf Jurich Classens and then loosehead prop Jan-Hendrik Wessels scored South Africa’s only tries of the match.
From there South Africa clung on despite a late scare when Wales U18 center Mason Grady thought he had scored a potential winner after a chip-and-chase.
Opposing flyhalves Kian Meadon and Tom Matthews traded early penalties. There were two occasions in the first half where SA Schools thought they had scored as both Zeilinga Strydom and Keane Gelant had tries chalked off for penalty infringements.
SA Schools received a blow when they lost flank Jarrod Taylor to the sin bin for a cynical infringement. While they defended well, the South Africans eventually conceded a try when Welsh inside centre Joe Hawkins broke the line and shrugged off a couple of tackles to score. Meadon reduced the deficit with his second penalty to see SA Schools go into the break 10-6 down.
The South African schoolboys finally got a breakthrough as Classens broke from the back of a 5m scrum and ground the ball near the poles. Wessels then showed his pace and finesse to dot down in the corner and put the U18s 18- 10 up
Matthews kicked his second penalty to make it 18-13 and set up a nailbiting finish, but SA Schools ensured the win when Taylor went over from close range.
SA Schools – Tries: Jurich Classens, Jan-Hendrik Wessels., Jarrod Taylor Conversions: Kian Meadon. Penalties: Meadon (2).
Wales U18 – Tries: Joe Hawkins. Conversions: Tom Matthews. Penalties: Matthews.
SA Schools – 15 Zeilinga Strydom, 14 Keane Gelant, 13 Henco van Wyk, 12 Tyler Bocks, 11 Tharquinn Manuel, 10 Kian Meadon, 9 Jurich Classens, 8 George Cronje, 7 Jarrod Taylor, 6 Keke Morabe, 5 Dylan de Leeuw, 4 Simon Miller, 3 Blaine Golden, 2 Jacques Goosen (c), 1 Jan-Hendrik Wessels.
Subs: 16 Andre Venter, 17 Okhule Siyeni, 18 Sibusiso Shongwe, 19 Wandile Hlope, 20 Sasko Ndlovu, 21 Dylan Alexander, 22 Boldwin Hansen, 23 Mntungwa Mapantsela, 24 Quan Horn, 25 Gideon van Wyk, 26 Connor Evans.
Wales U18 – 15 Dan John, 14 Carrick McDonough, 13 Mason Grady, 12* Joe Hawkins, 11 Morgan Richards, 10 Tom Mathews, 9 Ethan Lloyd, 8 Alex Mann, 7 Ollie Howard, 6 Rhys Thomas, 5 James Fender, 4 Christ Tshiunza, 3 Archie Griffin, 2 Oliver Burrows, 1 Theo Bevacqua.
Subs: 16 Rhodri King, 17 Lewys Jones, 18 Kieran Stevens, 19* Peter Vickers, 20* Travis Huntley, 21 Ben Carter, 22 Bradley Roderick, 23* Luke Davies, 24* Ben Burnell, 25* Jake Morgan, 26* Jake Thomas.
Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images