The Sharks, in all likelihood, booked a place in Saturday’s final game of the U18 Craven Week when they beat Free State 29-20 in Paarl on Thursday. THEO GARRUN reports.
The game was played in gloomy, wet conditions, but that didn’t stop the sides from producing an entertaining spectacle full of running rugby.
There was not much to choose between the sides. The Sharks led 19-10 at half-time and both sides scored 10 points in the second half. It ended with Free State furiously throwing everything at the Sharks’ line but the KwaZulu-Natalians held out to seal the victory and, with it, a probable appearance in the week’s showpiece game for the second year in a row.
They met the Golden Lions in last year’s main game and lost 45-18. They will obviously like to go one further this time, but their probable opponents will be the hosts Western Province, who will be more comfortable in the muddy Paarl conditions than Free State were on Thursday.
There are, however, a number of quality players in this Sharks side and they will take some stopping. No 8 Celimpilo Gumede had a huge game, and has been the class act of the week so far. Flyhalf Dylan Pretorius is another who has impressed in his two games so far. Flanker George Luzolo is another who has been in great form.
Free State were full of tricky running, but their handling let them down at crucial times. They were first on the board via a try by hooker André-Hugo Venter following a lineout maul, but it was to be one of only two tries – the second was by their excellent fullback Richard Kriel, late in the second half.
In between, the Sharks dotted down five times. Two of them came from their industrious flanker George Luzolo. Pretorius got the most spectacular of them – a long-range kick and chase which he dotted down just inside the deadball line.
For Free State, centre Wyclef Viltoor’s acceleration was evident, with Ian Small-Smith and Jade Pedro also showing up well.
Sharks – Tries: Celimpilo Gumede , Thabiso Mdlethse, George Luzolo (2), Dylan Pretorius. Conversions: Pretorius (2).
Free State – Tries: André-Hugo Venter, Richard Kriel. Conversions: Zander du Plessis (2). Penalties: Du Plessis (2).
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images