While there are no official champions at the U18 Craven Week, all of the top teams dream of winning the ‘main game’, writes THEO GARRUN.
When Dr Danie Craven agreed, back in 1964, to the first staging of the schools interprovincial rugby week that was later to bear his name he was adamant that it should be a festival, with no official winner.
In the programme booklet of that first week, called a ‘Schools Rally’, in East London in 1964, he said the following: ‘The board wants the game to be played in the right spirit. This includes attacking, adventurous, open, constructive rugby, without the interference of the result, and without distracting from the game. If the schoolboys can accept this spirit, it will extend to our national approach, to the benefit of all.’
Craven also said that there was to be no championship, no national team and no discrimination between players. In other words, no final, no SA School team and no Man of the Match awards.
That’s obviously all changed now – whether for the better or the worse is up for debate – and, going into this year’s Craven Week beginning in Paarl on Monday 9 July, all the talk is about who will emerge as the winners of the week’s last fixture, the ‘main’ game, and who is in the running for SA Schools selection.
As far as team honours are concerned, the week has in recent years been set up, in effect, as quarter-finals in the first round and semis in the second, with whoever comes through those unbeaten in line for a spot in the main game on the final day.
In the ‘Monday/Wednesday’ group the Golden Lions meet Eastern Province and Western Province take on the Pumas on Monday. History suggests that the hosts will to be too strong for the Pumas, so they will meet either the Lions or EP on Wednesday with the winner there virtually assured of a spot in the main game.
The top two games in the ‘Tuesday/Thursday’ group on Tuesday are the Sharks vs SWD and Free State vs Blue Bulls. Again, the winners of those games will probably meet on Thursday, with whoever coming through there advancing to the unofficial final.
It’s not officially that simple, of course, the fixtures committee still claim they are guided by the principles of the week and they reward teams for playing positive, attractive rugby, but there’s not much evidence of those being the criteria in recent years.
In recent years, Western Province have been the most successful team at the week. They have played in 14 ‘finals’ since 1998, and won nine of them. Free State have been in 11 of the last 30 ‘finals’ and have won five. The Blue Bulls have played in nine ‘finals’ since 1988, winning seven of them.
Main matches results:
1971 (Kimberley): Western Province 11 Griquas 0
1972 (Potchefstroom): Western Province 16 Western Transvaal 9
1973 (Stellenbosch): Western Province 36 Transvaal 7
1974 (Johannesburg): Western Province 22 South Western Districts 12
1975 (Pretoria): Eastern Province 46 Natal 13
1976 (Wolmaranstad): Boland 13 Free State 9
1977 (Oudtshoorn): Eastern Province 19 Western Province 17
1978 (Middelburg): Western Province 12 Free State 3
1979 (East London): Northern Free State 9 Free State 6
1980 (Stellenbosch): Free State 16 Transvaal 6
1981 (Worcester): Transvaal 11 Western Province 7
1982 (Windhoek): South Eastern Transvaal 25 Northern Free State 7
1983 (Upington): Free State 13 South Eastern Transvaal 9
1984 (Bloemfontein): Transvaal 3 Eastern Province 0
1985 (Witbank): Free State 23 Transvaal 15
1986 (Graaf Reinet): South Eastern Transvaal 19 Western Province 12
1987 (Paarl): Natal 22 Transvaal 22
1988 (Port Elizabeth): Western Province 16 Free State 3
1989 (Johannesburg): Transvaal 17 Eastern Province 6
1990 (Durban): Natal 18 Northern Transvaal 8
1991 (East London): Northern Transvaal 10 Border 9
1992 (Pretoria): Western Province 22 Free State 15
1993 (Secunda): Northern Transvaal 25 South Eastern Transvaal 13
1994 (Newcastle): Border 13 Eastern Province 13
1995 (Bloemfontein): Free State 15 Boland 13
1996 (Stellenbosch): Northern Transvaal 24 Western Province 12
1997 (Kimberley): Northern Transvaal 29 Western Province 27
1998 (Vanderbijlpark): Griqualand West 32 Western Province 21
1999 (George): Western Province 15 Eastern Province 11
2000 (Port Elizabeth): Pumas 19 Boland 18
2001 (Rustenburg): SWD 26 Blue Bulls 20
2002 (Pietermaritzburg): Western Province 31 Free State 16
2003 (Wellington): Western Province 22 Free State 17
2004 (Nelspruit): Free State 17 Western Province 16
2005 (Bloemfontein): Golden Lions 38 Eastern Province 15
2006 (Johannesburg): Blue Bulls 35 Golden Lions 20
2007 (Stellenbosch): Free State 52 Western Province 3
2008 (Pretoria): SWD 31 Free State 25
2009 (East London): Western Province 19 Free State 17
2010 (Welkom): Free State 42 Western Province 21
2011 (Kimberley): Free State 28 Lions 17
2012 (Port Elizabeth): Blue Bulls 46 Lions 0
2013 (Polokwane): Western Province 45 Lions 29
2014 (Middelburg): Eastern Province 25 SWD 7
2015 (Stellenbosch): Western Province 95 Eastern Province 0
2016 (Botha’s Hill): Western Province 27 Lions 20
2017 (Randburg): Golden Lions 45 KwaZulu-Natal 18
Photo: Theo Garrun