U16 Sharks drown Eagles to close third in Khomo Week

Coach Kwanele Ngema and the Sharks Under-16 team have a selfie while on tour for the Under-16 Grant Khomo Week in Gqeberha. | Kwanele Ngema

Coach Kwanele Ngema and the Sharks Under-16 team have a selfie while on tour for the Under-16 Grant Khomo Week in Gqeberha. | Kwanele Ngema

Published Jun 27, 2024


The Under-16 KZN Sharks gave a good account of themselves in Grant Khomo Week, finishing third with two wins from three matches earlier this month.

Tournament favourites, DHL Western Province went unbeaten and were crowned winners.

Grant Khomo Week was held at Grey High School, in Gqeberha, from June 17-21 and saw the country’s best Under-16 school boys compete.

Sharks head coach Kwanele Ngema said that although the Grant Khomo Week had been very physically and mentally demanding, it was, nonetheless, a successful week for the KwaZulu-Natal team.

“On Monday (the first day of the tournament) we played Free State, which was by-and-large Grey College, as they had 16 boys from the school representing the province.

“This would have given them an advantage in preparation while we had a diverse range from multiple schools.”

However, Ngema said he had coached most of this year’s squad last year when they were at the Under-15 level, so team cohesion was not really a factor as that carried over from 2023.

He also spoke about how the team had shown tremendous fighting spirit by coming back from being down 7-17 at half-time to score three unanswered tries and run-out winners by 26 points to 20.

“That speaks to the team’s character and their willingness to never say die,” the proud coach said.

Day two of the event and the Sharks second match saw them face DHL Western Province, who they knew would be a tough nut top crack.

“We analysed their weaknesses ahead of the game and went into it full of confidence,” the coach said.

“My message to the team was that ‘you’re closer to the possible than the impossible’.”

WP made the running in the first half against the Sharks.

“Going into half-time, both sides had scored two tries, but KZN trailed 10-14 because, having to kick into the teeth of the wind in the ‘Windy City’, both conversions went wide.”

But the Sharks gave notice that they were a team to be taken seriously with tries by Nicolas Salamousas and Nathan Aneke, making sure there was everything to play for in the second half.

They had a strong breeze at their backs after the break, but they could not make any real headway against the WP defence and only had a penalty to show for their efforts.

In a match that hung on the finer details, it was eventually WP who seized their opportunity through a try after a line-out in the Sharks’ 22-metre area to give them a bit of breathing space.

The deficit was cut to one following an early KZN penalty and they pounced on the mistakes to score a try – which would be the final scoring action, with the game ending 19-13 to Province, who would go on to win the tournament.

Ngema said the loss had been because of game management and not the fault of his side’s ability.

He said after the loss, he reminded the boys that they were still representing a proud institution like the Sharks, so finishing third was really important.

Before the third match against South Western District (SWD), Ngema suggested that they take time out and just bond as a squad.

“Outcomes do matter, but the boys will have the memories of time they spent together, so we removed ourselves from rugby that day.

“On Friday, we started the game slowly against SWD and found ourselves once again trailing at half-time.

“My message to them was that there’s no room to imagine defeat.

“You have to believe that you can win every time,” he said.

With two minutes left in the match, SWD took the lead, but Ngema still believed that his side could do the unthinkable and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

The young Sharks team duly put the opposition under pressure, won a penalty, and went for the line-out.

After a few phases, the hard yards paid off and the lead flipped, owing to Sharks try as they took the lead and the win 20-19.

Ngema said that it was hard to single out an individual as every member of the team had performed so well. He congratulated all of management for their contributions towards their side’s success.

There were further honours for the team when five of their number were selected for the Team of the Tournament: Ben Coetzee, Nicholas Salamousas, Nhlanhla Ndlovu, Rory Standton and Olwethu Kosani.

Sharks...............26 Free State Cheetahs ............20

Sharks...............13 Western Province..................19

Sharks...............20 South Western Districts.........19

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