The selectors have cast their net wide in choosing the provincial schools teams, and now it’s up to the players representing Western Province to do the business.
The WP Under-18 Craven Week squad will be hard to beat in Johannesburg.
WP have been unstoppable over the past two years under head coach Elmo Wolfaardt.
In 2015, on home soil, they hammered Eastern Province 95-0 in the showpiece game, for their third straight win to end the competition unbeaten, and then repeated the feat last year downing the much-fancied Golden Lions 27-20 in the unofficial final contested at Kearsney College in KwaZulu-Natal.
The 23-man Craven Week squad includes five players from Paarl Boys’ High, the unofficial No1 ranked schools rugby team in the country. Boys High are on an unbeaten 54-game run stretching back to the beginning of 2015.
In total 15 players from the Boland region are in the squad for the annual competition. The balance of Wolfaardt’s side is made up of personnel from Cape Town’s southern and northern suburbs.
One does have to wonder when WP officials will argue for a second Craven Week team. There’s been talk of this becoming a reality.
Province have a great chance of going unbeaten again. “I feel we have a better than even chance of progressing to the final game,” said Wolfaardt.
“The selectors have supplied me a squad loaded with talent; we have a strong, big pack who will lay the foundation for our talented, pacey backs to work off and exhibit their skill sets.
“I was more than happy with recent victories over Eastern Province and South Western Districts. These outings gave the selectors a chance to get their picks right, and the cream of the crop came through with flying colours, leaving me confident we can do good things at the Week itself.
“We face a tough opening fixture against the Pumas on Monday, and they would love nothing more than to do us in,” added Wolfaardt.
“Neither side will want to end on the losing end, because if they do, the tournament is basically done and dusted for them. We play to full potential, which would see us end up on the right side of the result.
“That would set up a clash with either the Lions or Blue Bulls if they win their openers. So two big games to get through to set up an appearance in the final game of the tournament.”
SACS’ Vusile Dlepu, from Langa, will captain the Craven Week team from scrumhalf.
The WP Under-16 team ended the Grant Khomo Week in Bloemfontein as the only unbeaten team after an easy 38-10 victory over SWD for their third win in the last match of the week at Grey College.
WP Craven Week Team
Thaakir Abrahams (Paarl Boys), Adriaan Alberts (Paarl Boys), Angelo Davids (Stellenberg), Rufus Dercksen (Paul Roos), Vusile Dlepu (captain, SACS), Muller du Plessis (Paarl Gim), Joshua du Preez (Paarl Boys), Quan Eyman (Brackenfell), Vian Fourie (Paarl Boys), Duren Hoffman (Boland Landbou), Francke Horne (Paarl Boys), Sujai Ikemefuna (SACS), Gerardo Jaars (Paul Roos), Yazeed Karriem (Manenberg Rangers), Dawid Kellerman (Paarl Gim), Ian Ketwanga (Parklands College), Tristan Leitch (Paul Roos), Henco Martins (Paarl Gim), Alex Mbete (Paul Roos), Joshua Muller (Stellenberg), Hugo Pienaar (Paarl Gim), Chris Rossouw (Paarl Gim), Janco Swanepoel (Stellenberg).
WP Academy Team
Juan Beukes (Paarl Gim), David Courie (Bishops), Albert Coetzee (Boland Landbou), Jaen-Louis de Lange (Brackenfell), Donald Falconer (Rondebosch), Xavier Haupt (Bellville), Thandile Hoyi (Tygerberg), Stravino Jacobs (Paarl Gim), Anathi Kalipa (SACS, Ghalieb Kenny (Bishops), Herman Le Roux (captain, Boland Landbou), Brian Lukusa (JG Meiring), Mihlali Mgolodela (Rondebosch), Justin Muller (Bishops), Nivan Petersen (Stellenberg), Corné van Romburgh (Stellenberg), Reuben Scholtz (Paarl Gim), Cal Smid (Rondebosch), Raven Smith (Brackenfell), Adriaan Staples (Paarl Gim), MJ Strauss (Paarl Boys), Marcquiewn Titus (Brackenfell), Jacque van Biljon (Stellenberg).