Craven Week, SA’s premier senior schoolboy rugby tournament, starts on Monday at St Stithians College in Johannesburg with Western Province’s Under-18 squad fancied to be crowned unofficial champions for the third year running.
The Cape side set a record winning score for a final game in 2015 when, on home soil, they crushed defending champions Eastern Province 95-0.
In 2016, they eased to a 28-20 victory over the Golden Lions in the final game of the week at host school Kearsney College of KwaZulu-Natal.
In their opener on Monday, WP face a revved-up Pumas team keen to roll over one of the country’s powerhouses. The winner will play either the Blue Bulls or Lions on Wednesday should they win their openers against KwaZulu-Natal and Border, respectively. Free State, loaded once again with Grey College players, have failed to impress in recent years and can count on a tough outing when tackling Boland on day two.
The above-mentioned teams, excluding Border, are most favoured to vie for honours if the latest schools rankings are anything to go by.
In an annual tournament that has produced more than 260 Springboks, the players from 20 teams participating in three games each over the next week will want to catch the eye of the selectors for an SA Schools and SA Academy team cap.
WP captain Vusile Dlepu has a good chance of leading the SA Schools team if his side ends unbeaten. Dlepu’s teammate wing Muller du Plessis made the SA Schools side in 2016 and is another to look out for.
SA Schools cricketer Christopher Schreuder (Grey College — Free State Cheetahs) adds his name to a list of players expected to lead their teams’ fortunes. Free State’s flyhalf has come through the provincial ranks and in 2016, competed at the Academy Week.
Sharks flank Dylan Richardson, a product of Kearsney College, is a promising flanker who has represented his province since Under-13 level. He made the SA A team in 2016.
Marnus Potgieter (Blue Bulls) returns from 2016 and the hard-running outside centre from Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool in Pretoria has set his sights on making the SA Schools team.