BENEDICT CHANAKIRA looks at the stars of the recent U18 Craven Week at St Stithians.
Kennedy Mpeku (Golden Lions)
The Lions fullback scored 20 points in his side’s 45-18 win against the Sharks in the ‘final’, showing an impressive level of composure. During a tight game against Border that required the Lions to stamp their authority, Mpeku helped spark a try that showcased his vision, pace and handling skills. The KES pupil’s goal-kicking and kicking from hand still needs some work, but he has been special this year. He showed great positioning, attacking prowess and defensive maturity at Craven Week. Having scored 15 tries so far this season, Mpeku will be hoping to finish KES’ campaign in style.
Hanru van Rooyen (Leopards)
The Leopards flyhalf produced commanding performances at Craven Week, although Zimbabwe and Namibia didn’t provide his side with much of a challenge. However, the pivot punished the sloppy opposition by using his deft footwork, vision and sharp-shooting boot as he racked up a tournament high of 70 points, and six tries (the joint second-most). A tall player who added his share of physicality in the 10 channel, Van Rooyen showed his ability to control a match through territory, especially against weak opposition.
Henk Cilliers (Free State)
Cilliers scored six tries at Craven Week – four on the opening day against Boland and two in the thrashing of Western Province on the last day. Cilliers complemented dominant carries from the outside centre channel with silky playmaking abilities. The Grey College midfielder was an attacking weapon for Free State, and managed to adapt to playmaking and direct rugby. The young man has grown as a player since an impressive sevens tournament for Free State last year. He’s always had bruising carries in his arsenal, but he’s now added deft footwork, clever kicks and a varying passing game.
Sanele Nohamba (Sharks)
The Sharks met their match in the ‘final’ and had a second half to forget against the Lions. However, scrumhalf Nohamba (who played flyhalf against South Western Districts) still came out of the game with a lot of credit. He is an ace goal-kicker, has flair and a tactical-kicking game Conor Murray would be proud of. Nohamba should be selected for SA Schools, and go on to play many games for the Sharks senior side.
Mark Snyman (Golden Lions)
The back-rower was a key cog in the Lions machine and helped stop the impressive Sharks loose trio in the ‘final’. Fast, evasive, skilful and physical, Snyman was one of the standout players at Craven Week and will be on the both the sevens and fifteens radars. The youngster has the same eagerness and mongrel aptitude as Lions flanker Kwagga Smith. He also showed an impressive level of skill in contact, picking the right channels to attack and using good footwork before taking contact (a skill seldom recognised at the highest level). The Helpmekaar flanker took part in his second Craven Week and that experience showed in the last 25 minutes of the ‘final’ as he helped steer his side to victory.
Five Craven Week numbers that matter
323 – Tries scored
28 – Tries scored by Free State, the most by any team
24 – Tries scored by each of Griquas and the Griffons
39 – The number of points the Lions conceded in three matches, the fewest in the tournament
82 – Free State’s conversion kick success percentage (23/28), the best at Craven Week, all of which were kicked by Christian Schreuder