The SA Schools team, packed with the country’s most talented young players, should never lose three consecutive matches at home, writes KAMVA SOMDYALA.
The manner in which SA Schools lost to Wales (30-28), France (13-8) and England (52-22) – was even more disappointing. Until this year, SA Schools’ only loss in the U19 International Series, which began in 2010, had been to England in 2014.
The quality of the team’s overall play was poor and there seemed to be no game plan. Against Wales they were never really in the contest and their poor execution and decision-making left a lot to be desired. This resulted in their defence being exposed regularly, and under pressure, SA Schools were never able to impose themselves.
The same occurred against France. The game was played in wet conditions, which resulted in a high error count for both teams, yet it was France who were able to use their scoring opportunities to good effect.
On the final day of the series, England put away an SA Schools team that was low on confidence, as they dominated from start to finish, particularly up front.
Some have suggested that the best possible SA Schools team was not selected, but I disagree. Eighteen players who featured in the Craven Week ‘final’ were included in the 28-man squad, and as many as six players who represented SA Schools or SA Schools A last season. Form players were selected along with the best available talent. The collective SA Schools team is always better than the sum of its parts.
SA Schools were not helped by their short preparation time. The team is traditionally named at the conclusion of Craven Week, but this year it was announced on 27 July, five days later. The squad gathered in Stellenbosch on 6 August and their first game against Wales was on the 11th.
In order for the SA Schools team to be strong, it needs the Blue Bulls Craven Week team to be strong. The Bulls were poor this year, despite having six players who represented SA Schools or SA Schools A last season, which saw just one of their players selected for SA Schools, compared to five and eight in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
Phendulani Buthelezi should have captained SA Schools based on his influential performances at Craven Week for KwaZulu-Natal. He should also have played in his preferred position of No 8 and in every game of the series.
Ultimately, though, the SA Schools team let themselves down and created the wrong kind of history by being whitewashed on home soil.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images