Wales and South Africa played out a dramatic and open scoring match on Friday in the second instalment of this years Aon Under 18 International Series at Boland Landbou School.
A topsy-turvy match that swung one way and then the next looked to have slipped from South Africa Schools’ grasp until the very last second when a sniping try from scrum-half Jurich Claasens saved the day.
This match was played at a frenetic pace from the opening whistle and it was the visitors who landed the first punch. Dragons centre Aneurin Owen crossed the line to dot down before the impressive Sam Costelow added the extras.
South Africa Schools fought back straight away when Stravino Jacobs (Paarl Gim), finished off some some slick handling to dive over in the corner. Thomas Bursey (Selborne College) missed the conversion which was the beginning a poor day for the scrum-half from the kicking tee that may have taken some gloss off an otherwise superb performance.
Wales struck back almost immediately though as Joe Roberts was pushed over the line by his forwards. Costelow added the extra two.
The following 15 minutes belonged to South Africa though as they found enough rhythm to gain control of the match.
First it was JJ Kotze (Paul Roos) that crossed before an outrageous line from Mnombo Zwelindaba (Selborne College) saw the impressive centre break through the defensive line to score. Bursey missed both conversions meaning that the Schools outfit were just a solitary point in the lead.
Two minutes after the Zwelindaba try a deliberate knock down from Jacobs stifled the Green and Gold momentum.
Luke Yendle capitalised on some sloppy defending to cross and re-gain the lead for Wales and Costelow was yet again accurate with the boot.
Springbok Schools were not to be denied before the half-time whistle however. Number 8, Celimpilo Gumede (DHS – Durban) powered his way over and with Bursey slotting his first successful kick of the day it meant that the Bok’s lead 22-21 at half-time.
The start to the second half was subdued compared to the first but it was South Africa that made the first strides towards victory.
Emile van Heerden (Paarl Boys High) had been imperious all day at the lineout and after securing more quick ball it was finally fed into the hands of fly-half Juan Mostert (Paul Roos) to scythe through and extend the South African lead. Bursey added the extras.
Within the blink of an eye they found themselves behind again. Jac Morgan and then Costelow scored two quick fire tries before Jac Price found himself in the bin for disrupting the ball at the breakdown to leave the game on a knife edge.
From the resulting penalty the ball was kicked to touch and yet again the South African lineout was inch perfect and the resulting driving maul ended with Kotze grabbing his second try of the day. Darren Hendricks (Boland Landbou) took over the kicking duties and landed the conversion from the touchline much to the home team supporters delight.
There was just three minutes left and three points between the teams when a moment of individual brilliance from Welsh flanker Jac Morgan seemed to have won the game.
A raking kick forward was chased superbly by Morgan to make the tackle and force a penalty 10 metres out. Without hesitation he tapped and went whilst the South African defence were sleeping and over the whitewash he went. Evan Lloyd converted and it looked like the match was over.
Claasens (Garsfontein High) may have been the smallest man on the field at just 63kg but he took it upon himself to be the hero of the hour. A dummy at the base of a ruck and he was in on goal. Although he was dragged down just short as the sound of the hooter blasted out in the back ground, he managed to twist and roll his way over to win the game beneath the sticks. Hendricks added the extras to see the final score as a win for South Africa 43-40.
SA Schools 43 (22) – Tries: Stravino Jacobs, Jean-Jacques Kotze (2), Zweli Zwelendaba, Celimpilo Gumede, Juan Mostert, Jurich Claasens. Conversions: Darren Hendricks (2), Thomas Bursey (2).
Wales 40 (21) – Tries: Aneurin Owen, Joe Roberts, Sam Costelow, Louis Yendle, Jac Morgan (2). Conversions: Costelow (4), Evan Lloyd.
Wales v England – Tuesday 14th August 14:15 (CAT) – Stellenberg High School
South Africa Schools v France – Tuesday 14th August 16:00 (CAT) – Stellenberg High School
Wales v France – Saturday 18th August – 12:15 (CAT) – SACS
South Africa Schools v England – Saturday 18th August – 16:00 (CAT) – SACS