Playing in green jerseys, the SA Schools side outscored their opponents, in white, by eight tries to three on a beautiful late winter’s day at Hamilton Rugby Football Club in Cape Town.
Both sides came out to play with intent and in the end, the SA Schools side showed why the selectors handed them the honours of playing in green, although they didn’t have it all their own way during the 70 minutes of action.
The SA Schools side took a deserved 26-13 lead at the break after an entertaining first half in which five tries were scored, four of them by the team in green.
The first try, by hooker Luca Bakkes, came after some great play from a turnover in their own half, in the second minute. Thurlon Williams (flyhalf) added the extras from in front to put his side in the lead by 7-0.
Fifteen minutes later Joel Leotlela (wing) scored out wide, although it was a bit fortunate as the ball was tapped back by an opponent, and the SA Schools side looked to be in control, leading by 12-0.
But a flurry of penalties – two of which were converted into points by SA Schools A flyhalf Bradley Giddy – brought the team in white back into the frame and when Antonio Bruiners (centre) scored a great try from two mistakes by the SA Schools side, the A team took a 13-12 lead five minutes before the break.
Something then clicked for the SA Schools side as Joshua Boulle (centre) and Sibabalwe Mahashe (No 8) scored great tries after some slick handling, and with Williams converting both, the team in green took a 13-point lead as the half-time whistle went.
Not to be outdone, the SA Schools A side started the second half in brilliant fashion when Bruiners went over for his second try, also converted by Giddy, to make it a six-point game as both coaching sides rang the changes.
However, just like they did at the end of the first half, the SA Schools hit back with two tries in quick succession, both by replacements, as Jack Waterhouse (lock) and Caleb Abrahams (scrumhalf) scored close to the sticks, with Stehan Heymans (replacement flyhalf) adding the extras to push the team in green into a 40-20 lead with just over 20 minutes to go.
Gaining ascendancy upfront and playing with more confidence, the SA Schools side tightened their grip on the match and increased their lead with a Heymans penalty goal and a converted try by Thomas Dyer (replacement flanker).
Despite being on the backfoot upfront, the team in white refused to give up and Keanu Coetzee (lock) scored their third try, also converted by Giddy.
But as it had happened a few times earlier in the game, the SA Schools side hit straight back when the team in white were caught napping, with Ruan Swart (replacement prop) crashing over from a quick-tap penalty. Heymans kept his perfect kicking record intact with the conversion to restore their 30-point advantage.
The SA Schools A side had one last foray into their opponents’ red zone, but they failed to convert as the final whistle went at the end of a great game of age-group rugby.
SA Schools 57 (26) – Tries: Luca Bakkes, Joel Leotlela, Joshua Boulle, Sibabalwe Mahashe, Jack Waterhouse, Caleb Abrahams, Thomas Dyer, Ruan Swart. Conversions: Thurlon Williams (3), Stehan Heymans (4). Penalty goal: Heymans.
SA Schools A 27 (13) – Tries: Antonio Bruiners (2), Keanu Coetzee. Conversions: Bradley Giddy (3). Penalty goals: Giddy (2).
SA Schools: 15. Michail Damon (Blue Bulls), 14. Alfondso Isaacs (Free State), 13. Litelihle Bester (Sharks), 12. Joshua Boulle (Golden Lions), 11. Joel Leotlela (Golden Lions), 10. Thurlon Williams (DHL Western Province), 9. Steven Nel (Blue Bulls), 8. Sibabalwe Mahashe (Border), 7. Lukas Meyer (Free State), 6. Matthew Fick (DHL Western Province), 5. JF van Heerden (Free State), 4. Thabang Mpafi (Golden Lions), 3. Zachary Porthen (captain – DHL Western Province), 2. Luca Bakkes (DHL Western Province), 1. Sifiso Magwaza (Golden Lions). Replacements: 16. Ethan Bester (Sharks), 17. Ruan Swart (SWD), 18. Casper Badenhorst (Free State), 19. Jack Waterhouse (Sharks), 20. Thomas Dyer (Sharks), 21. Caleb Abrahams (Free State), 22. Stehan Heymans (Blue Bulls), 23. Sha Jehaan de Jongh (DHL Western Province).
SA Schools A: 15. JT Strydom (SWD), 14. Gino Cupido (DHL Western Province), 13. Antonio Bruiners (SWD), 12. Alec McIntyre (Free State), 11. Jameel de Jongh (DHL Western Province), 10. Bradley Giddy (Free State), 9. Emrique Liedeman (DHL Western Province), 8. Camden Schoeman (captain – SWD), 7. Wandile Mlaba (Sharks), 6. Max du Pisani (Eastern Province), 5. Keanu Coetzee (DHL Western Province), 4. Daniel Botha (DHL Western Province), 3. Nic Snyman (Sharks), 2. Christian Everitt (Sharks), 1. Liyema Ntshanga (Sharks). Replacements: 16. Hanro Venter (Blue Bulls), 17. Willem Loubser (DHL Western Province), 18. Bradley Stanfliet (DHL Western Province), 19. Ulrich van der Westhuizen (Golden Lions), 20. Dewald Gerber (SWD), 21. Onelisiwe Fani (Border), 22. Sesethu Mpaka (Border), 23. Jaden Bantom (Valke).