The SA Schools and SA Schools A teams on Friday started the Under-18 International Series on a high note at the City Park Stadium in Crawford, Cape Town, as they registered encouraging victories against Wales and Italy to make their presence felt early on.
The SA Schools team delivered a solid performance on attack and defence against Wales for a 42-11 victory, while the SA Schools A side overcame a closely-fought first half against Italy for 29-14 win.
In the other clash England defeated France 15-7.
The teams will battle it out in the second round in George on Tuesday before returning to the City Park Stadium on Saturday 15 August for the closing round of the Series.
SA Schools 42 (13) Wales 11 (6)
The first half between the SA Schools team and Wales was tense as both teams used their forwards and backs effectively. The hosts opened up the scoring in the 6th minute with a penalty by flyhalf Curwin Bosch, but the visitors levelled the scores minutes later with a penalty by flyhalf Billy McBryde. While the SA Schools opted to retain possession on attack and apply pressure, Wales tried to pin them in their own half through tactical kicks. With both defensive systems holding well, however, the first half was dominated by penalties. Bosch added his second penalty in the 26th minute to edge his team into the lead, but this was again cancelled out soon after as McBryde slotted over another. The hosts, however, finally broke through the Welsh defence in the 31st minute with a try by scrumhalf Embrose Papier, who picked up the ball from a ruck and dived over the chalk following a series of pick-and-goes. The successful conversion pushed the SA Schools 13-6 ahead on the scoreboard. Bosch had a golden opportunity to inflate the score with another try on the stroke of halftime, but he stepped into touch en route to the tryline following a stunning line break in the middle of the field.
The SA Schools team came out firing in the second half and signalled their intentions in the first minute with a fantastic try by centre Stedman Gans to stretch their lead to 18-6. Gans added another try in the 44th minute after receiving a pass following a poor chip kick by Wales, while hooker Johan Grobbelaar crossed the line for their third try soon after from a charge-down, to stretch the lead to 32-6. Unfortunately for Wales their hopes of clawing their way back into the match in the closing minutes were dashed as fullback Rhun Williams received a red card for a dangerous tackle. This paved the way for Bosch to add a penalty, while lock Ruben de Villiers scored the SA Schools team’s fifth try to increase their score to 42-6. Wales fought back with a try the last minute to reduce the deficit to 42-11, but this was merely a consolation after struggling to make their presence felt in the match.
SA Schools – Tries: Embrose Papier, Johan Grobbelaar, Ruben de Villiers, Stedman Gans (2). Conversions: Curwin Bosch (4). Penalties: Curwin Bosch (3).
Wales – Try: Kieran Williams. Penalties: Billy McBryde (2).
SA Schools A 29 (9) Italy 14 (7)
The SA Schools A team opened up the scoring in their clash against Italy with a penalty in what was a tightly-fought first quarter. Both teams took a few minutes to find their rhythm on attack early on, but as the game progressed they made better use of their point-scoring chances. The hosts did well to retain possession in the first half and they supported this with a solid defensive effort, but an intercept try by Italy centre Andrea Bronzili in the 22nd minute allowed them to score the first try of the match. In return, SA Schools A flyhalf Bader Pretorius slotted over two penalty kicks in the second quarter to hand his team a narrow 9-7 lead at the break.
Pretorius increased the hosts lead to 12-7 shortly into the second half with another penalty, but Italy hit back with their second try of the match compliments of a strong shove by their forwards, which pushed them 14-12 ahead. This, however, sparked the fighting spirit in the SA Schools A side, as they bounced back with tries by wing Ryan Muller and Zain Davids, while replacement flyhalf Eddie Fouche slotted over a long-range penalty minutes before the final whistle to seal an encouraging 29-14 victory.
SA Schools A – Tries: Ryan Muller, Zain Davids. Conversions: Bader Pretorius, Eddie Fouche. Penalties: Bader Pretorius (4), Eddie Fouche.
Italy: Tries: Andrea Bronzini, Giordano Baldino. Conversions: Roberto Dal Zilio (2).