Following their mesmerising 48-24 performance against a seemingly shell-shocked Free State, the KwaZulu-Natal under-18 schools team now has to turn their attentions the Lions. A much stronger pack of forwards and a flyhalf who prefers to seek out field position awaits the KZN boys.
KZN proved to be the best performing team of Day 1. Yes some might argue that Free State were very poor defensively at times, missing regulation tackles and failing to adhere to basics of defensive patterns but hats off to the KZN team. On attack KZN were simply too good for their opponents. It was combination the of technical skill, strength, speed and most importantly team work that paved the way for success.
Including Bruce Arnott’s two outstanding TMO approved finishes in the right corner, all the beauty of KZN’s seven tries were in the build-up work. Here the individual skills of players coupled with their understanding of where the support players were paved the way to try-line glory.
Passing was of the highest standard. Offloading in the tackles was exceptional. Handling could not have been better. Support players running into space was too good. When ball went to ground, it was the speed at which it was recycled that resulted in tries for Justin Moberly and Daniel du Preez early in the game, indicating that there was even an appreciation of the concept of quickball.
Josh Moon stood out in the highlights package for two things. An excellent pick up and run from the base of a retreating scrum. The speed at which he collected the ball and created separation from a backfoot position was very good. He followed this up with a spin in out of a tackle a few minutes later. Both plays were part of tries and emphased a the high levels of technique on display. Justin Moberly made valuable ground gaining drives on the immediate fringes of rucks where traffic is always thickest. What may not be evident in the live action is the important leadership role that Moberly fulfils. He is a strong captain, something that a winning team needs. Daniel du Preez was terrific. His hands, his strength and vision make him a wonderful player to watch. His twin brother JL wasn’t far behind and proved very hard to bring to ground. Msizi Zondi’s willingness to carry the ball up and carry strongly impressed. There were also little things that Carel Swart, Vuyo Khatide and Mvelo Khumalo did that made a difference.
In the backs Cameron Wright read the game well and was almost faultless. His biggest contribution was a defender though, where he but untold pressure on his opposite number. Rob Anderson had a good day from the kicking tee and slotted some difficult kicks. He also did a fine of setting the line in motion. Both Legend Marwana and Sandile Kubeka weighed in with accurate pop passes and Marwana can give himself a pat on the back for his tackling display. Arnott as mentioned above had two superb finishes. With much work to do to get over the line, there just seemed to be a mature calmness about the youngster, almost like he knew that it was his destiny to score both tries. Try-scorer Corne Vermaak did not get many chances but showed that he is a strong runner and when he intercepted a Free State pass while facing his own try-line, his initial movement to step and evade a tackle after he’d swang around spoke volumes about his talent.
However the star of the show and the player of the day was undoubtedly the KZN fullback Jesse Kriel. He played a match not to be forgotten. Everything he did looked like it was right out of the latest edition of the modern rugby textbook. His ability join the line at pace, to beat defenders by going through them or around them, to set up opportunities for teammates, to make accurate offloads, to pluck high-balls out the sky under pressure, to make sound touch-finders and to finish were all top drawer stuff. Kriel himself scored two tries.
During the second half Free State got a few tries of their own but with so much still to play for in the form of two difficult games ahead, one cannot blame the KZN team from easing off on the relentless opening pace they had set. If there was one major blemish on the day though, it wasn’t their conceding of second half tries but rather the countless number of penalties KZN gave away particularly at the breakdowns. Scrumming also caused a few concerns but there weren’t any tightheads or turnovers conceded in this department.
The team has to work doubly hard on their disciple at the rucks and also on their setpieces during training today, as these will be areas that their Gauteng opponents target on Wednesday.
Fixtures for Wednesday, 11 July 2012:
09.30 : Griquas vs Namibia
11.00 : Valke vs Leopards
12.30 : Free State vs Border
14.00 : Eastern Province vs Boland
15.30 : KwaZulu Natal vs Lions
Fixtures for Thursday, 12 July 2012:
09.30 : Griquas Country Districts vs Border Country Districts
11.00 : Limpopo vs Zimbabwe
12.30 : Eastern Province Country Districts vs Griffons
14.00 : Western Province vs South Western Districts
15.30 : Blue Bulls vs Pumas