Sixteen teams registered at Rondebosch Boys’ High School earlier on Sunday, with hosts, DHL Western Province, afforded the opportunity to field a second team and Limpopo Blue Bulls adding the extra numbers to the 14 existing provincial unions that have graced the tournament for decades.
Despite the undeniable landmark this week has become on the South African rugby landscape, the COVID pandemic prevented the hosting in 2020 and 2021, and it will be great relief at the first kick-off, when Eastern Province and Griquas open the tournament at 10h00 on Monday at this iconic school in Cape Town’s southern suburbs, celebrating their 125th anniversary this year.
The cancellation of the tournament in the last two years meant missing out on the opportunity for some of the country’s best age-group players, with a number of them currently in Italy, representing the Junior Springboks in the Six Nations Under-20 Summer Series.
Such an example is Junior Bok scrumhalf Niel le Roux, who played for SWD at U16 level in 2019, only for the former Oakdale Agricultural School star to be deprived of the honour to play at the U18 Craven Week level in 2020 and 2021.
“My message to the guys will definitely be to appreciate and enjoy the opportunity and to enjoy every second of it,” said Le Roux.
“For me, missing out on Craven Week was a huge disappointment as it was something I worked hard for. Being selected for the Junior Boks made up for that, but it is still something I could never have. So, the guys must appreciate the occasion and make sure they make memories. Good luck to all the teams out there.”
Another highlight of the tournament is the selection of the SA Schools and SA Schools A sides and this year will be no different. Many a professional rugby career was kick-started this way and this will again provide a pathway to that, and the relevant selectors will be keeping a close eye on all matches.
Speaking about pathways, all eight match officials involved will be on debut at the tournament, with one of them Hanru van Rooyen, a former Craven Week player himself, having donned the No 10 jersey for the Leopards at the 2017 tournament.
The talent on show will be scrutinised and nurtured by four SA Rugby Referee department coaches, while Archie Sehlako and Egon Seconds will also double up as TMO's for all the matches, to be screened live by SuperSport.
Incidentally, the main field at Rondebosch is named after Tinkie Heyns, who himself was a legendary referee for the host province for many years.
Four matches will be played on the Tinkie Heyns Field on Monday, which will include the opening ceremony of the tournament, with the remaining eight teams running out on Tuesday.
Fixtures for Monday, 4 July 2022
10h00: Eastern Province v Griquas
11h30: The Sharks High Schools v Valke
13h00: DHL Western Province XV v Fin Global Boland
15h20: DHL Western Province v Border
All matches will be live on SuperSport.