In what has been a stellar year so far their junior rugby the Blue Bulls U19s have qualified for the final of the SA Rugby Under-19 Provincial Championship in Cape Town next week and will hope to emulate their U21side that won the title a few weeks ago.
The Blue Bulls will, as they did in the U21 competition, also contest the final against Western Province whom they beat by a single point in the Inland Section of that competition.
They progressed to the U19 final when they ousted the Lions in their Inland play-off in a drawn match on Friday.
Four tries to one made the difference in the national U19 competition.
♦ It was a week in which the Blue Bulls also won three of the five age groups in the Interprovincial Tournament for youth teams and claimed two bronze medals in the other two age groups.
They beat the Sharks the U18 play-off for the bronze medal (19-13) and won the U16 competition when they beat the Golden Lions in another close match, 24-18.
The U15 competition was a runaway 46-13 result for the Blue Bulls with the Lions on the receiving end. They also beat the Lions in the U14 competition and won the bronze, also against the Lions, 36-0 in the match between the U13s.
In the SA Rugby U19 championship the Blue Bulls had another feather in their cap when the Valke surprised the Leopards 29-24 to take third place in the Inland Section of the competition. No less than 18 Valke players were involved in the U20 division of the Blue Bulls new cross-border Volcano League.
In fact, more than 80 players from the Volcano U20 league have played provincial rugby for U19, U20 and U21 in the three national competitions.
♦ In the strange national competition where the Inland Section was contested with a knock-out format and the Coastal Section was decided by league matches and a final, the Blue Bulls ousted the Cheetahs 55-17 in the semi-final and then sneaked into the final with a very late converted try to draw 27-all with the Lions.
The men from Pretoria progressed because they scored more tries in their deciding match. Four tries to two and a theoretical try bonus point gave the Bulls the place as finalists in the national competition, where they will play Western Province in Cape Town this coming week.
SA Rugby Communications report that it was tight at the top with only one point separating the top four teams in the end.
The Blue Bulls topped their pool despite drawing 27-27 with the Golden Lions at Emirates Airline Park on Friday. The men from Pretoria progressed because they scored more tries in their deciding match. (For a wrap of the play from Johannesburg, click here.)
And on Saturday in Paarl, Western Province had to fend off a determined Sharks outfit to win their decider by 20-19. (Short match reports from Paarl Gymnasium are available here.)
♦ Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux said the talent on display in Johannesburg and Paarl was of a great standard and that they have identified a number of new players with an eye on the SA Under-20 squad for 2020.
“I think this tournament was a massive success and the quality on rugby displayed by these youngsters was of a very high standard,” said Roux. “From a SA Rugby perspective, this tournament is very important, and I think the new format made it even more exciting.
“We’ve just realised once again that there is a lot of wonderful talent out there – many of these players never got opportunities to play in the Youth Weeks – and they were afforded a chance to show what they can do at this tournament.
“Many players put up their hands, and it was massively encouraging to see a bunch of players from the so-called smaller unions take their opportunities, while it’s also very important for these players to be exposed to rugby at a higher level.
“There were a number of players who didn’t feature in the SA Schools team last year who put up their hands while a handful of this year’s Junior Springboks were not in action, which gave other players opportunities.
“Our hosts, the Golden Lions and Paarl Gimnasium, deserve credit for hosting the tournament this year and it was very special for many of the players in the Inland Section to play at an iconic stadium such as Emirates Airline Park – many thanks to them.”
Regardt Roets of the Golden Lions finished the week as the top points’ scorer with 46, followed by Lionel April (Blue Bulls) on 31 and WP’s Feghon-Leigh Snyders (28).
The Golden Lions Morné Brandon scored the most tries, with five, while a bunch of other players – including David Kellerman (Blue Bulls), Kabelo Mokoena (Blue Bulls), Siyanda Cele (Free State), Cohen Jasper (Free State), Jason Alexander WP) and Muzi Manyike (Golden Lions) – ended the week with four tries apiece.