The South African Under-18 team dominated the first day of the sevens competition of the 2013 Australian Youth Olympic Festival, held at the St Ignatius College on Friday morning in Sydney (SA time).
The team was ranked first after an impressive unbeaten run on match day one after registering four comprehensive victories and only conceding two tries, against hosts Australia, in their last encounter of the day. Topping the standings means the SA team will get a bye straight to the semi-finals on Saturday and is within reach of a medal.
The SA Under-18 Men’s team, coached by former Springbok Sevens star Neil Powell, scored comprehensive wins over Japan (58-0), Tonga (38-0), China (73-0) and Australia (30-12) to top the rankings.
Marius Schoeman, team manager and assistant coach, praised the excellent team effort of the promising squad.
“The guys stuck to the basics and executed our game plan very well, but there is always room for improvement,” said Schoeman, a former Blitzbokke veteran.
“Our aim is to win the tournament. However, the guys have their feet firmly on the ground and realise they have a huge task ahead of them tomorrow.”
The SA U18 Women’s team, who played in their first ever overseas tournament, finished fourth overall to qualify for a quarterfinal match against Japan on Saturday.
Featuring a young team consisting of mostly Under-16 players, the SA team stumbled in their first two matches, losing 32-0 against Japan and 52-7 against Australia before bouncing back to register their first win of the day against Tonga (38-0).
Although they lost their final group match 41-0 against China, South Africa still managed to finish fourth on the overall log and will play against Japan on Saturday in the playoffs for semi-final spot.
Bonakele Sibiya of the Golden Lions created a bit of local history when she became the first player to score a try for the SA U18 Women on foreign soil.
Her effort was South Africa’s only reply in their 52-7 loss against tournament host and favourites, Australia.
Denver Wannies, the SA Under-18 Women’s coach, said afterwards his team was overwhelmed by the occasion. They did manage to regain some composure, which resulted in a morale-boosting win over Tonga.
“This tournament is the first overseas experience for our young team and they were overawed in the first two games,” explained to Wannies.
“Our concentration was much better in our third match against Tonga. Tomorrow we have a good chance to test ourselves against a very skilful Japan team.”
The SA U18 men’s results on Day 1:
SA 58, Japan 0
SA 38, Tonga 0
SA 73, China 0
SA 30, Australia 12
The SA Under-18 women’s results on Day 1:
SA 0, Japan 32
SA 7, Australia 52
SA 38, Tonga 0
SA 0, China 41
The SA Under-18 Sevens squads are:
Men: Lungelo Gosa (Border), EW Viljoen, Marius Louw (both Free State), Matjikinyane Molapo (Limpopo), Willandre Kotzenberg (Pumas), Warrick Gelant, Duhan van der Merwe, Dewald Human (all South Western Districts), Gerhardus Labuschagne (Valke), Ryan Oosthuizen, TJ Goddard, Dennis Cox (all Western Province).
Women: Ntsako Faith Tshauke (Blue Bulls), Micaela Witbooi, Kirsten Conrad (both Boland), Lusanda Dumke, Simamkele Namba, Asisipho Dotwana (all Border), Bonakele Sibiya (Golden Lions), Mandy Mhlongo (KwaZulu-Natal), Christal Williams, Atheana Botha (both South Western Districts), Kimico Manuel, Tatum Daniels (both Western Province).