Day 3's last game was the game everybody came to see. The stands were packed and everybody was waiting for the game to start between the Western Province and the Sharks Craven Week teams. And what a game we were treated to. Future stars like Gianni Lombaard, Liam Larkhan, Manny Ras, Muller du Plessis and Salmaan Moerat displayed rugby at a level unheard of at schoolboy rugby. Not forgetting heroes like Dyland Richardson and Dylan Weideman on the Sharks side who does not know the word surrender. Mr Weideman receiving a yellow card for some "aggresive" tackling. The rugby played at a fast pace with skills, passion and massive tackles. The way we are begging for the whole week. The Western Province stormed into a lead of 43 - 0 at half time. Beating the Sharks convincingly.
But I could not help myself trying to follow the game on the "B" field. The LSEN National Team was facing the Griffons CD team in the last match of the day. The LSEN boys started off like a house on fire and tries by Ruben Fouche, Allistor Mumba and Ronaldo Jansen all converted by Barnes Hoogaard saw them leading at half time 21 - 0.
The second half saw the Griffons side scoring two early tries reducing the lead of LSEN to 21 - 14. At this stage I followed the WP vs Sharks game thanks to the comments made by the spectators on the main pavilion. Eleven minutes in the second half Dylan Blaauw scored and Hoogaard converted to stretch the lead to 28 -14 The Griffons immediately answered with a try by Juan-Carlo Kleynhans which was not converted. The score at this stage 28-26 with the LSEN team leading.
This is when I decided that nobody will miss me at the main game. I actually could not care. I packed my bag and was just in time to see Ronaldo Jansen score his second try of the day on the "B" field. The conversion was good by Barnes Hoogaard. Four minutes before the final whistle Hoogaard converted a penalty. LSEN was victorious with 38 - 26, and still unbeaten in this year's Academy Week.
After the teams shook hands the LSEN team and management went down on their knees to thank God. To thank Him for the day, the opportunity to play rugby and certainly for the victory. The 39 spectators watched in silence. Then all hell broke loose. The LSEN boys enjoying their victory in style.
I approached the field not knowing what to expect. Maybe I will be asked to contact management to make an appointment for an interview. I was welcomed with a big smile. When I asked one boy about his experience he replied, and I quote "Hel Oom" and then burst into tears. I asked another boy what he enjoyed the most while attending the Academy Week, he looked at me as if I was stupid and replied " To play rugby sir, I love to play. Oh yes and winning is also nice."
The coaches told me that after the LSEN week at Affies the team convened early the next weak and attended a training camp at Port Shepstone. Here they practiced six to seven hours every day. The whole team and management had one goal only, to show SARU and all concerned that they do deserve to compete at the Academy Week against "normal" boys.
I asked how they would feel if they played the Sharks Academy Week team on Saturday in the "final". The unanimous answer was short "We came here to play rugby and show us worthy to be here. Win or loose we will not leave the field without doing exactly that." I can not help to admire these men, not only for who they are but also for what they are doing for these boys and rugby in general. Gentlemen we salute you.
When I left the media room facing the "B" field I saw a tall young man and the Doc standing at the opposite side of the rugby field. They had big smiles on their faces, the young man waved as they turned around and walked away. Happy with what they saw, happy with the way the game were played. The game they loved so much.
I could not help walking with a big smile on my face to my car. As I drove through the gates of this wonderful venue, I thought by myself it would be nice if these LSEN boys could play in the curtain raiser on the "A" field on Saturday. Only to admit to myself there is no place for "nice" in our world anymore.
Too all that missed the game today. IT WAS NICE.