KZN at another level
They were on another level.
KwaZulu-Natal were on a level higher than any other team at the Craven Week being played at St Stithians so far. South Western Districts are no slouches. On Day Two they beat Eastern Province who in turn proved their worth on Day Four by smashing the Blue Bulls.
South Western Districts were brave and creative, and they scored four tries. But they could not match KwaZulu-Natal for speed, strength and organisation and were forced to live off scraps, as the ball belonged mostly to KwaZulu-Natal.
From the very first minute, it was obvious that KwaZulu-Natal would be big winners. It took them three minutes to get the lead and all they did for the rest of the match was increase it.
KwaZulu-Natal's first two tries came from South Western Districts throws into line-out which KwaZulu-Natal won. For the first try they ran straight, passed in front and Njabulo Mjara had an overlap and scored. Jaden Hendrikse converted.
It is interesting that for this match, KwaZulu-Natal had moved Sanele Nohamba from scrumhalf to flyhalf and both scrumhalves were goal-kickers. Hendrikse had a wonderful game with his quick, accurate service.
The second try started when KwaZulu-Natal won South Western Districts' ball in the line-out. Dylan Kruger went on the charge and the ball went right where Hendrikse did a switch with Morné van Rensburg, who scored. 14-0 after 5 minutes.
There were hectic moments when KwaZulu-Natal attacked, South Western Districts countered and KwaZulu-Natal countered again. Kruger again charged ahead and gave to enormous JJ van der Mescht who ploughed ahead with great strength, swatted off a would-be tackler and scored. 19-0 after 12 minutes.
Jaws stayed dropped in wonder.
Then South Western Districts were in KwaZulu-Natal territory and KwaZulu-Natal knocked on. Flyhalf James Mollentze gave to Jay Cee Nel, two backs who could match the KwaZulu-Natal backs, and Nel scored. 19-5 after 19 minutes.
KwaZulu-Natal countered from inside their own 22 and No.8 Phendulani Buthelezi gave a sharp pass to Van der Mescht who rumbled over. The referee was eager to award the try but after a discussion with the TMO it was realised that – astonishingly – Van der Mescht had lost possession of the ball as he went to ground it when tackled by Ruben Coetzee and Louis Meiring.
From the scrum, South Western Districts kicked out, KwaZulu-Natal won the line pout and went wide right and then wide left where Van der Mescht gave a perfect pass to Mjara who gave a perfect pass to lock Celimpilo Gumede who ambled over for the try. 26-5 after 28 minutes.
On their right KwaZulu-Natal's centre Conan le Fleur – he of the thundering tackle – broke powerfully. They went wide left and came back right where Van der Mescht gave to Buthelezi who strolled over to score with two team-mates unmarked next to him. 31-5 after 33 minutes.
Then, lest KwaZulu-Natal feel they were invulnerable, Curtley Scheepers raced through on a break. He played inside and hooker SP Kleinhans stretched to score. Mollentze converted. 31-12 after 35 minutes.
There was still time to fulfil requirements and kick off. The ball was in the air when the siren sounded for half-time. South Western Districts knocked on into touch and then, oddly, KwaZulu-Natal threw in quickly burly Ntuthuko Mchunu pounded down 35 metres to score. That made the half-time score 38-12.
The first part of the second half was all South Western Districts. They were playing at speed and proving slippery. South Western Districts were rewarded when Clyde Lewis, a substitute, started running at his own 22. After many skated metres he gave to lock Daniel van den Berg who gave to Dillan Pieterse who gave to Ruben Coetzee, who scored. 38-19.
Hendrikse kicked a penalty goal, one of only two attempted in the match, and South Western Districts kept on running with Lewis again prominent. They got to the line, tapping a penalty and bashing, but it did not last, as KwaZulu-Natal scored 19 points in six minutes.
It started when Buthelezi from a scrum well inside his own half. He went on a powerful run down into the South Western Districts 22 and played inside. Lwandile Menze was close and then Dylan Kruger burst over in Ruben Coetzee's tackle.
There was a marvellous moment at this try. When Kruger came in low, head first, Coetzee grabbed his neck and instantly let go. Both players stood up. Coetzee apologised and the two hugged.
Would that rugby were always so.
Nohamba converted Kruger's try and it was 48-19 after 51 minutes. Two minutes later Menze broke on a long, strong run. Cham Zondeki and Kruger were stopped at the line and Buthelezi scored. 53-19 after 53 minutes.
There was an astonishing sight leading up to the next try. There was Van der Mescht thundering down some 55 metres on KwaZulu-Natal's left and, as the Lilliputians were trying to bring Gulliver down, he played inside to Gumede who gave to loosehead Thabiso Mdletshe who scored in the left corner. 60-19 after 56 minutes.
Still it was not the end with some exciting to-ing and fro-ing. Siyanda Cele had a good run. Scheepers sped back for South Western Districts but passed inside to Menze who broke and gave to Rynhardt Jonker who gave to Gumede who gave to Kruger who gave to Mdletshe who scored. 65-19 with 9 minutes to play.
And in this last five minutes South Western Districts scored. It started five metres from their line and then the ball landed up with Lewis who sped some 65 metres to score a try which Mollentze converted.
The KwaZulu-Natal performance will be long remembered, and it was no disgrace to South Western Districts to be on the receiving end of it.
When the fixtures are drawn up for Saturday it would be a surprise if KwaZulu-Natal were not first choice for the main match. In matches against the Blue Bulls and South Western Districts, they have scored an aggregate of 118 points. That 59 have been scored against them suggests that the final match will not be one-sided.
Tries: Njabulo Mjara, Morné van Rensburg, JJ van der Mescht, Celimpilo Gumede, Phendulani Buthelezi 2, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Dylan Kruger, Thabiso Mdletshe 2
Cons: Jaden Hendrikse 4, Sanele Nohamba 2
Pen: Jaden Hendrikse
For South Western Districts:
Tries: Cee Jay Nel, SP Kleinhans, Ruben Coetzee, Clyde Lewis
Cons: James Mollentze 3
Kwa-Zulu Natal: 15 Cham Zondeki (DHS), 14 Morné van Rensburg (Glenwood), 13 Conan le Fleur (Glenwood), 12 Lwandile Menze (DHS), 11 Njabulo Mjara (Maritzburg College), 10 Sanele Nohamba (DHS), 9 Jaden Hendrikse (Glenwood), 8 Phendulani Buthelezi (DHS), 7 Ntuthuko Mchunu (Maritzburg College), 6 Dylan Kruger (Glenwood), 5 JJ van der Mescht (Glenwood), 4 Celimpilo Gumede (DHS), 3 Brendon Schwulst (Glenwood), 2 Daniel Truter (Glenwood), 1 Thabiso Mdletshe (Glenwood), 16 Fezokuhle Mbatha (Maritzburg College), 17 Jordan Clarke (Glenwood), 18 Keynan Knox (Michaelhouse), 19 Edward Laubscher (Glenwood), 20 Dylan Richardson (Kearsney), 21 Dylan Pretorius (Glenwood), 22 Siyanda Cele (Glenwood), 23 Rynhardt Jonker (Glenwood).
South Western Districts: 15 Darryn Fortuin (Outeniqia), 14 Curtley Scheepers (PW Botha), 13 Emilio Otto (Outeniqua), 12 Jay Cee Nel (Oakdale), 11 Dillan Pieterse (Outeniqua), 10 James Mollentze (Outeniqua), 9 Sylvester Hassien (Outeniqua), 8 Ruben Coetzee (Outeniqua), 7 Braam van Huytsteen, 6 Sibusiso Vilani (York High), 5 Louis Meiring (Outeniqua), 4 Daniel van der Berg (Oakdale), 3 Magnus Muller (Oakdale), 2 SP Kleinhans (Oakdale), 1 Nicolai Weber (Oakdale), 16 Keano Hendricks (Oakdale), 17 Robin West (Oudtshoorn), 18 Dian Bleuler (Oakdale), 19 Hanu Heunis (Oakdale), 20 Lian du Toit (Oakdale), 21 Clyde Lewis (Oakdale), 22 Taute Taute, 23 Joshua Hermanus (Punt)
Referee: Divan Uys
Assistant referees: Stephan Geldenhuys, Paul Mente
Television match officials: Lesego Legoete
Assessor: Jacques Hugo