The Eastern Province Academy side excelled at the Academy week held at the University of Johannesburg.
After playing the Itembelihle Comprehensive team in a warm-up game and defeating them 24-10, the Eastern Province side went from strength to strength thrashing the hapless Blue Valke by 108-0 in their opening encounter.
In this game centre Jaco Bernardo stood out, scoring five tries in the process. This result earned the Eastern Province side the main game against the tournament favourites, Western Province, the next day. Western Province recorded a 35-0 victory over a powerful Bulls side on the opening day.
Western Province beat Eastern Province 33-25 in a tense game.
Eastern Province were still leading 25-21 with four minutes to go when WP capitalised on a misdirected pass from one of the Eastern Province backs to score a try. This was followed up by dubious try, when one of the Western Province players seemed to step on the touchline before a try was scored.
WP controlled the line-outs in this game, stealing Eastern Province’s ball almost at will. Eastern Province had control of the scrums, thanks to some powerful scrumming by prop Bart Le Roux. Prop Siwa Mandlakhe scored a try for Eastern Province after Le Roux carried the ball well. Eastern Province full back, Lorenzo Baatjies, kept Eastern Province in the game with his goal-kicking. For Eastern Province, Baatjies, hooker Anrich Alberts, No.8 Aiden Davis and prop Le Roux played well.
EP came up against the Bulls in their final encounter, but this was always going to be a bridge too far. The altitude started to affect the players and the Bulls side had recovered from their opening defeat and were in good form after thrashing a talented Border side by 35-0.
Eastern Province again struggled in the line-outs but their scrum was solid. The Bulls were dangerous with ball in hand and soon opened up a 18-0 lead. Eastern Province answered with a penalty from fullback Baatjies and a storming try from prop Bart le Roux. The Bulls led 18-8 at half-time and could add only a penalty goal to their tally in the second to beat a gallant Eastern Province team by 21-8.
For the Eastern Province side, a number of their players stand a very good chance of making the SA Academy side, which will play a curtain raiser against a French XV for the Springboks against the Wallabies in Durban.
By Theo Pieterse
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