Scintillating action and the best provincial schoolboy rugby talent highlighted the opening day of the Under-16 SA Rugby Grant Khomo Week at High School Rob Ferreira in White River on Monday.
The SA Iqhawe team made their debut at the tournament and although they came up short, delivered a solid showing against Everest Wealth Pumas XV, who prevailed 32-26.
It was a highly entertaining match, with ten tries scored in all. Six went to the home side, with the final try, by fullback Deacon Pretorius, breaking the hearts of the Iqhawe Impi, who showed good commitment to stay in the fight.
The Puma side had a 20-14 lead at the break. The Impis came back well and was catching up fast with one score in the game before Pretorius scored a try that took the lead out to eight points.
Namibia started their tournament in impressive fashion. They scored four tries in a 29-6 win over the Border Country Districts, but it was their defensive effort that impressed most as they kept their opponents from their goal line.
It was a tight first half though, with scores tied at 3-3, courtesy of a penalty goal each.
The second half saw a more fluent Namibia on the attack and that paid good dividends as they scored four well-worked tries.
The 24-17 scoreline between Ford Human Griquas and Old Mutual Zimbabwe was a fair reflection on the match, with the four tries to three tally edging the Kimberley side. Both teams scored twice in the first half, with Ford Human Griquas leading 12-10.
The two second-half tries scored by the Kimberley side proved decisive. It was apt that one of those was scored by the centre, Carlo Louw, who had a very productive game on the attack.
Centre Dendre Aucamp was the big hero for the Thepa Trading Griffons in their match against Falcons, kicking the match-winning conversion in the last minute of their match.
The Welkom side prevailed 35-34 after replacement-wing Siyabonga Ngubeni scored a late try. Aucamp converted and his team could play out the last minute for a win that complimented their never-say-die attitude.
The match was evenly balanced throughout, with Falcons leading 24-21 at the break. The second half was equally competitive and the East Rand side had it in the bag till the Ngubeni/Aucamp connection decided otherwise.
The DHL Western Province showed some serious skill and intent in their dismantling of Boland, scoring 12 tries on route a 78-7 win.
It was a near-perfect performance in the first half, where they scored 50 unanswered points that had the spectators buzzing. Centre Keagan Smith scored three tries, but more impressive was the fact that seven other players also dotted down, testimony to the all-around game from the Cape side that swamped their Boland opponents.
Another 12-try spree happened in the match between Sharks and Border, with the Natal side scoring seven of those to win 44-29. It was a highly entertaining match, with the Border team's ability to score tries on the counter-attack keeping them in the match.
The Sharks jumped into a 27-10 lead at the break and although the Border asked serious questions on the attack, they could keep score often enough to keep the winning buffer created in the first 40 minutes.
The EP Elephants scored a dramatic try under the poles in the last play of their match against the Blue Bulls to level scores at 13-13 with no time left. EP flyhalf Divan Moss then kicked the relatively easy conversion to hand the Eastern Cape side a 15-13 win.
The Blue Bulls looked stronger and more composed in the first half, with a nicely worked try by centre Kerneels Cronje, after a great break by lively no 8 Jorim Bangue. This gave them a 10-3 lead, which was extended by a second penalty from flyhalf Riaan Gerber.
The EP side came back strongly in the last 20 minutes of the match, with tries by wing Masande Mtshali and then the game breaker by centre Alfondso Isaacs.
The Bidvest Waltons Golden Lions secured a 31-17 win over the Leopards, thanks to a strong second-half display. They held a 17-10 lead at the break. The Leopards did well in the opening 40 minutes, scoring two tries, but fell away in the second half as their Gauteng counterparts found some momentum in their play.
The Bidvest Waltons Golden Lions scrumhalf, Henre van Zyl had a great impact on the match, not only scoring a try himself but also in setting up play for his teammates, with winger Diego Cupido and centre Katlego Letebele both scoring two tries each.
The Free State Cheetahs had a massive comeback in their match against SWD, who were leading 24-8 at the break to earn a dramatic 36-36 draw. The Southern Cape side dominated the opening spell and got going from the start with good interplay.
The Free State had much to do in the second half and scored four well-worked tries as they clawed their way back into the match. They scored with a minute left and converted the try to earn the draw.
It was worth the wait for the Phakisa Pumas home crowd to wait for the final match of the day, with the host winning 29-10 against Limpopo Blue Bulls.
The visitors struck early with a penalty, but the Lowvelders started to turn the screws with good interplay by their backline to score just before the break. They extended their lead shortly after with another try and found the try-line three more times to have coaches and parents alike leaving the venue smiling.
Under-16 SA Rugby Grant Khomo Week results:
Everest Wealth Pumas 32-26 SA Iqhawe
Namibia 29-6 Border Country Districts
Ford Human Griquas 24-17 Old Mutual Zimbabwe
Thepa Trading Griffons 35-34 Falcons
DHL Western Province 78-7 Boland
Sharks 44-29 Border
EP Elephants 15-13 Blue Bulls
Free State Cheetahs 36 SWD 36
Bidvest Waltons Golden Lions 31-17 Leopards
Phakisa Pumas 29-10 Limpopo Blue Bulls